Get in line

My food history is all backward.

In high school, my brother and I begged my mom to make meat loaf, because we wanted to know why so many people hated it. (We loved it.) I first tried asparagus and Brussels sprouts as a college student and have come to savor one and tolerate the other.

And, although I was never particularly fond of the one at school, I always kind of liked cafeterias. Many a Sunday afternoon during my youth was spent eating at Wyatt’s (and later Hack’s) Cafeteria in Edmond. I had a predilection for the all-brown lunch. Starch on starch on starch. Fried fish with mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese and a big dinner roll. Spinach? That’s some other sucker’s problem.

Cafeterias have largely faded from Oklahoma City, but there’s one I used to go to with my dad occasionally. It’s the Boulevard Cafeteria. And you ought to go there sometime.

If you only know “The Bully” as that place you’re not allowed to park when you can’t find any other open spots in Midtown, that’s a shame. Sure, there’s more flash to Cafe do Brasil, Kaiser’s American Bistro and James E. McNellie’s Public House — and all are wonderful for the right occasion — but there’s got to be some room in your life for a big tray crowded with small plates of dishes you might not see until next Thanksgiving.

Marked entrees with two sides, bread and a beverage will set you back $8.50. A mini plate, which includes a marked entree and two sides, is $6.

The first stop on the long line of foods is the salad station. There are green salads, sure, if that’s your thing. But there’s also a carrot and raisin salad with sweet mayonnaise. Or some strawberry Jell-O in a little mold all colored Pepto-Bismol pink.

I got them both. Honestly, as much as I usually hate raisins in other foods, that carrot raisin salad was tasty: sweet and crunchy and a little chewy. I need to find an aunt who will make that the next time we’re all forced into a room together.

The entrees are good, home-style fare. Don’t expect anything fancy, because this isn’t fancy food. But it does taste good, which is a thing I heard you like.

The menu changes day to day, but it’s a fair bet you can find a couple of pieces of fried fish a few days a week. The baby cod is cut a bit thicker, so it’s tender and moist. The catfish is thinner, so it’s crunchier. I’d ask if you want tartar sauce, but come on. I know.

The
fried chicken is pretty good, although I actually prefer the chicken
and dumplings. A creamy sauce and big chunks of tender chicken with
dumplings that were more a thick topping than anything else. Don’t
worry; I had a big dinner roll to sop it all up with.

That’s a rule at The Bully, by the way: Always be sopping.

There’s a lot of savory sauces, so you have to
get a roll, or else you risk letting that flavor go to waste. My only
suggestion is to grab that pepper shaker and give it a nice dusting. It
just livens up everything.

Another
personal favorite is the turkey and dressing. You get a big scoop of
bready dressing, your turkey lays over the top and then — you guessed it
— gravy over everything. If you don’t like that, I assume you just
stopped enjoying life at some point.

The
sides are so good, I wouldn’t blame you if that’s all you got. Glazed
carrots, sweet potatoes, probably something else orange and sweet — all
tasty and all probably stuff you don’t get often. The spinach held true
to my earlier statement, sadly. There was bacon in it, but it seemed to
be just kind of floppy bits that didn’t add much flavor.

The
cheese grits, on the other hand, are tremendous: creamy, with the
flavor of melted butter and just a bit of burnt cheese on top. Hello.
This is me you’re looking for.

For
dessert, there’s pie and there’s cake. I suggest you get the pie. The
chocolate icebox pie is smooth and wonderful. The strawberry rhubarb is a
bit tart, but mostly just sweet and with a nice buttery crust.

The
Boulevard Cafeteria has been around forever. Maybe even before Oklahoma
was founded. I’m not sure, but I think that’s true. And if you go there
every once in a while, it’ll be around for a bit longer.

Greg Elwell

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