TLO Restaurant Review: Grandy’s
7:09 AM EDT on May 19, 2014
There are a few places around OKC that I always imagine would fit perfectly in the world of John Carpenter’s 1981 film Escape from New York. For example, couldn’t you see Snake Plissken shopping for Hiland yogurts and day-old ciabatta rolls at the Buy for Less at 23rd and Penn? Or perhaps strolling down the Wig District to donate a few pints of life-saving plasma for a few extra bucks?
I like to think that, when it comes to good ol’ fashioned Southern fare—especially after all the authentic restaurants have left town when OKC became a walled-in penal colony after President Mary Fallin installs a jack-booted local theocracy—he’d dine practically everyday at the Grandy’s at NE 36th and Lincoln.
Personally, I never had to go to Grandy’s until I was in college in the 90s, back when they were all over the Metro, as plentiful as any random Denny’s, and they all looked the same inside: imagine if a contractor got half-way through building a fast-food restaurant, said “screw it” and instead of finishing, lined the walls with the type of homemade tchotchkes that you’d find at any rural art and crafts fair held in a local high school gym. Lot of smiling cows and apples with puff-paint lettering, brightly decorated tea kettles and Holly Hobby dish-towels with Bible verses embroidered about them.
Still, I had forgotten all of this as I stepped into said Grandy’s—the closest one to my house—and was shocked at how post-apocalyptic it looked. Trash strewn about the floors and tables, condiment bars that were in desperate need to refilling and a frowning staff that looked like they had been through Hell and back. A crumbling Statue of Liberty would’ve really given the place some much needed charm.
Sure, I‘ve eaten at worse places, but never a chain restaurant like this. Don’t they have SOP manuals and regional managers that micro-manage every aspect of the operations? With the decline and closures of the eateries nationwide, maybe that’s one of the jobs they’ve cut back on. I didn’t ask. I was already getting snarls a-plenty just for walking up to the counter.
For my first meal there in a long time, I decided to start with the chicken fried steak combo. Served piping hot from under only the brightest of heat lamps, the counter-worker chucked a steak, some potatoes and a spoonful of corn onto the plate with all the effortless grace of a bitter elementary cafeteria school worker who moonlights as the LD bus driver.
While I primarily grew up on a steady diet of Mexican food courtesy of having a Latina mother, whenever my Native dad did cook, it was always Southern food, and poor Southern food at that: greens and fatback, pinto beans and hamhocks, corn bread, white peppered gravy made with lard, chitlins and pig’s feet…all the stuff he ate while growing up during the Great Depression in rural Oklahoma. So, of course, that authentic taste is a dragon that I continually chase when dining Dixie-style here in OKC.
Grandy’s ain’t it, but it ain’t bad either, to be honest.
The chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes smothered in white cream gravy were perfectly serviceable and comparable to a Swanson’s Hungry Man dinner (both in flavor and price), as was the corn which, when a scoop of butter-spread was added, were just fine. The rolls that accompanied my meal, however, were moist and doughy on the inside, which I actually like in a sadomasochistic way.
Meal number two was the pot roast with French fries and cole slaw. Surpise, surprise, the pot roast was nausea-inducing, filled with stringy meat, chewy gristle and the occasional brown-gravy ensconced hunk of pure animal fat. I was barely able to eat two big bites, almost immediately asking for a to-go box because I knew my dogs would probably appreciate its Alpo-like consistency way more than I ever could. As for the fries and cole slaw, the less said the better. I don’t know how you screw up a French fry, buy it’s obvious that Ms. Grandy did her damnedest to and succeeded in spades.
(Editor's Note: Apparently Grandy's got rid of the little old lady whose only job was to walk around the dining room carrying a gigantic bread basket and handing out fresh rolls to customers. Otherwise, Louis would have mentioned it 20 times by now.)
I finally mentally perked-up for my third and final meal from their menu—I gotta give it all a fair shot, you know, for journalism—was the all-you-can-eat livers and gizzards, served with fried okra and, screw it, even more mashed potatoes.
The literal mountain of deep-fried livers and gizzards were more than I could eat after all. It was another delicacy my father would make on a regular basis and when they are homemade and fresh out the fryer, it’s some of the best eating on Earth. When they’ve been scrapped off the bottom of a metal pan after being kept under the harsh, unforgiving light of a scorching heat-lamp, eh, not so much.
Tasting like urine-flavored gummy bears with a salty breading that does nothing to mask the tangy renal zest, it was like tugging on piss-tendons. This is not what I remembered at all. Even copious amounts of some off-brand Grandy’s hot-sauce, it did nothing to make these in any way palpable. Sorry, but when it comes to livers and gizzards, just say no to faceless, failing corporations dictating how to cook them and get up and make them yourself.
As I carried my tray of trash to the garbage—obviously I’m the only person who had all day—I took one last sip of my bitter unsweetened ice tea and came to the ultimate realization that Grandy’s is a life-force draining last resort for Southern dining. It’s sad, it’s depressing and it’s bland Southern food for people who don’t really like it. Southern food for people who don’t really know what it really is. People like your honky-ass grandma.
As I tried to swish the urine tastes out of my mouth, I realized that I’d like to think that if we were in an Escape from New York scenario, that, yes, this is where Snake Plissken would want to dine at, but then the Duke of New York would promptly show up and set that eye-patch wearing motherfucker straight. He is A Number One, after all.
(If you’re looking for some real downhome Southern cooking, I heartily recommend two of my personal favorites, A Family Affair (1742 NE 23rd St.) or This Iz It (2831 NE 23rd St # A). Some of the best Southern food in OKC, for reals.)
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