#PigOutOKC is brought to you by the Oklahoma Pork Council. Twice a month we’ll be delving into restaurants and recipes that bring home the bacon (among other delicious cuts of pork). Experiencing your own pork-fueled adventure? Use the hashtag #PigOutOKC to let the rest of us in on the fun.
I don’t have anything against Spencer, Oklahoma, much the same way I don’t have anything against the moon or the northwest corner of Maine. I don’t have big opinions about any of these places, because they are generally places I do not go.
Except I’ve been finding my way to Spencer a lot more often lately. And, if you’ve ever visited this site or seen me through a veeeeery wide-angled lens, you can probably divine that it has something to do with food. After all, the list of things that will get me to go anywhere usually only includes:
- My kids
- Someplace quiet to get away from my kids to eat some food
Well, my kids are not in Spencer, Oklahoma (to the best of knowledge) and, last I checked, they were not inside Brielle’s Bistro, which is kind of the only reason I know to go there.
If you’re not 100 percent sure where Spencer is, well, that’s okay. It’s east of Oklahoma City and north of Midwest City in an area I like to call “Greater Oklahoma.” Because I’ve lived here almost my entire life and I still don’t really know where everything is, so I’m not about to demand you know it. Lots of stuff is in Greater Oklahoma and I’m sure most of it is great, but I’m honestly just here for the food.
Brielle’s Bistro opened in 2018 and it definitely has food. (Also a pretty banging stereo system that was playing Lizzo at the largely older, white clientele, which is just ::chef’s kiss:: for my soul.)
Granted, I’m large and old and white myself, so maybe everybody else there likes Lizzo as much as me. Or maybe they hated it (as if anybody hates Lizzo), but they were so intensely focused on the food that they could not leave. I’ll be honest: Brielle’s could turn on a radio station that only plays my most-hated songs (“Dreamweaver” by Gary Wright, almost anything by The Steve Miller Band, etc.) and I’d probably grin and bear it so long as I still have access to their menu.
It’s a nice little spot. It’s not fancy by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s clean and bright and it feels well cared for. People care about this little restaurant and it shows. I don’t know of any better signifier that you’re about to have a great meal than that one. People who care tend to make good food. And the dishes I’ve had at Brielle’s taste like whoever is doing the cooking really loves that restaurant.
Let’s stop beating around the bush and just beat this bush to death right now. Brielle’s Bistro serves cajun and creole food—two of my favorite cuisines, all tangled up together—and they do it well.
I love fried green tomatoes and I love shrimp, so you can imagine my joy to find these star-crossed lovers canoodling on the same plate at Brielle’s. Fried green tomatoes and shrimp ($13.29) is a pretty straightforward name for a dish that spins your tongue in circles. The tomatoes have that lovely green tartness which plays well with the buttery richness of the deep-fried breading. And on top, perfectly grilled shrimp—a nice snap and absolutely no chewiness from being overdone—with a dollop of remoulade sauce.
Oh, remoulade. Why haven’t you become as commonplace as catsup (both fancy and non-fancy), ranch dressing, and Sriracha? It’s as complex as it comes and it makes everything better. Seriously, a turkey sando from Subway might even be edible with remoulade sauce on it. (Key word here is “might.”)
You’ll get a little cup of it on the side if you order the crab beignets ($12.29) and I highly recommend using it.
Beignets are these little New Orleans-style fried dough balls that are usually served under a sprinkling of powdered sugar. These are not like that, because they have lump crab meat mixed in, and that’s so much better. They’re crazy tender, too. Cut through one with the side of your fork and you’ll see how delicate the structure is. I could, conservatively, eat one million of these.
While I normally tend toward po’boys at restaurants like this, this is a #PigOutOKC review, so I was delighted to order Brielle’s BLT ($7.29). Stacked on sourdough bread, you get ::checks notes:: bacon, lettuce, and tomato. Huh. Okay, I get it.
Look, I’m not about to tell you that a BLT is a BLT is a BLT. There’s a lot of variables, and when your ingredient list is four items long, those differences make a huge impact. This BLT is great because you get a lot of B, not so much L, and a nice, juicy couple of slices of T.
That the bacon is cooked so well can’t be overlooked, either. But do yourself a favor and ask for a little more remoulade on the side. A smear of that sauce takes this already beloved sandwich over the top.
Some people get real concerned when you talk about “blackened” food and those people, by and large, are dummies. Blackened foods are not burnt—at least they shouldn’t be. It’s a thick coating of spices, so dark they seem burnt, but they’re not. It’s all that magic cajun flavor, full of spice and heat and salt and sugar, that brings these flavors to life.
So, much as I love fried catfish, I can’t resist blackened catfish with crawfish etouffee ($11.99) and neither should you. The fish itself is moist and tender, almost as if the spice blend is holding it together, and that’s good, because the added moisture of the crawfish etouffee would likely dissolve anything else. Oh, and this etouffee is something else. Not everyone can make this delicate dish correctly. It’s time and it’s know-how and it’s a willingness to start over if you’ve screwed it up.
The roux is dark, but not burnt, and it is swirling with a depth of spice that will have your brain struggling to parse each ingredient. The crawfish themselves are small and slightly chewy, which is spot on for a dish like this.
That spice blend returns in the blackened pork chops with cajun mushroom sauce ($12.99) and all I can say is “Yowza.”
The return of pork chops to metro-area menus is a welcome site for me, and not only because I’m working with the Pork Council. No, I love the meaty texture of pork and the blank canvas of sorts it makes for spices. Without the mild sweetness of the meat behind it, the spices have nowhere to launch from. Too rich a cut and the flavors would be muted. Too bland and you might as well have put them on white bread.
But these pork chops, goodness me, they are like Baby Bear’s bed: just right. And the addition of a creamy, almost alfredo-like, mushroom cream sauce on top is next level. I was so confused! I wanted to shovel every bite into my mouth as fast as I could and I wanted to savor each once, picking it apart, and relishing in the little touches and flourishes added in the kitchen.
Gumbo is, perhaps second only to crawfish etouffee, one of the main reasons I love cajun and creole cooking so much. Brielle’s goes a step farther, adding in one of my childhood favorites—dirty rice—for their dirty gumbo ($9.49).
Brielle’s serves a chicken and sausage gumbo, but you can (and should) have them add grilled shrimp to the mix. They ladle all of that into a bowl with big scoops of dirty rice, which is similar in some ways to one of my favorite Mediterranean dishes: hashwa.
Dirty rice is a heavily seasoned rice cooked with ground beef, so it’s hearty enough for a meal, but great as a side, too. In the gumbo, it just pushes everything that much further. More spice, more meat (as if chicken, pork sausage, and shrimp weren’t enough), and more satisfaction. You could try to frown when you eat this, but I don’t think you’ll get very far.
Now, I certainly think Brielle’s is worth the drive to Spencer, but if you’re just not able to get that far out, the owners have opened a sister restaurant in Oklahoma City called Magnolia Bistro. Either way, this food is great and it deserves a place in your plans. See you there.
The Oklahoma Pork Council represents the interests all of pork producers throughout the state, promoting pork and pork products, funding research and educating consumers and producers about the pork industry. Learn more about the OPC, find recipes and more at OKPork.org.