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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Tim’s Drive Inn
5037 N. MacArthur Blvd., Warr Acres
What works: Indian tacos, of course
What needs work: cash only, no debit or credit cards
Tips: Order one of their “special” Dr. Peppers.
In middle and high school, I was active in Native American extracurricular activities, mostly because I thought it would look good on my transcripts. I was even named Native American Prince in some sort of assembly when I was a ninth-grader at Northwest Classen High School.
It should have been a proud moment, but I was embarrassed and made fun of, and so I backed away from those things and would hang out with the smokers in hopes of making out with that one chick who had a lip ring.
In my effort to be cool, I effectively betrayed my heritage in many ways. While I dropped out of things like the Native American Drug-Abuse Resistance Drama Club, I still attended powwows on a regular basis for one reason and really one reason only: to eat as much fry bread as possible, especially when topped with pinto beans, ground beef, cheese and lettuce.
I did it all for the Indian taco. Now older, wiser and more politically active with the Native community, one thing that has never left me: my undying need, my eternal passion for Indian tacos.
I have been to small-town volunteer fire department fundraisers, roadside stands and state fairs just to have my fill, but so far, none have come close to Tim’s Drive Inn’s Indian taco, widely regarded as an Oklahoma City favorite and the best Indian taco I’ve had outside of a powwow.
The restaurant is little more than a shack, with only a couple of barstools to sit on. Also, Tim’s doesn’t take debit or credit cards, so bring cash or else be prepared to hit the 7-Eleven ATM across the street. But once that cash is in hand, walk up to the window and promptly order the Indian taco ($6.49).
Don’t ask questions; just do it. The fry bread is absolutely perfect — crispy on the outside, a little doughy on the inside — and slathered with fresh pintos, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese.
The portion is more than generous; there was so much food that I ended up taking half of it home, something that rarely happens. I reheated it the next morning, and it was still just as delicious.
What’s particularly great about Tim’s Indian taco is that it doesn’t taste like the manufactured fair food most of us are used to. It’s the real deal, and it’s easy to see why it’s “world-famous.”
Another distinctly Oklahoma classic on the menu: its onion burger ($3.29, $3.79 with cheese). I tried that with a large side of — naturally — freedom fries ($2.89), because I love America, dammit.
Served hot off the grill and filled with fried onion goodness, it’s not the best I’ve ever had, but it sure does the job of satiating my need for a good greasy-spoon burger.
The fries were thick, crispy and very greasy, but the greasiness wasn’t a detriment here. If anything, it added to the old-school flair of the place, a bygone era when this kind of food wasn’t classified as unhealthy.
Also on the menu are Frito pies, Polish sausage hoagies, cheddar cheese balls, malts, dipped cones and so on: all the things that make us proudly the most obese nation in the world. As an added bonus, be sure to order the “special” Dr Pepper, which is sweet and syrupy.
I am still watching the bulletin boards and online messages for the next powwow so I can further explore my Choctaw heritage. But until then, Tim’s Indian tacos will be my go-to spirit guide for the most native of Oklahoma cuisine.
Chi hullo li, Tim’s!