#PigOutOKC is brought to you by the Oklahoma Pork Council. Twice a month we’ll be delving into restaurants and recipes that bring home the bacon (among other delicious cuts of pork). Experiencing your own pork-fueled adventure? Use the hashtag #PigOutOKC to let the rest of us in on the fun.
There’s only one good reason to not eat at Florence’s Restaurant and that’s if you haven’t heard of Florence’s Restaurant.
It’s not exactly a secret. After all, Florence’s has been around since 1952 and it’s been in its current location on NE 23rd Street since 1969. You know, the year Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Florence’s has been around.
Owner Florence Jones is still in the kitchen, though her daughter Victoria and the rest of the well-trained staff take care of a lot of the cooking. The recipes and the commitment to real, excellent food remain.
It’s not fancy in that fussy sense of immaculately plated entrees or rare ingredients, but it’s the kind of cooking that takes time and skill and care. And if you can’t taste it when the person making the food is putting their all into it, you need to find some better restaurants.
Throughout the years, I’ve fallen deeper and deeper in love with Florence’s cuisine. They serve food that I often avoid in other restaurants, but I can’t help but order it here, because I know they’re doing it right.
A few warnings about the following review: 1. Put on a bib, because you’ll be drooling before you know it. 2. Not everything I ate is available all the time. Florence’s put breakfast service on hold for a bit, but Victoria is hoping it will return in the coming months. That didn’t keep me from eating pancakes, sausage, ham, bacon, waffles and eggs, because only a fool turns down breakfast fixed in that kitchen.
But for the sake of fairness, let’s start off with some dishes you can get regularly.
Remember what I said about avoiding some dishes at other restaurants? I meant pork chops ($12 for two with three sides).
Pork chops are tricky and anyone who says otherwise is lying. Pork is an extremely lean meat, which means overcooking is a major problem. It takes a deft touch to take a medium-thin chop and fry it without transforming it into a tough, dry, flavorless jerky.
Florence’s has the touch. Their seasoning game is on lock, which I cannot praise enough. At a time when chefs seems cowed into using little-to-no salt, Florence’s is unafraid to season their dishes to perfection.
The fried chops had a lightly dredged crust cooked to a lovely crisp with a salty, peppery pop that I found intoxicating. For even more flavor, go for the smothered chops (same price) which are first fried and then slathered in gravy that softens the crust and adds even more richness.
The grilled chops are juicy and wonderful, but the flavor is more subtle. Still mighty tasty.
The catfish ($13 with three sides) is real catfish.
“Uh, yeah, Greg. It says catfish in the name.”
See, but not all catfish is catfish. A lot of times, we’re served a much less expensive fish called swai that lacks the depth of flavor of farmed American catfish. Get it deep fried and prepare yourself for a crispy cornmeal crust over a filet of tender, juicy fish with a clean (vs. muddy) catfish flavor. This is the catfish you’ve been looking for.
Now, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention one of my go-to meals at Florence’s: smothered chicken ($9.50 with three sides). Much like the pork chops, this is fried chicken covered in gravy, which soaks into the skin and softens it a bit. I don’t have a problem with the texture, as the skin never feels floppy, and the addition of gravy makes the dish completely irresistible.
The sides are just as big a draw as the entrees. More, even, if you’re talking about the candied yams. These sweet potatoes are basically dessert and I’ll keep ordering them every time I come in, no matter what. They are supple and sugary and I am incapable of sharing them. Order. Your. Own. Julie.
The mashed potatoes and gravy are a perfect side for the pork chops and the smothered chicken and you pretty much can’t go wrong with collard greens, which are free of bitterness without being overly bacon-y.
Don’t get me wrong: I love bacon-y collards, but I don’t want to only taste bacon.
When breakfast returns, your pork-based options multiply. I tried waffles with bacon that was pretty much the picture of bacon from the dictionary — crisp, tender and glistening with rendered grease.
Both the waffles and pancakes use Florence’s own mix, resulting in a batter that is lighter than air with a corny sweetness that never felt grainy. A bite of pancake sans syrup was all I needed to know these were the real deal.
For heartier fare, I think the pork sausage and home fries are about as good as I’ve ever had. The home fries are especially wonderful, seasoned beautifully and fried crisp with softened onions for a rich, mildly sweet flavor.
The eggs were gorgeous as well. For once I actually preferred the scrambled eggs, which were wrapped around some melted cheese for an ooey-gooey luscious bite that was creamy without feeling under-done.
After 66 years in business, I can understand Florence’s not seeming new or innovative, but it’s so much more than a piece of Oklahoma City history. This vibrant little eatery remains a hub of activity and the kitchen staff still cooks with the kind of passion and care that comes through in every bite.
Now you know it’s there, which means you have no reason not to go. Trust me. You’re going to love it.
The Oklahoma Pork Council represents the interests all of pork producers throughout the state, promoting pork and pork products, funding research and educating consumers and producers about the pork industry. Learn more about the OPC, find recipes and more at OKPork.org.