#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.
Perhaps it is hubris, or maybe it’s just my old and tired bones, but I do not usually wait for restaurants. That’s not a “Do you know who I am?!” brag, because nobody knows who I am. This isn’t a special treatment thing. Most restaurants are not so busy that you or I or anybody else would be denied a table immediately.
And those that do require a wait are, by and large, places I don’t want to eat regardless. I don’t remember my last visit to an Olive Garden, but I bet there was a wait. Really, any of your mall-adjacent big chains (and, locally, Ted’s for some reason) require standing around with a beeper thing, waiting for a table to open up, and I’m not interested.
A 30-minute wait is anathema to me, often because I have my kids with me, and they have even less patience than me. Truly, Oklahoma City is in such good shape, restaurant-wise, that if there’s a big wait at one place, you can head next door or down the street to a different restaurant and find a table immediately. But, to each rule, there are exceptions.
Cut to me and Jess, beeper in hand, waiting in the outer-lobby of Clark Crew BBQ. The fact that there’s an outer-lobby would usually be enough to send me packing, but this behemoth restaurant fills theirs with trophy upon ribbon upon plaque extolling the virtues of the Clark family’s barbecue prowess. Inside, the tables are packed and the turnover is brisk, so when our turn arrives, we’re herded through a throng of diners to a tiny two-top and the server’s mood is urgent.
I might have been put off by it in another setting, but the way the other customers are devouring their meals with abandon, it’s easy to see that we are the very rare table that didn’t arrive completely starving and with their orders at the ready. Instead, we asked for a few minutes to look over the menus and talk and just enjoy each other’s company.
...Fine, I enjoyed her company. She looked at the menu intently. We all enjoy different things, okay?
Speaking of things I enjoy:
By the way, I hope this is clear, but I’ll just make it explicit anyway: The server was doing a great job. That place was crazy busy and she knew there were a lot of people who didn’t want to waste a minute of time ordering and waiting for food to arrive. I’m sure on a less-hectic evening (it was a Thursday night), she wouldn’t have led off with, “Do you know what you want?”
Once we did know what we wanted, she was quick to bring it. Pork rinds ($5) for instance, and Brussels sprouts ($9) arrived rapidly, and we were all the better for it.
Fresh pork rinds are a joy to behold. Seriously. It took me years to get past the idea they were “just truck stop food” and enjoy them for what they are: tiny miracles. And when I say “behold,” I’m not just talking about eating them. Hold one. It’s so light it feels like it’ll fly away. Listen as the pressure of your fingers causes tiny crackles and pops. Look at the minute bubbles that create this alien landscape of deliciousness. And while I heartily endorse chewing them, I also recommend putting on your tongue and just feeling it melt. Not everyone does them, and not everyone does them well, but Clark Crew BBQ nailed these. They’re a really perfect, and very light, appetizer before your meal arrives.
Brussels sprouts are not something I generally associate with barbecue, but I think it’s safe to say these were a hit. Even with mountains of food to come, Jess and I devoured these lovely little cabbages. While the waitress said there was bacon jam on them, we really only tasted the vinegary bite of hot sauce, and we loved it. Crispy outside, tender inside, and that vinegar pop—these are MVP-level veggies and we’d barely started the meal.
For the biggest barbecue bang (hereafter known as BBB or Triple-B), the Trays are your best bet. Two-meat tray ($20) and three-meat tray ($24) include your choice of the afore-mentioned number of meats, as well as a pair of sides and cornbread. If you’ve got a big group to feed, the judges tray ($70) only seems expensive until you unpack everything included: a quarter chicken, a half rack of ribs, a half-pound each of brisket and chopped pork, two sausages, two big sides, four pieces of cornbread, and a pile of potato chips.
We opted for the three-meat tray, because there were only two of us and, at some point, my fridge just can’t fit much more food. Which isn’t to say there weren’t leftovers. There were. Good lord, that’s a lot of food.
The chopped pork ($9 per half lb., $16 per lb.) was wonderful, juicy, and had a nice bit of crust. I’m always apprehensive about barbecued pork, because it can be watery and bland if it isn’t handled correctly. Clark Crew are experts, though, and it shows. It’s not overwhelmingly aggressive with flavor, not too smoky, either, but it’s a great balance of texture and taste that requires little, if any, sauce.
The pork ribs ($3 single, $15 half rack, $26 full rack) are meaty and tasty, too. I got them “naked,” aka sans-sauce, because I think ribs are the one of the cuts that almost never need it. Juicy isn’t the right word, though. These are unctuous. It’s not greasy or fatty, necessarily, but the way the meat is almost...creamy. That’s what melt-in-your-mouth meat is about, and these ribs have it in spades. I could do with a shade more dry rub on the outside, but I know better than to argue with a barbecue champion about such things.
I enjoyed the burnt ends ($13 per half lb., $24 per lb.). Tons of flavor and a good texture, maybe a bit fattier than some folks would like right, but it’s also not a cut that’s found on most barbecue menus in Oklahoma. Burnt ends are still somewhat of a novelty here, but I think they’ll find plenty of fans once they try them.
On the side of our three-meat plate, we got Madi’s mac & cheese and sweet creamed corn (each were $3 per individual portion, $8 per shared portion), and I was very, very, very pleased. The mac and cheese isn’t going to take the crown from Burger Pig, but it’s crazy creamy and buttery and rich.
The sweet creamed corn...wow. I do not order corn very often, unless it’s fresh corn on the cob, but this was amazing. It’s sweet and crisp and I don’t know what’s in the cream sauce, but it has to be an entire stick of butter at least. This is dessert, frankly, and I am here for it.
I think the $5 sausages are the steal of the century. Are they made in-house? No, but they’re made special for Clark’s by a place out of Texas. And while I don’t harbor a lot of goodwill toward our neighbors to the south, this garlic pork sausage might be the best thing Texas has ever done. Including McConaughey. Bursting with flavor, a little sweetness to balance out the savory punch of the meat and garlic, and perfectly cooked with a nice crispy casing just waiting to pop against the edge of a knife. A plate of sausages with a baked potato ($4) and maybe some grilled broccoli ($5), and you’ve got a heck of a meal.
In West Philadelphia I was not born or raised. I’ve never even visited, so you can be sure I have spent zero days on the playground there. But I do have an unnatural love for cheesesteaks thanks to my youth in Edmond eating at Hobby’s Hoagies like it was going out of business any second.
So when I saw the Okie cheesesteak ($13), I knew it had to be mine. Even better, you can choose between brisket or pork for the meat, so I got the pork (this is a #PigOutOKC review, after all) and it was tiiiiiiiiight. Mixed in with the meat were sauteed peppers and onions with a hot pepper relish that I wish was 25 percent hotter and the whole thing is covered in “cheese sauce,” which I was legit afraid was going to be Cheez Whiz, but it turned out to be queso.
Jess wanted the hoagie bun a little crispier, but that’s the only complaint. Everything else was, “Mmmm, this is real good” and “Wait, why do you get to take home the leftovers?” and “OK, I get why you’re divorced now.” You know. Playful stuff.
Also, the house-made potato chips are wonderful. Hit ‘em with a little extra salt, but they are really crispy and really delicious. Lord help me if they start making a Clark Crew BBQ onion dip, because I’ll weigh even more than I do now, if that’s possible.
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.