Even though NE 23rd Street is one of the most historical streets in Oklahoma City, many locals tend to forget that it’s also home to some of the most grassroots and homegrown eateries in town, the best having a specific focus on soul food, barbecue and old-fashioned Southern cooking. NE 23rd Street restaurants are OKC’s culinary history all in a few blocks and really should be revered as such.
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Spoon Restaurant: Fine Thai Cuisine
1428 W. Britton
What works: simple menu with all the favorite Thai dishes
What needs work: The décor does little to hide that the building used to be a fast-food restaurant.
Tip: The restaurant itself is tiny. Call ahead if you have a large group.
I love Thai food the way most women love their children. And if I can have that love in a casual atmosphere, quickly and affordably, at a place that also delivers ... Well, then I think that’s the definition of “having it all.”
Spoon Thai is not only quick and affordable; it’s also cozy. If memory serves, the arched windows that look out onto Britton Road were of the Taco Bell School of Architecture nearly 20 years ago. And while little has changed about the building itself since its fast-food days, it’s nice to see a local restaurant taking over a spot that once belonged to a national chain.
The chalkboard menu above the converted counter displays the menu and flanks a flat-screen TV that plays a Thai cooking show on a loop. This not only serves to entice customers but is nice for the finicky sort of eater who wonders what exactly is in the tom yum koong.
The list of appetizers is short, which is just fine. You won’t want to fill up on those, considering the large food portions offered at Spoon. Some of the options include fried tofu ($3.50), Thai spring rolls ($3.95), crab rangoon ($4.50) or dumplings ($3.50). I tried the karee puffs ($3.95), flaky golden pastries surrounding chicken, snow peas, potatoes and carrots. They were delicious, although they reminded me more of chicken and dumplings in empanada form than anything else.
As soon as the order for an appetizer was placed, a cup of soup appeared at the table. Soup is served with every meal and varies depending on the day. Mine was broth-based, reminiscent of miso, with red pepper flakes and green onion. It was just the thing to whet my appetite.
Now, the restaurant is currently undergoing a menu change, but my server reassured me that any item taken off the menu can be made by special request. This is good news, considering all the great options currently on the menu and how it breaks my heart to think of one of them leaving.
Along with the updated menu will be a new restaurant name, too. Come February, if you’re driving down the road looking for a sign that reads “Spoon,” you won’t find it.
Instead, look for the one that reads “Thai Express.”
If you’re a curry fan, you can take your pick of red, green, massaman or yellow curry with your choice of shrimp, beef or chicken ($7.95). I tried the red curry with chicken at a spice level of 2 out of 5. The bamboo shoots were crisp but not undercooked, and the basil was chopped into manageable bite-size bits.
I was pleased, since I can’t stand large leaves in my food: Trying to chew them makes you look undignified, and I’m not a giraffe. The curry is served in a boat with a side of rice, giving it a simple but pretty look.
There are several fried rice options, such as Thai fried rice, made with egg, tomatoes, onions and green onions. The Thai basil rice contains egg, onions, green beans and basil. And, if you like to mix your sweet and savory, the pineapple fried rice is made with egg, onions, green beans, pineapple and cranberries. Each is served with your choice of chicken, beef or shrimp ($7.95).
Spoon has a large à la carte menu with items like beef and broccoli ($8.50), chicken cashew ($7.95), sweet and sour beef or chicken ($7.95) or spicy garlic and pepper chicken or beef ($7.95). All à la carte items are served with steamed rice.
I also ordered the pad thai with beef at level 2 out of 5 of spiciness ($7.95). The rice noodles were the perfect texture, and the bean sprouts and green onions were fresh and crisp. Other noodle options include spicy basil noodles or pad see ew noodles, both served with your choice of chicken, shrimp or beef ($7.95).
And don’t forget to order a Thai tea ($2.50). Spoon does a great job of creating an iced sweet drink that doesn’t overpower or feel like you’re chugging syrup. And the sweetness is the perfect thing to cut the heat from the spicier menu items.
Oklahoma Gazette’s restaurant review policy is to highlight the positive aspects, and include constructive criticism regarding food, ambience or service when appropriate.