Florence’s Restaurant served Boley home-cooking to OKC since 1952 

click to enlarge Chicken and dumplings (Garett Fisbeck)
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • Chicken and dumplings

Pinkie Pie is my daughter’s favorite favorite favorite.

At 2 years old, Amelia has amassed a number of things that are her favorite: Hello Kitty, George Monkey, My Little Pony, puppies. But none of them fall below the rank of favorite. They’re just favorite favorite or favorite favorite favorite.

It’s a system that didn’t make a lot of sense to me until I sat down at Florence’s Restaurant, 1437 NE 23rd St., and tried to pick out my lunch.

Smothered fried chicken? Steak tips? Salmon croquettes? Chicken and dumplings? Favorites, each one, and choosing among them is a special kind of torture.

That is why we will start at breakfast.

Owner and chef Florence Jones, who still pops out of the kitchen to talk up the guests on occasion, was raised on a farm in Boley, Oklahoma. Her restaurant, opened in 1952, was dedicated to serving those homestyle country classics to us disadvantaged city folk.

click to enlarge The pork Big Boley Breakfast at Florence's Restaurant (Garett Fisbeck)
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • The pork Big Boley Breakfast at Florence's Restaurant

Enter the Big Boley Breakfast ($15.75) and the waitress who kindly asked, “Are you going to be able to finish all that?”

I am a large man. I eat food for a living. Of course I couldn’t finish the Big Boley. No one can. The version I got had bacon, ham, sausage, rice, a stack of the fluffiest pancakes you’ve ever seen, two eggs, potatoes and a little fruit for garnish.

At almost $16, it’s not the cheapest meal around. But everything is cooked just right. The sausage patties were crisp, but still juicy. The ham was grilled, but tender. The bacon had a little chew and a little crunch — a perfect balance. The pancakes were so light, I had to use extra butter and syrup to weigh them down.

The Big Boley is a breakfast that doesn’t ask you to decide, unless you count the decision to take a nap right after you eat.

Chicken is not a sexy meat. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts and dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets have drained all of our nation’s enthusiasm for the yard bird. But there has been an awakening, and it starts with Florence’s smothered chicken ($9, including three sides).

Marinated and cooked to perfection, this chicken has bathed in its own gravy for a silky, succulent bite that makes my heart go pitter-patter. Peel away the chicken skin if you must (though there’s plenty of flavor in that fat); it won’t put a dent in your enjoyment of this dish.

Monday through Saturday, Florence’s has out-of-this-world specials, like Thursday’s beef tips ($9.75). Tender chunks of steak soak in a beautiful, dark beef gravy seasoned to perfection. Order sides of mashed potatoes and spinach, all the better to sop up that intensely flavored sauce.

On Friday, you better take a friend, because choosing between chicken and dumplings ($8.50) and salmon croquettes ($8.75) is a dilemma even King Solomon couldn’t cut in half.

click to enlarge Smothered chicken and mashed potatoes (Garett Fisbeck)
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • Smothered chicken and mashed potatoes

Chicken and dumplings should be able to sue most restaurants for making them look so bad — dumplings that are too floury, flavorless and gluey. Not so at Florence’s. The big chunks of chicken were crowded into a bowl with the dumplings of my dreams. The seasoning was spot-on and the mix of meat and dumpling created a smooth, full gravy that carried a hint of pepper to the tongue with each bite.

The croquettes, though, were held together by magic. The crispy, crackery crust barely contained the mélange of seasoned salmon inside. If the salmon croquettes of your youth were flat, greasy patties, these will be a revelation with their slightly sweet taste and solid, yet airy texture.

Some of you will order a burger. I understand. This is Oklahoma. If you must forgo these other countryside miracles of flavor, then at least get yourself the steak burger ($7, including mashed potatoes). It’s a gorgeous, thick burger, topped with sweet grilled onions and beef gravy. It’s a favorite, in the parlance of my daughter, but pales in comparison to chicken and dumplings or beef tips.

The sides at Florence’s are ridiculous. Country cabbage, mac and cheese, buttered corn, candied yams — you can’t go wrong.

That’s just as true of Florence’s Restaurant as a whole. The only way to go wrong is to not go in the first place. Unless you’re afraid of finding a new favorite favorite favorite, this spot needs to be next on your list.

Print headline: Hustlin’ Flo, Florence’s Restaurant served Boley home-cooking to Oklahoma City since 1952.

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