Florence’s: Shady Restaurant of the Month
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.
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.