Choice Cafe: Shady Restaurant of the Month
Choice Cafe is located at 5205 S. Shields Ave in Oklahoma City (map). Contact them at (405)634-9900.
I know, March came and went without a “Shady Restaurant of the Month” award. I’m making up for it with a particularly strong April recommendation that was actually brought to me by a loyal Shady reader. Please keep the suggestions coming! You never know when your favorite place could get the honorable Shady Restaurant of the Month award making you the envy of all your friends.
I got the email yesterday that I should give Choice Cafe a try. Luckily, I had no other shady plans and decided to go give it a shot. Choice Cafe sits on South Shields Avenue in Southeast Oklahoma City. As we neared the restaurant it became clear that it had some strong shady characteristics. We passed the Dreamland Motel, a couple pawn shops, a large bingo hall, and just before you reach the Swank Hotel (you can’t make up a name like that) you find Choice Cafe.
Like many of its shady cousins, Choice Cafe has a big, blue awning with jumbo letters advertising its name along with its phone number. A large portion of the awning was torn off on one side. Honestly, though, with these 78 mph Oklahoma winds, I’m not sure how anyone maintains a decent awning in this town. The parking lot was packed. In fact, we “made up” our own parking space. A full parking lot is always a decent sign, but Western Sizzlin’ also typically has a full lot so take that with a grain of salt.
Inside, it was very clean, although it did still maintain some shady interior characteristics such as water-stained, multi-colored ceiling tiles, and cinder-block walls. There was a large menu over the counter and as we walked up to order, we were told that we could sit down and that they would bring us menus. The menus were surprising. I’m used to a grease-stained menu at these places, but this was a nice, bright, laminated menu with great pictures and graphics, plus a large ad mentioning their catering business. There wasn’t the slightest bit of ketchup, meatloaf juice, or burger grease to be found lingering from the last guy. Our beverages were brought to us in nice, clean, sturdy glasses. Again, very surprising. I’m used to those beady, red, plastic cups with a worn-out Dr. Pepper or Coke logo on them. Also, in true South Oklahoma City fashion, they boast enough signed OU footballs, plaques, and framed snapshots of all the glories and traditions of Sooner Football to classify this place as an OU museum.
There are lots of food options here including burgers, gyros, baked potatoes, several varieties of chicken, and then a host of diner meals including meatloaf, roast beef, catfish … etc. I asked about the burgers. I was prepared for the “all beef patty” speech that can be translated as “frozen, all beef — but not the parts of beef you would normally want to eat — patties.” Instead, our waiter surprised me by saying how they hand-weigh the fresh beef every morning for their burgers. I figured I’d better try one. My shady lunch companions (no, they won’t mind being called that) got gyros and a roast beef dish.
The burger came exactly as advertised. It was an all beef, hand-made patty. I was impressed. A little under-seasoned for my taste, but I added some salt and it was quite enjoyable. It came with hand-cut curly fries. They were fantastic. The chef must have some mediterranean / middle-eastern influence. I say this because of the gyro offerings, plus the seasoning on the fries had a strong hint of garam masala or something similar. It was all very good. The roast beef came in typical diner fashion with mashed potatoes and gravy, and bland green beans.
I was quite surprised at the quality we experienced here. They have a very friendly waitstaff, good quality food, and prices that are in line with shady spots everywhere. I got in and out for $5. Not bad for such a quality meal. Oh, and like every good diner, they also provide a large display case of oversized slices of homemade pie. This is a tradition I rarely get to experience. I’m just not a big dessert fan. Sure, pie is good and all, but why waste that stomach space when it could be filled with meat, cheese, and gravy?
There may be shadier places in town, but Choice Cafe combines great taste with plenty of shady surroundings to provide an all-around great experience that earns it the prestigious Shady Restaurant of the Month award for April. Try it, and let us know what you think.