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.
600 NW 23rd St.
What works: buttery crust, fresh toppings and unique combinations
What needs work: more customers. Despite good food, the place was nearly empty.
Tip(s): Starting soon, Pizza 23 will serve pancakes, a coffee bar, etc. for breakfast.
Why are foods always trying to be other foods?
Pizza is the worst offender.
Every pizza burger I’ve ever had is a cheeseburger with mozzarella, pepperoni and some marinara on top. Pizza tacos? Same thing in a shell. It tells you a lot about what people think pizza really is.
On the other hand, pizza can masquerade as so many other foods because it’s a wide-open canvas to combine flavors. And that’s why I looked at the menu at Pizza23 with hope — hope that was quickly rewarded.
Part of that comes from 23’s greatest asset — the crust.
I’ve heard it called a butter crust by friends, but until you’ve tasted it, you won’t understand.
Think about a compact biscuit. It’s not tough, but there’s a little chew. It’s buttery and layered, a little crisp and oh so very rich.
Put the best ingredients you can find on cardboard, and it’ll still taste like cardboard. But with that crust, Pizza 23 sets itself up to succeed.
One way to sample the crust is to try the Rumble Bread ($4) — a small round of dough, brushed with garlic and olive oil and topped with Parmesan cheese. It’s not the cheesy bread of our youth, all gooey and greasy. This is delicate and flavorful, and that’s before you dip it in marinara.
Get any of your old favorites at Pizza23 by picking your own toppings from its list of 23 — including that old standby pepperoni. Or you can let the pizza place do what it does best and put together some combinations.
I do not worry about skimpy toppings at Pizza23. I worry that the multitude of toppings will fall off before they get to my mouth. These pies are packed.
The Mediterranean ($13 for a small, $18 for a medium, $22 for a large) starts off with that oil and garlic sauce on the crust with a layer of spinach and mozzarella under chicken, sun-dried tomato and feta cheese. Feta is a dangerous topping. Too much can be overpowering. Too little and you won’t taste it at all. But this is a good mix that blends nicely. No one ingredient dominates.
The same can’t be said for the Margherita ($11/$14/$18), which is a good thing. With just the oil and garlic base and mozzarella tying it together, the real draw here is basil. It’s a basil punch in the mouth, and it’s excellent. Add in a tart and sweet bite from halved cherry and grape tomatoes that have been deliciously scorched in the oven and you’ve got an all-time classic done beautifully.
Cheeseburger pizza is ...sigh. Look. Why not just get a cheeseburger? It’s not like they don’t sell them almost everywhere. But the Bleu Burger ($14/$18/$23), at least, does something different. Honestly, other than hamburger meat, I don’t think this deserves that moniker. The marinara base and the beef take a back seat to the powerful trio of bacon, avocado and blue cheese. Actually, I think you should eat a slice of this one after you eat a slice of The Carnitas ($13, $18, $22).
Oh, this is a real cultural mix- ’em-up right here. Pizza is Italian. The pulled pork and the house-made pico are definitely Latin. If that’s all there was, that’d be fine. But take the owner’s suggestion and put some Sriracha (aka Rooster sauce) on top. That Asian chili sauce not only adds heat, but it adds a lot of flavor. The pork crisps up nicely in the oven, so it’s a melange of flavors and textures that I found intoxicating.
Speaking of intoxicating: Pizza 23 has 23 different beers, as well. Perfect for enjoying on that lovely patio.
Pizza23 isn’t reinventing the pizza wheel, but it is doing something better. It’s elevating the game. It’s an improved product, and that’s a big plus for those looking to get away from the ubiquitous pizza mega-chains.