I very rarely get to enjoy nice (read: expensive) restaurants, and when I do, it’s usually because someone else is paying,
That’s pretty much the reason I was able to dine at the Park Avenue Grill, 1 Park Avenue, in the eerie Skirvin Hotel. You see, my friend Jerry Bennett is their artist-in-residence this year and, in exchange for his professional comic-art impressing both locals and travelers alike, he gets a modest stipend—and with that a few meals a month at said Park Avenue Grill.
Do they have a deal like this for writers too?
I had never been to the Skirvin before, but with the feel of a haunted New York hotel from the 1930s, the lobby seems like a step almost too far back in time for my tastes—I almost felt like I should have entered in through the kitchen. As we made a right turn into the famed five-star eatery, a creepy stillness surrounded the empty place as we sat down, seemingly all alone in the restaurant.
If I was with anyone else, I probably would’ve felt a caustic chill, but always in good spirits, Jerry’s laugh had a way of busting any ghosts that were hanging over our shoulders. As the server brought us well-crafted glasses filled with the most premier of tap water, I looked over the mostly concise menu, deciding on, for an appetizer, the Chicken Fried Oysters ($13.00).
Yes, in Oklahoma, even our classiest joints still have something “chicken fried” on the menu, God bless ‘em.
Fresh oysters—chicken fried, per the name—on a bed of corn and greens with pickled pepper chowchow and comeback sauce, these were some hedonistically home-style treats that were quite good, actually; the freshly fried oyster, with its warm metallic taste and a spicy gold coating perfectly paired with the double-dipping chowchow—please bottle that sauce up and sell it, will you?
Since reading the menu online in preparation, I had mentally prepared myself for a New Zealand rack of lamb for my meal, but I was told that it was taken off the menu because not enough Okies were ordering it and, when they did, they wanted mint jelly with it. Minorly heartbroken, I went with my second choice, the Bourbon Brined Pork Chop ($27.00) with a side of Creamed Corn ($8.00).
That ain’t too bad for a second choice.
The pork chop, bone-in and center cut, reminded me of the way chops were cut in cartoons from the distant past; very thick with a medium burn, sided with green garnish and a roasted mushroom. Biting into the high-quality pig meat made me realize this isn’t a discounted four-pack of chops from Buy for Less—not that there’s anything wrong with that—but a very high-quality piece that maybe I didn’t really deserve.
What I did deserve, with absolutely no remorse, was the creamed corn. Like a spoonful of movie theater popcorn scooped out on your fancy plate, the corn’s addition of queso cotija and ancho chiles where a pure delight, a golden blessing that dribbled down my chin and onto my shirt. This is, hands down, the best creamed corn in Oklahoma. Try to find better.
The Park Avenue Grill—and the Skirvin in general—is a great place to go if you’re trying to entertain country people in the big ol’ city for the first time, just leave the big brown jug with “XXX” written on it outside, Hoss.
But the question I’m left with is would I, a lonely man and lowly food critic, go there on a regular basis for, say, lunch on a Wednesday? Regardless on my answer—which is, honestly, I don’t know—at least head over to the Skirvin to check out Jerry’s artwork, and maybe buy a print or two. Cómpralo ya!