When it comes to catering in Oklahoma City, the first name that pops to mind is Ned’s Catering. Granted, I don’t do a lot of setting up catered events. I’m not that important. But I do get to put a fake mustache over my real mustache and sneak into catered events and Ned’s is always a favorite.
But it was at Cock o’ the Walk where I first met Ned Shadid Jr., son of the legendary (you guessed it) Ned Shadid Sr.
Junior had been in the catering business with his dad, but yearned to try his hand at the up-and-down world of local restaurants. So he took over the kitchen at Cock and started turning out some really great food. Ugh, I still dream about those hot wings.
That didn’t last very long, but I knew the Neds weren’t done with that dream just yet. So it was with great pleasure that I saw the sign go up on Ned’s Starlite Lounge and even greater pleasure that I snuck in (I put a second mustache over my eyebrows to really up the disguise factor) to the soft opening and put my mouth on some of their food.
In the months since they opened, I’ve been back a few times and found a lot to love and a few things I’m less crazy about. What are you gonna do, right?
There is one item on my “musts” list that is a brunch-only item and that’s shrimp and grits ($19). Gorgeous grilled jumbo shrimp, cooked perfectly with a nice snap, served over a four-cheese grits with a sweet honey-habanero sauce and a side of berries. If you’re there for breakfast, at least one person at your table must order this, or else the sorcerer’s curse will manifest.
If you’re not there at brunch, you can still get something similar in the shrimp and polenta ($11), which comes with two of those jumbo shrimp and polenta cakes drizzled in a roasted poblano cream sauce. You won’t get that same creamy, cheesy goodness from the grits, but the polenta cakes have that lovely sweet corn flavor that pairs so well with shrimp.
I’m also quite partial to The Mediterranean Jess ($12). The Shadid boys are part of Oklahoma City’s thriving Persian community (cousins to the owners of MOB Grill and Nunu’s) and they aren’t afraid to let their heritage shine through on this one. They layer labneh (it’s like a cream cheese made from Greek yogurt) with hummus, olives, tomatoes and cucumbers and sprinkle on savory za’atar seasoning and serve it up with pita bread.
Go ahead and ask for extra bread. You’ll need it. There’s no way you’ll want to leave a single drop of this melange on the plate.
I love the arancini ($9), as well. Risotto is always a favorite, but when you wrap it around a hunk of mozzarella, roll it in breadcrumbs and fry it? C’mon. I’m not made of stone. (I’m quite squishy, actually, and I blame the arancini.)
I’m going to do something weird here and recommend a dish I haven’t had, because I feel like I had it when I ate something else.
I had the PB&B, aka the Pork Belly and Bacon burger ($13.50) and I felt...let down. It’s not that the pork belly wasn’t cooked well or any issue with the bacon, it’s just that it was a lot of extra stuff on a burger that honestly didn’t need a lot of extra stuff. Which is why I’m recommending the Classic burger ($9.50) because it’s basically the PB&B without the pb or the b. And that hamburger patty deserves some attention. It’s tender and juicy and delicious. Beef deserves the glory this time!
If you insist on fancying up your burger, get the Nomad ($13). Because the PB&B was a lot, but it wasn’t anywhere near this crazy. It’s a burger, of course, but it’s covered in fried pepperoni, melted mozzarella, a lump of sauteed onions and red bell peppers and a delightful roasted garlic and tomato reduction that would go just as well over a plate of penne.
I’d hoped we’d come far enough by this point that you’d know the answer to, “Should I try the chicken-fried steak?” is always yes, once you know it’s homemade. And this CFS is a beauty. Tender meat, crisp, light-as-air breading and a big pile of Yukon gold mashed potatoes on the side, all topped with country gravy.
Can you get fries? Yeah. But you know you shouldn’t. This isn’t steak frites. This is a chicken-fried steak and it deserves some respect.
This is also a bar, in case you were wondering, and while I’m not going to review any specific drinks, I will say this: Ned’s has a generous pour, in my estimation. So if you like your drinks strong, and I think most do, belly up to the bar and enjoy your favorite.
My gynecologist is going to be very upset to see this, because she wanted to go with me, but don't you worry, doc: I'm always ready for a return visit to Ned's.