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.
Winning big can be hungry, thirsty work. We scoured Oklahoma’s casinos for your best bets on sustenance whether you are on a winning streak, holding, folding, walking away, running, or just down to your last five bucks.
Italian Jim’s Restaurant
13 S. Broadway, Edmond
What works: eggplant ratatouille and lasagna
What needs work: fettuccine Alfredo sauce
Tips: Reservations of eight or more are accepted. If possible, ask to sit in the dining area that overlooks the glass studio.
If you’re looking for good Italian food with a little something extra, make a trip to Italian Jim’s Restaurant in downtown Edmond. Not only can you enjoy a nice meal, but you can watch as master glass artists create amazing pieces of artwork. Owner Chris McGahan moved the eatery and adjoining glass studio from Yukon to Edmond about three years ago.
The restaurant is warm and inviting, with hand-blown glass pieces (available for purchase) displayed as you enter the main dining area. Glass pendants, handiwork of the studio, hang above large, round booths and add pops of color.
One can't dine on glass alone, however, no matter how beautiful it might be. The menu includes steaks and fish as well as a section of “Under 600 calories” options. The tomato bruschetta crostini appetizer ($7) uses Parmesan-crusted toast points as a vessel for a wonderful mixture of tomatoes, red onions, basil, creamy goat cheese and a balsamic reduction drizzle.
Other appetizers include meatball sliders and a barbecue smoked sausage and chicken combo, which may sound a bit strange at an Italian eatery but come highly recommended. Both items are $8.
Italian Jim’s offers more than just lasagna or chicken Parmesan. If you’re hungry for pizza, there are nine specialty pizzas which run $10-$20, depending on size and toppings. Or you can create your own starting at just $7 for a small. Sandwiches are also a popular menu item, especially the “Downtown” Steak Stacker — which is reminiscent of a cheese steak meeting a French dip — that marries thinly sliced beef, onions, bell peppers and melted provolone cheese served on a ciabatta hoagie ($9).
Italian Jim’s also has you covered for more traditional Italian fare. For $10, you can get a slice of heaven — er, lasagna — that is layer upon layer of goodness covered in a delicious homemade marinara. It’s served with warm, fluffy breadsticks perfect for sopping up the leftover sauce.
The chicken Parmesan ($11) is served with two different sauces: traditional marinara poured over the chicken and a tomato cream sauce with the spaghetti. I chose the chicken fettuccine Alfredo, which was a nice-sized portion, but the sauce was — dare I say it? — too cheesy. A bit more cream added to it might have made it perfect.
The Under 600 calorie options on the menu are a welcome addition to what is normally carb overload at most Italian restaurants. The eggplant ratatouille ($7) was amazing. Add grilled chicken ($4) if you'd like.
The food is good, but one of the restaurant’s coolest features is the glass shop next door, Bella Forte. Most Friday and Saturday nights, you can sit and watch Chris and Micah McGahan, along with the other glass artists, make incredibly beautiful artwork while the kitchen prepares dinner.
The one drawback I found to this family-owned eatery is the beverage selection. Upon being seated, I asked to see the wine list, hoping for a glass of Merlot to accompany my pasta. My waitress politely explained that the family did not want alcohol served at the restaurant due to religious beliefs; therefore, they don’t offer wine. I was a bit disappointed, but I respect their choice.