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.
Tres Cantina & Grille
305 E. Main St., Norman
What works: A menu of typical and not-so-typical Mexican and South American fare.
What needs work: It takes time for food to get to the table when the restaurant gets busy.
Tips: Come on Fridays and Saturdays for live music.
Ask anyone in Oklahoma, and they’ll tell you where to get the best Mexican food. It wouldn’t be surprising if a Civil War-style battle broke out in the metro over the best salsa or most authentic enchiladas.
And while it may be impossible to convince someone else a personal favorite is the best, I can easily convince you that Tres Cantina & Grille is the place to go for something delicious.
Located just east of Crawford Avenue on Main Street in Norman, Tres offers an eclectic mix of food, beer and live music. What appears to be an unassuming establishment in a row of businesses on Main Street also houses one of Norman’s best-kept secrets: a quiet, well-lit and relaxing patio behind the restaurant and away from traffic.
The starters on the menu include typical Mexican-style fair: nachos ($6.99), chips and queso ($7.99), quesadillas (with cheese $4.99, with chicken $6.99) and a unique offering of hot wings ($7.99).
The entrees and specialties contain both new and familiar choices, too. Each is served with beans, black rice and a choice of red sauce, green sauce or queso.
The empanadas ($9.99) are a favorite — fried meat pies filled with smoky pork and covered with sauce. I topped mine with queso, and it mellowed out the spiciness of the pork.
The enchiladas ($8.99) listed on the menu aren’t run-of-the-mill. Instead, they’re made “Santa Fe style” with layered tortillas and a choice of green chile stew, red chile chicken or pork, and they’re topped with a choice of sauce. I tried pork and green sauce.
A surprise was the blue corn polenta ($8.99), with two blue corn cornmeal cakes covered with a choice of meat and sauce. I tried the red sauce, by far the spiciest option. The polenta cooled the heat.
However, if adventure eating is your thing and trying cuisine unique to specific restaurants is part of your journey, I suggest the hallacas ($9.99). This Venezuelan dish is similar to a tamale and is filled with three smoked meats, capers, olives, chick peas, raisins and spices and then wrapped in a banana leaf and topped with sauce.
Tres can accommodate American tastes, too, with its selection of burgers, sandwiches, soups and salads. And for the die-hard comfort-food fanatics, there’s chicken-fried steak or chicken ($9.99), served with cream gravy, Texas toast and mashed potatoes or french fries.
Whether a spot is needed to sip $3 margaritas and listen to live music or enjoy a champagne Sunday brunch, Tres is the place. It even has a kiddie menu, making Tres a triple threat when it comes to pleasing all the people in your life.