Living up to the Hype

7 Dec

I’d heard about this Oklahoma Joe’s spot even before I had moved to this part of the mid-west. Everyone who’d talked about it made it very clear that I needed to “eat at the “gas station one” to get the best experience.

Circumstances led me to accompany a friend out to K.C. and sure enough it turned into a trip to Oklahoma Joe’s.

When we pulled into a nearby parking lot, and I saw the line that was wrapped around the building, I had a feeling that I knew what was in store for us (Apparently the line is never that long during the weekdays and Saturday was black Friday weekend). I had only seen lines this long at amusement parks and Franklin’s BBQ in Austin. I knew it had to at least pretty good. K.C. knows its barbecue so I knew the food would be good. The question that was begging to be asked was where did it rank in the pantheon.

It wasn’t quite the spectacle that Franklin’s lines can be. No college kids were throwing around footballs, drinking beers from a coozie and sitting in banana chairs. The line consisted mostly of families and older people. I felt self conscious about my buddies drinking Hamm’s while we were in line but no one said anything. Eventually (almost an hour later) when we got inside they had started going to the bathroom to transfer their beers from the cans into a styrofoam cup.

There were lots of framed articles hanging on the walls, restaurant reviews by celeb foodies like Anthony Bordain. He said that the BBQ at Oklahoma Joe’s was the best in the world. This made me wonder if he’d ever been to Texas because I had two places I could think of off the top of my head that belonged in the pantheon of all time greatest smoked meats.

I decided I wanted to try everything so I ordered a combo ham and turkey sandwich, a sausage link, a half slab of ribs, and some brisket. I went ahead and grabbed some sides, potato salad, beans and rice, and dirty rice.

I sat down to eat with my buddies, who’d both bought the “Z man”sandwich, barbecued brisket topped with fried onion rings and a slice of provolone cheese (I got to try a bite and it was legit to say the least)–kind of sister sandwich to Franklin’s Tipsy Texan.

The Turkey and Ham were underwhelming. A little dry, so I added some BBQ sauce to it for taste. The BBQ sauce by the way, was some of the best I’d ever had.2013-11-30 16.00.02

The ribs were pretty phenomenal. Better than Smitty’s but not quite as good as Franklin’s.

2013-11-30 15.59.44

The brisket was good, but thin. The slices weren’t quite as thick as the slices you get at Smitty’s, with the extra smoky marbles of fat hanging off the meat.

The sausage was really good. As good as Smitty’s or Franklin’s. I couldn’t think of anything negative to say about their links at all. By the time I got to it, I was so full and wasn’t able to dig in. I did eat some for breakfast the next day and it was hitting on all cylinders.
2013-11-30 15.59.56

“Okie Joe’s has Smitty’s and Franklin’s beat is their side dishes. Their sides are overwhelmingly better than either Texas establishment. The dirty rice was mouth watering, the potato salad was flawless, and the red beans and rice was so full of flavorful heat.

So who has the best food? Well depends on what you want.

Smitty’s meats are so good that it doesn’t matter if you like the sides or not. Franklin’s lines makes going there a real turn off, and the food is not quite as good Smitty’s. Okie Joe’s is well rounded and the meats are almost as good as the former two places.

If they were college basketball players, Smitty’s would be Julius Randle, meaty and impossible to not drool over–not nearly as much fanfare as the other two spots. Franklin’s would be Andrew Wiggins with a ridiculous amount of hype preceding it, and high admission prices and lots of media attention. A little underwhelming once you get to finally see what its about, but not cause of the quality–simply because of all the hype.
Okie Joe’s is Jabari Parker, extremely well rounded and excellent, the best right now with the least amount of development needed to be NBA ready.

But if you asking me what I prefer: well I like meat and Smitty’s has the best meats. I’m not waiting in line for 2 hours just so I can eat delicious sides. I can make delicious sides in the comfort of my own kitchen.

Franklin’s is good but it seems silly to wait 2.5 hours when you can drive 20 minutes to Lockhart and get better meat for less of a wait.

Smitty’s is still the champion in my eyes, but Okie Joe’s is a close second and definitely lives up to the hype. The Z Man is definitely one of the better culinary creations this side of the Mississippi. The “Z-man” may be the best thing to come out of Missouri since Mark Twain and David Cone.

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