Florence’s: Shady Restaurant of the Month

by | February 5, 2009 | 17 Comments

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Florence’s Restaurant is located at 1437 N.E. 23rd Street in Oklahoma City (map)  You can call them at 405.424.8336.  Cash Only.

I love those moments in life that are totally hyped up and then actually live up to the expectations.  That doesn’t happen often.  Sure, I’ve had those moments like the Broncos winning the Super Bowl, my first Metallica concert, and successfully potty training a child.  But in the world of shady dining, most often you are simply celebrating the small things like not getting hepatitis, or learning a new gang sign.  However, Florence’s was one of those shady moments that really lived up to the high expectations I had.

Florence's Restaurant in Oklahoma City

I first heard about Florence’s from a co-worker who said it was “as good as Mama E’s.”  I know, I told him to stop the crazy talk, but still, I had to see for myself.  I headed over the next day to find it just east of the Capitol between Kelly and MLK drive.  I nearly missed the building the first time by.  It has a very small sign, and the actual building itself looks more like one that would house a variety of liquors rather than tasty fried chicken.  The windows are iron-clad, the door is solid wood, the bricks are stained a nice shade of dingy, and the whole place lies right in the heart of one of the most crime-ridden streets in the city (according to OKCcrime.com).  In other words, it’s the perfect setting for some fantastic shady dining.

It’s what is inside the restaurant that got me excited.  Nice tables that have a certain country dining room feel, southern paintings and decorations, a dark green, hand-painted drop ceiling, and the heavenly smell of iron skillet cooking.  The menus are laminated descriptions of what can be cooked up from scratch for you complete with how long some of the dishes take to prepare.  Also striking is that every person in there (except me and my companions) were known by name — another sign of a great place.  I also like the blast of heat you get on a cold day when you open the door, but take note — the bathrooms are not heated.  I think the bathrooms are awesome, though.  They are the skinniest little rooms, and they are decorated like the bathroom in someone’s home.

All of this was exciting, but what I was anticipating most was skillet-fried chicken.  At Florence’s, you can get chicken, skillet fried steak (chicken fried), catfish, spaghetti, and a variety of sandwiches and burgers. Nearly everything has the option of fresh pan gravy. Yum.  I got the smothered chicken which is fried chicken with pan gravy poured all over it.  I was originally just ordering fried chicken, which is mentioned as their best seller. Then our waiter mentioned that smothered chicken is the same thing, just covered in gravy.  I nearly gave him a hug.

Of course, no soul food joint is complete without those lard-injected sides and cornbread.  I’m not a big cornbread fan, but theirs is moist and delicious.  Crumbly and moist seems like it would be impossible to create, but it truly has both traits.  Other options for sides are mashed potatoes, rice, greens, creamed corn, yams … etc.  I hate yams, but one of my shady companions swears these are the best he’s ever had.

I like that Florence’s offers reasonable portions, affordably priced.  Mama E’s is fantastic soul food as well, and a great value if you are feeding two. But, at Florence’s you can get an actual meal for one (meat and 3 sides) for $7.  No all you can drink Kool-Aid, but you can get sweet tea. Well, only if they haven’t had a rash of diabetics eating there as they said they had the day we were there.  We had to sweeten our own tea that day.  Well, I say “we,” but I had Dr. Pepper, of course.  And to further digress, the radio was playing all the favorite R&B hits of the 90′s.  I hadn’t heard “Somebody Rockin’ Knockin’ Da Boots” since 9th grade.  I kept anxiously awaiting the Humpty Dance, but sadly it never came on.

Anyway, I love skillet fried chicken.  If you haven’t ever had it then go to Florence’s and try it.  Actually, you should go regardless, but especially if you have never had skillet fried chicken.  There is something about food fried in a skillet.  I think part of it is when you cook in a skillet you are forced to make small batches so quality and attention to each order are required.  Also, pan frying eliminates the cross contamination of flavors that can happen in old oil.  There’s nothing worse than french fries that taste like fish.  Of course, the best part about a pan fry is that homemade pan gravy!  That’s right, gravy from the grease, not from a package or a jar.  I can’t help it, I love the little things in life.

If you are looking for some shady dining and some good, old-fashioned soul food, give Florence’s a try.  You will find that this place is as shady as they come on the outside, but like a true worthy winner of the Shady Restaurant of the Month award, it’ll win your heart when you step inside.  Sure, there is an element of danger here, but that’s just part of the fun.  With this place being so close to the Capitol, you might even see a shady politician or two.  Go try Florence’s for yourself and let us know what you think in the comments.

