On Friday, local dignitaries gathered at the humble cafe which has stood on the northeast corner of NE 23 and Fonshill since 1959 to celebrate the state the first-ever James Beard Foundation award to land in Oklahoma.
Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt and Sen. George Young, D-Oklahoma City, were on hand to raise a glass and give Florence Jones Kemp, founder and owner of Florence’s restaurant since 1952, a standing ovation as she received a medal money from the James Beard Foundation.
Last month, Florence and her daughter Victoria Kemp attended the James Beard Foundation Awards in Chicago for receiving an American Classics Award.
During a champagne reception at the restaurant on Friday, Holt asked Victoria how much time her 91-year-old mother was still spending in Florence’s kitchen.
“Most of the time she swears when she’s in there,” laughed Victoria. “When the pandemic hit, my mum had to get used to staying home. She’s now over 90, so we had to be more careful. She always comes in, but she ends up getting mad at someone . Usually me. I caught her trying to walk home in this heat the other day!”
Brian Schwartz of Tulsa, representing the Beard Foundation, presented the medal to Florence. In Chicago, Florence and Victoria were celebrated along with five other restaurants from across the country with an American Classic award.
“It was such an honor to be there,” Victoria recalled. “My mom loved every minute.”
On Friday, guests crowded onto the patio which has been erected during the ongoing pandemic where a jazz trio put on the soundtrack and provided the microphone for Victoria and Florence to take turns thanking everyone for coming. help celebrate.
The leading lady wore an emerald green dress and a smile that stretched all the way to her hometown of Boley. She posed for photos with everyone who asked and thanked the Almighty for making it all possible.
Victoria said 2022 has been an unbroken parade of good news, starting with the Beard Award and followed by the regular parade of good wishes he brought to the restaurant.
Florence was only 22 when she opened Florence’s “on a hot dog and a dream” near Deep Deuce. The cafe moved in those early years and the menu was constantly changing.
“We sold hot dogs for a quarter and hamburgers,” she said in a 2018 interview. “Everything people wanted to eat!”
Since moving to 1437 NE 23 in 1959, the menu has been pure comfort.
“I don’t like to call it soul food,” Victoria said. “It sure is southern. Really, it’s just good home cooking.”
You won’t find a better fried chicken, meatloaf, chicken and meatballs or oxtail in town, and no one offers a better selection of sides from collard greens to candied yams with “a nice little salad” in between. of them. Appetizers come with three cornbreads and yeast.
Victoria said the biggest thing coming will be a book she and her mother are working on with local lawyer, author and historian Bob Burke. Merchandise from Florence could follow. Victoria has long wanted to resurface the parking lot and add a freestanding walk-in cooler, but that’s as far as any expansion talk will ever go.
“People ask me if there will ever be another Florence’s, and I tell them ‘no,'” she said. “There may be other restaurants, but there will never be another Florence’s Restaurant. My mother made her dream come true and spent her whole life keeping it that way. It will never happen again.”
Amen to that.
Have you tried the fried chicken at Rococo? Nope? Well, veteran chef Lee Bennett (of Picasso, Iguana Lounge) fry whole poultry two Mondays a month and it’s everything you’d expect from fried poultry. This Monday, the birds came with collard greens and mashed potatoes with jalapeno sauce. In two weeks it will be green beans and cheese grits. If you’re lucky, like us, Lee will also have gizzards and liver available! …
Dave’s Hot Chicken is set to open its first franchise in Oklahoma next week. The people at Social Order Restoration Collective (The Jones Assembly, Spark, Fuzzy Tacos) are behind the move. Watch for previews here on Thursday. …
Chef Jonas Favela announced on social media that he was leaving Steak the experience. Go see Jonas before August 6th. …
Store table, 3 NE 8, closed on Saturdays. The space will be undergoing renovations for a new restaurant. Details soon.