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.
Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill
310 Johnny Bench Drive
It’s a sure bet that Toby Keith’s I Love this Bar & Grill has turned into one of Bricktown’s “must-do” restaurants for visitors and residents alike. The restaurant, the brainchild of Moore’s own country star, Toby Keith, spreads out along the Bricktown canal. And look close: The shape of the building is inspired by a guitar.
The casual restaurant does not accept reservations and seats people on arrival. But first, you’ve got to park the car. Finding a (free) parking place can be a chore, but with seating for nearly 450, there are people coming and going constantly. We found a spot nearby and walked into the restaurant surrounded by scads of people waiting to be seated.
We visited on a recent Saturday evening, and I was quite surprised to see the number of infants inside the restaurant at that time of night. When we stepped up to the podium, we were told that it would be at least an hour-and-a-half before we could get a seat, but because it was just the two of us, the hostess suggested that we grab a two-top in the bar. It was comfortable, and seated on high stools, we could see what was happening all around us.
above Manager Nicole Dalrymple and server Chelsea Wood
We were greeted by Jake Martin, who was doing double duty as a bartender and server. He was quite friendly and accommodating, and he guided us to the two most requested appetizers.
We started with the Tumbleweed ($7.99), simply called The Weeds by some, in which the chef thinly slices onions and pairs them with jalapeño “toothpicks.” The vegetables are then flash-fried, tangled on a platter into a tall pile and served with a delicious chipotle ranch.
Our second worthy starter was the tamer chicken quesadillas ($8.99), and this could have been a whole meal. Presented on a large platter, the quesadillas were created with smoked Cheddar and Jack cheeses. The flour tortilla also was packed with pulled rotisserie chicken, chipotle sour cream and a smoked tomato guacamole. Both of these appetizers were easy to share between the two of us.
Next up was smoked salmon ($17.99). It was listed under Canal Catch, and while I really doubt the fish came out of the Bricktown canal, it’s fun to pretend. That salmon was marinated, quickly smoked and finished on the grill and then topped with a Pommery mustard sauce. The Pommery mustard is a French mustard that adds the special touch that makes the dish work. Delicious.
The dish came with two side items, which included options like green beans, which are slow cooked with bacon, butter and red onions, and cowboy beans, which are betterthan-average pinto beans slow-cooked and paired with ham hocks, onion and bacon. They left my friend with a satisfied smile.
I decided to do the St. Louis ribs ($18.99), and with my first bite I knew it was the right choice. Those ribs, a full slab, are basted in the restaurant’s own signature barbecue sauce and perfectly done with a bit of that black charring on the edges. The dish was a big hit. At first, I thought it was mild, but then the tangy kick set in. The quality of those ribs was sterling, with lots of meat on the bones and just the right amount of sauce.
The ribs were perfectly done with a bit of that black charring on the edge.
My sides were tasty fried okra, along with seasoned and herbedup mashed potatoes. The mound of potatoes could have served three people comfortably.
For dessert, a slice of smooth and silky buttermilk pie ($5.99), just like grandma used to make, and fried ice cream ($5.99) were lapped up by us.
Toby Keith’s menu is extensive, offering such favorites as steaks, meatloaf and chicken-fried steak. The menu also lists a prime rib — complete with the challenge of “How big a boy are ya?” — that is $1.99 an ounce, with a minimum of 8 ounces. However, that particular item has a limited availability.
Want to hear something neat? A cheeseburger with fries and a drink are on the house for any American soldier with ID (one time only). We can all hold our glasses high to Oklahoma’s Toby Keith and the owners of the restaurant for that wonderful gesture.