POSTED ON FEBRUARY 22, 2012:
Oklahoma Joe's comes home, smokes competition
There are as many styles of barbecue as there are delicious animals to eat. It's cultural, regional and, for some, religion. Sure, your husband can cook a mean steak out on the grill, but for some that's child's play. Real men smoke their meat. An animal couldn't meet a more divine demise than in the hallowed interior of a smoker, especially in the hands of an experienced pit master. The Tulsa metro is dotted with all types of barbecue joints, from mom-and-pop to commercial. Now a new sheriff has sauntered into town. Oklahoma Joe's Bar-B-Cue brings some true barbecue swagger to Broken Arrow, and its reputation precedes itself.
Oklahoma Joe's Bar-B-Cue is located in the brand spankin' new shops that encircle the Bass Pro Shop. Though its flagship store is in Kansas City, Oklahoma Joe's has made its mark all over the country, winning many competitions for its special brand of barbecue. Lining the walls of this shiny and bright interior are banners that testify to Oklahoma Joe's prowess. This boasting almost begs for a thorough assessment, so I brought my own personal barbecue guru to put Oklahoma Joe's to the test.
The menu is full of barbecue favorites and ribs, brisket, pulled pork and you name it, you'll find it. They even throw in a few salads for good measure, just in case you feel like grazing. We weren't interested in frivolities. It was time to get down to business.
Oklahoma Joe's has a variety of BBQ Dinners, like Ribs and One Meat Dinner ($12.49) which includes three ribs and choice of brisket, pork, turkey, bologna, hot link or sausage. Many other combos are available, like rib and chicken ($12.29), One Meat Dinner ($8.79) or a Two Meat Dinner ($10.39). Each dinner is served with one side dish and Texas toast.
I believe ribs may be the most perfect food on earth when done right. I opted for the rib and meat dinner and chose the pulled pork and potato salad to go along with it. But when I saw the ribs, it was like nothing else on the plate existed. Nicely sized, a light pink hue -- a hallmark of good smokin' -- these ribs were perfect specimens. When I picked up the Oklahoma Joe's rib, it separated easily from the bone, yet still stayed in one piece. Perfect. The seasoning was ever-so subtle, not too salty, no one spice overpowering another. That pink hue I was talking about was the indication of a perfectly smoked rib and not like I put a forest fire in my mouth.
The pulled pork was also a stunner and not a stringy mess of meat that had been ripped to shreds. Pork has its own difficulties, especially when cooked for a long period of time. Oklahoma Joe's knows how to handle a pig, because the pulled pork was juicy without sauce. Not an easy feat. It had a subtle smoky flavor, and there was no noticeable seasoning, but it allowed the flavor of the pork to really sing. Even my cynical sidekick described it as 'damn near perfect.'
The carnivorous frenzy continued with the smoked chicken. With chicken, everything can go wrong, fast. Chicken is literally and figuratively a different animal when it comes to smoking. It's more delicate and smaller than its heartier beef and pork counterparts. Timing is everything and Oklahoma Joe's gets that. When ordered along with the rib dinner, you get a leg and a thigh. I'm a fan of dark meat, especially when it's smoked. Both pieces were a nice size and had a small layer of barbecue sauce on top. Again, the smoky flavor didn't overwhelm the bird and the seasonings were harmonious. The texture was at the precipice of being overcooked, but it was still juicy. Oklahoma Joe's also has Smoked Chicken Dinners ($8.39) with half of a chicken or even get a whole chicken for $12.29.
I decided the sample their brisket by choosing from the sandwich menu. Oklahoma Joe's has your straight-forward sandwiches featuring everything from their smoked turkey to barbecue bologna in either regular ($5.19) or jumbo ($6.99). The price does not, however, include a side.
Some of their specialty sandwiches seemed intriguing, like the Z-Man Sandwich ($6.49) with brisket, smoked provolone topped with two onion rings on a Kaiser bun. The Joe's Dipped Brisket with Au Jus ($6.49) caught my eye. A huge fan of French dips, I thought using brisket as the meat was a great idea. The au jus was not too salty and chopped onions had steeped in the beefy broth. A large portion of beef brisket was mounded onto a wheat hoagie, along with bell peppers, onions and smoked provolone. The brisket was delicious, again, not over-flavored or over-smoked. However, I might have been better off just ordering a brisket sandwich without the frills and sticking to the basics.
Now a true barbecue dinner is nothing without those traditional side dishes. Oklahoma Joe's has three basic sides: barbecue beans, potato salad and spicy slaw. They are available in side-sized amounts ($2.29) or you can get up to a half-gallon ($14.69) that'll feed 10-12 hungry folks.
We sampled each of them, and found the stand out was the barbecue beans. Oklahoma Joe's uses three types of beans, swimming around in a rich sauce and with shredded brisket. Holy frijoles! The other two side dishes had a tough act to follow.
The potato salad is not a mustard potato salad. It is definitively mayonnaise based. The sliced potatoes were the perfect texture and green onions were speckled throughout. It was just missing something, like vinegar or maybe a bit more salt to cut through all the creaminess. But like all 'salad,' maybe it just needed one more day in the fridge for all the flavors to really settle in.
Oklahoma Joe's gets a little avant garde with their spicy cole slaw. Typically, cole slaw dressing is a mayo, sugar and vinegar base. Joe's shakes it up a little. Fresh shreds of cabbage and carrot are mixed in an almost oil and vinegar base with a slight kick of heat. It didn't really give the sensation of cole slaw. Instead, it was more of a cabbage salad that needed a bit more vinegar. It might appeal to some, so give it a go. But when in doubt, you can't lose with those luscious barbecue beans.
If you were bettin' on barbecue, Oklahoma Joe's is a sure thing. You can have your own barbecue at home by ordering meat by the pound or a slab of ribs and they'll have it ready for you lickity-split. Though Joe's has had adventures and successes abroad, the prodigal son has found his way home bringing along its signature smoking for real Oklahomans to enjoy.
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