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OKC's Best Pork Ribs

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I Ate Oklahoma is brought to you in part by:

#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.

You know how I feel about bones.

They’re pretty necessary for life as a mammal and I don’t think we should shy away from acknowledging that the foods we eat were once living creatures.

If that thought puts you off, maybe you have a good case for being a vegetarian. A lack of bones doesn’t mean the meat was any less alive, just that you can’t handle knowing that it was alive.

Personally, I think we should celebrate the lives of the animals we eat by making sure they’re the most delicious versions of themselves. And meat doesn’t get much more delicious than pork ribs.

Done right, ribs can be juicy, scrumptious and lusciously tender. The bones add structure to the meat and all the connective tissue that binds them together melts and gives each bite a creamy fullness that keeps you coming back for more.

Here is my (by no means exhaustive) list of some of the best ribs in Oklahoma City.

A big plate of 'cue from Back Door.

Back Door Barbecue

Someday we’re going to find a cuisine that Kathryn Mathis can’t master, but we haven’t done it yet. After bringing fancy taqueria fare and Neapolitan-style pizza to Uptown 23rd, it’s little wonder her crew also mastered the fine art of smoking meats. The ribs are peppery, super tender and don’t need a drop of sauce...but I wouldn’t blame you a bit for drizzling on some of BDB’s exquisite espresso barbecue sauce.

Iron Star Urban Barbecue

During a not-so-magical part of my life, I lived directly north of Iron Star and I can honestly say the proximity to those ribs (and my neighbors Spencer and Cari Hicks) were the highlight of those years. You’re going to hear a lot of the same words a few times in these capsule reviews, so get used to it: these are saucy, with a lovely little bark and a mess of juicy meat that is holding onto bones by the most tenuous of grasps.

There's absolutely nothing green on this plate from Leo's.

Leo’s Barbecue

You won’t need to tell anybody if you went to Leo’s for lunch. Everybody will know. The smoke hangs in the air at Leo’s Barbecue, flavoring not just the meat, but your clothes, your hair, your skin, etc. Is it worth it? You’re damn right it is. A slab of ribs, a little spicy barbecue sauce and a slice of strawberry and banana cake will get you ready for an afternoon nap, whether you planned to take one or not.

The Butcher BBQ Stand

Wellston isn’t really part of the metro proper, but if you’re willing to drive for good barbecue, the trip-to-quality ratio at Butcher is hard to beat. Levi Bouska adapted the competition recipes of his father (David Bouska, of “BBQ Pitmasters” TV fame) for a commercial audience, meaning you get extremely bold flavors and ultra-rich meat. This bark has bite.

Good luck flying without your ribs, pig.

The Flying Pig BBQ

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! Stop looking at the sky for a second, or you’ll get hit by this massive food truck! The Flying Pig BBQ doesn’t serve pork exclusively, but owner/chef/beard-haver David Greggs is pretty confident in his porcine cooking abilities. These sticky St. Louis-style pork ribs will require a few napkins and/or moist towelettes, but the mess is well worth the meal. Ask for a cup of cherry DNR barbecue sauce for dipping, if you’re so inclined. (Full review)

Cafe Do Brasil

The thing about ribs is, for the most part, what you’re getting are variations of the same thing. Not so at Cafe Do Brasil, where the Espirito da Terra is about as far from the norm as you’re likely to find in Oklahoma. The ribs are slow cooked, which melts all that fat and sinew for a richer, creamier meat, then fried and topped with caramelized onions. It’s a flavor bomb just waiting to go off in your mouth.

No, I don't know why I had a salad at Texlahoma, either.

Texlahoma Barbecue

Way up in north Edmond, in a strip mall right on the precipice of Logan County, you can find Texlahoma Barbecue. The ribs that drew me to Texlahoma in the first place were beef, not pork, but those are only available occasionally. The rest of the barbecue is a delight and it’s there daily. The pork ribs are smoked dark, packing in a ton of flavor on those oh-so-tender bites of meat. I like to strip them with my fingers and then put them on one of Texlahoma’s over-sized baked potatoes for a meal that will definitely end in a food coma. (Full review)

Bedlam Bar-B-Q

Great ribs have just a little give to them. If you pick it up, the meat ought to stay on the bone until you gently pull it off with your teeth. Bedlam’s ribs were some of the first I had where I really appreciated the balance between tender and mushy. These ribs are tender, with supple, juicy meat and a nice, smoky bark.

Saucy, sticky, wonderful ribs from Klemm's.

Klemm's Smoke Haus

Germans know their barbecue. If you love Texas-style barbecue, guess what, they got it from German immigrants. Klemm's has some sauce-tacular ribs with a great spice profile and crazy tender meat. I know I say that a lot throughout this feature, but these are the best ribs in the metro, not just the ribs in the metro. You won't go wrong with any of these spots, unless you don't go there. That would be a mistake. Get yourself some ribs already. (Full review)

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.

About the Author

Founder and Eater-in-Chief of I Ate Oklahoma, Greg Elwell has been reviewing restaurants and writing about Oklahoma’s food culture for more than a decade. Where a normal person orders one meal, this guy gets three. He is almost certainly going to die young and those who love him most are fairly ambivalent about it. You can email Greg at greg@iateoklahoma.com.

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