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This article was posted by Andrew Littleton on Thursday, February 5th, 2009. It is filed under:

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  • R. D. Hale, M.D. says:
    February 7th, 2009 at 8:08 pm   

    I appreciated your Florence’s Restaurant article/e-mail very much. And, I’m sure that most of us out here want, not only to hear about the exotic and predictibly expensive eateries, but at least as much about food very similar to that, which we grew up eating. ‘Truth is we’re both yearning for that wonderful taste, but also feeling giant-size and undoubtedly chauvenistic pride in the memories assosiated with those old family meals. A lot of us eat “out” nearly every meal, and we should let you know how much we appreciate your efforts and the restaurant articles…I’ll pass it on. Thanks.

  • Bizzle says:
    February 8th, 2009 at 11:51 am   

    I can’t wait to try this place! Will report back!

  • Spooniest says:
    February 8th, 2009 at 6:40 pm   

    I have gone to this place a few times and I love it. The banana pudding is to die for! It puts my Mom’s to shame…but I would never tell her that! I have never had a bad meal here and everytime I go I feel like family.

  • Charlene says:
    February 10th, 2009 at 5:29 pm   

    The best article written yet…OR
    I may have been influenced by my subconscience devouring the fried chicken as I read. :-)

  • ......... says:
    February 12th, 2009 at 3:49 pm   

    Florence was honored last year for over 50 years of service to the African American Community in Oklahoma City. She has owned a few different businesses over the years but this is where her heart is at. You don’t often find someone cooking for you with 50 plus years of experience under their belt. A true gem! Oh yeah, try the Boley Beans, named after the town!

  • shawna says:
    February 16th, 2009 at 5:46 pm   

    The food was just average and the portion size was a joke. There was barely enough food to satisfy a child let alone an adult who paid close to $8.00 per plate. I would not recommend FLORENCE’S RESTURANT at all. If you are in the mood for a home cooked meal or some good soulfood you should try A FAMILY AFFAIR RESTURANT right up the street. They have really great tasting food, decent customer service, better value and portion size for the money spent and a family oreinted atmosphere.

  • Beverly says:
    February 17th, 2009 at 10:16 am   

    I went to Florence’s, and everything was great! My plate had enough to take some home for a second meal. I see the commenter above had a different view. I ordered the smothered chicken, with banana pudding for dessert. ALL good!

  • Andrew says:
    February 22nd, 2009 at 5:48 pm   

    I tried A Family Affair on Friday. I agree, it’s pretty tasty sould food, all you can eat. I think it is completely different than Florence’s. Different menu, different style, and the ability to gorge yourself until you are sick. I stand by my opinion that Florences gives reasonable portions for a good value. I’m not into gorging myself so I don’t get my moneys worth when I have a $10 buffet (this was with drink included). That may just be me.

  • Kevin says:
    March 2nd, 2009 at 6:47 am   

    Thanks Andrew (and Shawna too.

    Now I have two more places on the “Grub I really really enjoy!” list

  • ANGEL says:
    March 12th, 2009 at 7:39 pm   

    I REALLY HAVE TO BEG TO DIFFER WITH THE RATINGS ON THIS PLACE. WENT THERE TODAY AND THE FOOD WAS OK…ONLY PROBLEM IS I LIKE MY CHICKEN FRIED THE SAME DAY OR EVEN FRESH AND IT WAS ALL REHEATED IN THE MICROWAVE.. YOU CAN HEAR THEM HEATING THE FOOD UP IN THE KITCHEN IN THE MICROWAVE…THE CORNBREAD WASNT MOIST OR EVEN A TAD BIT SWEET…AND I GOT FRIED CHICKEN AND 3 SIDES WHICH SAID IN THE MENU 7.50 BUT WHEN THE CHECK CAME IT SAID 8.50…I WAS HIGHLY DISAPPOINTED AND MAYBE I JUST WENT AT THE WRONG TIME BUT I DIDNT SMELL A AROMA OF ANYTHING COOKING.. I ARRIVED AT 2:30 ALMOST 3:00… I COULD HAVE BOUT THE INGREDIENTS TO THE MEAL I HAD AND SPENT THE SAME AND IT WOULD HAVE BEEN AT LEAST THE TAD BIT FRESH!!!!

  • GlennZilla says:
    March 23rd, 2009 at 3:54 pm   

    You REALLY should do a Shady restaurant review of “The Hungry Frog” at NW 10th an Penn. For the optimum Shady People watching, go on a Saturday while the Flea market across the street is in full swing.

