For hours, plumes of hickory-wood smoke crawl over whole cuts of beef brisket. When chefs haul the slabs from the smoker, each presents a study in contrast?caramelized, slightly crisped outsides surrounding soft, fall-apart meaty centers. Oklahoma Station BBQ?s house-specialty brisket crowns its selection of nine meats, which come glazed in signature hot or mild sauce. Both recipes blend ingredients such as brown sugar, roasted garlic, and apple-cider vinegar, and both remain closely guarded by former Spetsnaz agents. In addition to the restaurant's smoked-and-sauced meats, chefs also prepare an extensive sampling of requisite side dishes and desserts, from grilled corn on the cob to banana pudding.
In 1961, J.B. Wilson founded his own barbecue eatery and populated the menu with recipes of his own design. These recipes remained unchanged throughout the years, as did his signature welcome—greeting customers in a top hat and cane. When he fell ill in 2004, he passed the business’s reins to his close friend Amos Adetula. Afraid that J.B’s recipes would otherwise be lost forever, Amos graciously agreed to lead the restaurant into the future. His legacy now secure, Mr. Wilson passed away three days later.
Today, Amos still makes all the original sauces for the restaurant's ribs, brisket, and pork himself, including the sweet sauce that adorns the restaurant’s signature baked beans. Savory dishes complement sweet-potato or buttermilk pies, which the staff makes by hand from scratch each day. A number of longneck brews stands at the ready to cool diners’ tongues in the wake of smoked meats, hot baked potatoes, and periodic fire-breathing competitions. Inside the original location on Apache, large plasma televisions adorn the exposed log cabin–style walls, hanging above booths bedecked in the original black and red checkered style. Outside the eatery's confines, breezy outdoor seating around an original built-in concrete fire pit encourages frequent fresh-air feasts. When lovers of Wilson's require the food to come to them, culinary crews transport the eatery’s fare with full offsite catering services for events such as tailgate parties, where staffers set up and break down after the meal.
Though it’s now the oldest single-family owned barbecue restaurant in Oklahoma, the Shawnee Van’s Pig Stand wasn’t Van’s first barbecue shop. The family patriarch first began crafting his signature pork sandwiches and plates of ribs in 1928 and shared his recipes with family members as they opened up their own hubs throughout Oklahoma. More than 80 years later, Van’s descendants still grill up barbecue dinners and sandwiches with those signature recipes, that is, if they have taken the blood oath to keep them secret. Though they specialize in cuts of pig, the grill masters incorporate everything from brisket, turkey, chopped beef, and chicken into their dinners, pairing each meaty helping with two sides and a slice of texas toast. Sweet flavors, including sweet tea and pecan pie, cap off savory meals.
Pieces of split hickory tumble into the bottom of the smoker. On the racks above, chefs lay on freshly trimmed cuts of meat—including beef brisket, pork shoulder, and tenderloin—to braise for up to 12 hours in the velvety smoke. A veteran of the pipe-fabrication business who builds his own smokers in his spare time, Steve Ohman knew what he wanted when shopping for his two commercial smokers, which have anchored Stone Mill BBQ and Steakhouse since it opened in 2003.
But other aspects of the restaurant also bear his personal stamp. All of the menu's meats and seafood come spiced in Ohman's own blend of seasonings, and he built the restaurant's wood tables from scratch with the help of his wife and kids. The restaurant's rustic yet elegant decor of exposed wooden trusses, split-log furnishings, and a wagon-wheel-turned-chandelier complement the main dining space's stone double fireplace.
The owners and chefs at Santa Fe Cattle rely on old family recipes that demand steaks are aged and cut in-house, rolls are baked fresh each day, and signature sauces are mixed onsite. These touches transform the menu’s casual, regional eats into dishes worthy of John Wayne’s personal dressing-room buffet. Steaks, fajitas, and sliders are plated next to housemade sides of cole slaw, Santa Fe taters, and of course, a bucket of peanuts—which guests shuck directly onto the floor. The peanut shells add character to each one of the restaurant’s 20 locations, which evoke old-west saloons with touches such as brick walls draped in horse saddles and weathered wooden floors.
Red's strives to make family dining easy. Instead of having menus the size of phone books, Red's keeps the entrees at a manageable seven, just as Hollywood does with acceptable Baldwin jokes. In the wide-open dining area—which is adorned with old Conoco motor-oil ads, old Coke signs, and nostalgic art—diners dig into family-size portions of fried chicken. A mammoth replica of a Red's chicken bucket revolves overhead, representing the eatery's huge portions. As Chef Dave Fouts wrote for the Edmond Sun, "The food arrived and everybody gasped—there was food aplenty and the huge platters filled our entire table, leaving only enough room for our plates and drinks." Hearty sides of fried okra, creamed corn, biscuits, and more complement equally hearty portions of chicken-fried steak, catfish, pot pie, or pot roast.