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.
5830 N. Classen Blvd.
The first time I ventured to Republic Gastropub was last summer, not long after its grand opening, to watch the World Cup. One in our party — and the most fervent soccer fan — suggested we sit outside. I was dubious. This was summer in Oklahoma, after all.
We settled in on the side patio, which is set up more like mini-living rooms than a restaurant. Surrounded by a tall hedgerow (so you’re not staring at a scenic parking lot), the patio has a lineup of big-screen televisions, each with its own clutch of low, couch-like seating and ottomans. The best part? Those TVs doubled as portable air conditioners, blasting out blessedly cool air. It didn’t exactly make me wish for a parka, but it was at least something to cut the heat.
That’s the first tip-off that Republic knows what its clientele wants: namely, good pub food, massive TVs and more beer than most know what to do with.
First, let’s talk about those TVs.
There’s a lot of them. From the gigantic one behind the bar to the screens hanging from the ceiling, embedded in the wall and even — seriously — in the bathrooms, don’t expect a subdued meal at Republic on game day (any game day). But the space is big and light enough, what with the tall ceilings and wall of windows, that those TVs don’t make the place feel oppressive.
Next, the beer. There’s a lot of that, too. The first thing you’ll notice walking in (besides the TVs) is the seven tiers of shelv- ing that showcase an impressive array of bottles. In fact, there are 100 beers on tap and another 200 in the bottle, according to manager Jamie Bradford.
All that, and Republic introduced new drinks on Monday.
“We’ll have new cocktails and new beers as well,” Bradford said. “We’re doing a cider sangria that we make with a Wyder’s Pear Cider on tap. We’ve brought in the Redbud Pale Ale that’s made right here in Oklahoma.”
The beer list spans two sides of a large menu (one side for those on tap, the other for the bottles) that breaks the choices down by style. If you can’t choose, there are also the flights.
Bradford said the most popular is the Pride of Oklahoma ($5), which features all Okie beer, or The Classen Curve ($5.75), which includes Carlsberg Lager, Rogue Dead Guy Ale, Left Hand Saw Tooth Ale and McSorley’s Black Lager.
But it’s not all drinking and sports.
The food is a great example of what a “gastropub” should be: pub fare with an upscale twist.
To start, check out a bar classic with the pub pretzel ($6), a giant, salty pretzel that comes with two not-so-ordinary sauces: a beer-cheese fondue and serra no-honey mustard.
If you really want to try something unique, order the Scotch egg ($7), a magical little treat from that other bastion of deep-fried everything (that’d be Scotland).
“That’s ... one of the most unique items on our menu,” Bradford said.
Republic’s Scotch egg is a hardboiled egg wrapped in sausage, breaded, then deep-fried. Balance it with the chopped Caesar ($7) — a light, tasty salad topped with manchego, roasted red peppers and pretzel croutons — to make the meal “healthy.”
Keep the egg theme going with the popular — and unique — Republic burger ($8), a hand-formed Angus patty topped with a relish of caramelized onion and bacon, two kinds of cheese and, because that’s not decadent enough, a fried egg. Just watch out. This one can be messy.
During a recent visit, my husband opted for the beef tenderloin sandwich ($15). The super moist beef is topped with caramelized onions, Gruyère and a horseradish mayo between toasted sourdough. It’s a hefty, gooey sandwich, and one that he pronounced “delicious.” Pair it with sea-salt shoestring fries or any of the varied sides (all $3). My favorite? The skillet potatoes, which even come out in their own adorably sized cast-iron pot.
Another favorite is the fish and chips ($13), battered in bock beer and accompanied by those shoestring fries and malt vinegar to douse them in. The fish is fried in a seriously good batter and comes out nice and crisp — not at all soggy.
For a sweet ending, you can’t go wrong with the Meme’s donuts ($6), a trio of warm, sugarcoated donut holes that come with three dipping sauces (chocolate, caramel or strawberry). Also for dessert? More beer.