  • Sam says:
    April 15th, 2009 at 4:03 pm   

    Just got back from eating here and I think my heart just stopped beating….hold up, ok it’s beating again. Had the chicken and waffles wednesday special and decided to add green beans and cabbage to the mix. Total came out to $10 with a “sweet” tea that wasn’t sweetened at all. The green beans reminded me of elementary school and is still the reason why I don’t like em…but I paid for them today so I tolerated it. Anyway, “Mama” looks like one fierce woman and wouldn’t wanna get in a fight with her, but she does cook some soulful food. I think I might have to strap on a piece for protection next time I go visit because that area is VERY ghet-to.

    Oh and they close at 6pm every day!

  • Bill Turner says:
    April 24th, 2009 at 2:20 pm   

    Florence’s was very nice — not sure how it earned its “Shady” designation. Established in 1952 on 4th Street, so our waiter said. Moved to 23rd, its present location, in 1961. I’m sure Miss Florence would have no truck with any ladies of the evening hanging around her restaurant.

    The fried chicken was AMAZING — how does she get the crust so perfect? Mashed potatoes, gravy, and corn all excellent. The pinto beans were too sweet for me, but everything else was very good. I hate to recommend it because we had the whole place to ourselves.

    Too bad the bar-b-que place across the street appears to be no longer with us.

  • Maneki Neko says:
    April 30th, 2009 at 11:00 pm   

    Great review, thanks! I will definitely try Florence’s soon and report back. I drove past it today, but I had already picked up dinner to-go at Carican Flavors (MLK and about 25th) so I didn’t stop. Carican Flavors is very unique and tasty; Caribbean mixed with soul food. They have jerk chicken, oxtail, catfish, mac & cheese, green beans, cornbread, rice & beans, black-eyed peas, and a variety of other things I can’t remember. I forgot to get a to-go menu. Does anyone else in OKC serve jerk anything? If you know then please fill me in, it’s sooo good, especially shrimp or fish! I do remember that Carican’s menu specifically stated “Vegetarian Welcome” which always impresses me. And they have a cafeteria-style setup (kinda like Mama E’s), so I was on my way with a hot meal in less than 5 minutes. Has anyone tried the restaurant Fish & Pies? It’s maybe a couple blocks east of Florence’s. It caught my attention today and sure did sound good! There were several cars in the parking lot, so it seemed to be popular. Could it be an opportunity for the next Shady Restaurant of the Month?

  • Mankei Neko says:
    May 12th, 2009 at 5:07 pm   

    LOVED Florence’s! Excellent comfort food, nice staff, and fun atmosphere. I was a little surprised at the interior; it was much prettier than I expected for a “shady” restaurant. And the music was great – it kinda had more of a jazzy/bluesy tone while I was there. I felt like I took a mini vacation to the deep south, and I did not want to leave! The catfish was fried up just perfect. And I too normally don’t care for cornbread, but their little mini muffins were quite tasty and different than any I’ve ever tried before. They have salmon croquettes on Fridays – can’t wait to try those. FYI – cash only! :)

  • Honey says:
    January 20th, 2010 at 1:38 pm   

    Shawna must eat enough for a horse, pig, or maybe a cow! We ARE fighting obesity in this country. I have dined at Florences for over 35 years and have ALWAYS been satisfied with my portions. The food is ALWAYS good! And Angel, I don’t know what’s her problem! The chicken is cut-up and cooked FRESH everyday! What restaurant do you know of does NOT use microwaves? And Sam, I have NEVER felt afraid to eat there. You could have ordered another side instead or sent the green beans back for something else and just ADD sugar to your tea. Florence is a small woman who is very friendly so I don’t understand YOUR characterization of her. I also happen to know that Florence has been there for her community and have fed a MANY in need for FREE!

  • Victoria says:
    December 28th, 2012 at 10:55 am   

    I absolutely LOVE Florences, the food has always been fresh when I stopped in. It does take a little longer for the food to come out but that is to be expected when the food is cooked to order. I have not tried everything on the menu because I can not get past the Yam smoothered fried chicken…mmmmm! I keep saying Im going to try something different next time and always go back to the same ole same ole. In response to the safety of the location, if i recall there was a drunk person that drove into a IHOP on the other side of town and killed a person. Florences gives you a truely down home feeling …..so I guess it depends on where your home is. Many upgrades have been made to this place in the past few years the seats use to be bar stools to the counter type. Atmosphere…..EXCELLENT, Food ……Excellent……Price & Portion…….Excellent!

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We lunched there on the strength of this review and were delighted.

Tim, left as a comment about Banana Island