Ned’s Starlite Lounge just opened Sept. 24, but it’s been a long time coming.
For one thing, Ned Shadid Sr.'s business, Ned's Catering, has been serving local, state and nationwide events for decades, feeding everyone from local wedding parties to Aerosmith’s national tour. Family members are running successful eateries across the city, including Nunu’s Mediterranean and M.O.B. Grill. More recently, Ned Jr. decided to dip his toes into the restaurant business by running the kitchen at Cock O’ The Walk.
It was a learning experience, Ned Jr. said. Not just in running a bar, but figuring out how to make money at it — something Cock O’ The Walk has been doing for decades.
Adding another layer of history, the new restaurant is living in the bones of Nomad II, 7301 N. May Ave., which closed in 2016. (Nomad II has since been reborn as Sussy’s in Bricktown.)
A full review will likely come in the months ahead, but here’s a bit of what you can expect at Ned’s Starlite Lounge in the meantime:
- The menu seems a little scattered at first, but it’s really the culmination of decades of catering experience distilled into one dynamite lineup of dishes. It’s not everything they know how to make, but it’s a sort of greatest hits album of family recipes, bar fare and catering favorites.
Look at the “Small Plates” menu to see the variety of food on offer. Shrimp and polenta, a charcuterie board and arancini alongside hot wings, cheese fries and fried pickles.
- The decor is retro cool, with glittering gold booths and chairs and shiny gold wallpaper. The space seems a little sparse to begin with, but I’m sure more decor will come. Still, I’d rather a place be a bit bare than completely overstuffed.
- As a shoutout to the building’s former resident, Ned’s serves a Nomad burger ($13, with fries) that is messy and glorious. Nomad II was an Italian-American grill, so there are some decidedly Italian notes to this burger, like a topping of sauteed onions, peppers and fried pepperoni atop a layer of gooey melted mozzarella and a ladle full of Ned’s roasted garlic-tomato reduction.
There’s nothing that says you can’t pick up this monster, but I’m 100 percent comfortable using a knife and fork on this burger. The flavors are spot on, but I was even more impressed with the quality of the meat. This was a textbook medium burger, juicy and pink in the middle, and every bite was heavenly. Next time I go in, I’m getting the plain old traditional hamburger ($8.50, with fries) just to taste it without all the accoutrements of the Nomad, because this might be a contender for OKC’s best burger.
- Chicken-fried steaks are one of Ned Sr.’s specialities, so I’m not shocked to see them play such a prominent role on the menu. See also: we’re in Oklahoma. Nobody ever went broke in this state serving tasty chicken-fried steaks. No, I do not know why they spell poblano as “pablano” on the menu, but they do and it doesn’t make the pepper cream sauce any less delicious.
- Arancini (two for $9) aren’t super common in OKC, but I hope you’ll try one at Ned’s. It’s a Russian nesting doll of goodness: a ball of melted mozzarella surrounded by creamy risotto, covered in fried breadcrumbs and served on roasted garlic-tomato reduction. Yowza. I destroyed this one in no time and I bet you’ll love it, too.
- Despite an entire page of the menu advertising brunch, Ned’s isn’t serving brunch...yet. The catering business has a few weeks of big bookings to handle first, so look for brunch to arrive mid-October.