Can Irish people walk?
I mean, I assume they can. An entire nation of people can’t just be wheeled around all the time. Eventually, all of them would end up at the bottom of a hill and they’d be stuck.
But after eating at The Black Raven in Choctaw, I also don’t see how Irish people can stand, much less put one foot in front of the other in a forward direction. This is not food for an active day. This is food for hibernation. It’s like Ned Stark yelled, “Winter is coming!” and the whole of Irish cuisine took it as law.
And I love it.
Sorry, sometimes I know I can sound overly critical, but that’s not my intent here. After gorging myself with local travel writer/belly dancer extraordinaire Heide Brandeis, I am overcome with the need to tell you that you should absolutely go to The Black Raven, but you need to go hungry.
This is not a place to be peckish, despite the name. If your diet even incidentally resembles that of a sandpiper, robin or whip-poor-will, don’t bother.
In fact, the only bird you’re allowed to emulate here is the eponymous raven. You ought to be ravenous or you ought to work on a farm for several hours until you’re hungry enough to fully appreciate this pub’s deepy hearty fare.
Despite this being an Irish pub, we’re in Oklahoma, so the cuisines of Ireland and the whole of the United Kingdom get intermingled here. (Much the way the food of India and Pakistan, two very different countries, are often treated as a single cuisine.)
Scotch eggs (two for $7.99) are not Irish. Nor are they Scottish. Apparently, these lovely heart attack hand grenades were first made in London.
At the center of a Scotch egg is a hard-boiled egg. It is coated with crumbled sausage, rolled in bread crumbs and deep fried. And if that doesn’t sound amazing, I don’t know how to help you. It’s crunchy and savory and soft and creamy. It’s a big ball of breakfast that you could just as easily whip at an intruder as eat. Dip it in spicy mustard and call it good.
I feel like fish n chips ($10.99) have unnecessarily taken the brunt of a general antipathy toward Long John Silvers. I mean...will I get down with some LJS? Of course. But I harbor a deep, unyielding hatred for myself.
The truth is, The Black Raven’s fish n chips are so wonderful I almost wish they had a different name so more people would order them. They use thick-cut cod, dipped in a Harp beer batter and fried to an oily, crispy perfection, served alongside a lovely plate of stout, potato-y fries. There’s nothing fast food about this dish, unless you count how quickly you’ll try to bolt it down after your first bite.
Most of the corned beef and cabbage ($14.99) I’ve had came to the table already chopped and mixed, so it was nice to see a more rustic preparation at The Black Raven. You get lovely large slices of house-brined corned beef and an enormous chunk of tender cabbage. It’s simple, but oh so satisfying.
Real corned beef, not the canned version, has an amazing, tender texture and a salty, mildly spicy beef flavor. If you’re worried that it’ll taste like corn, please don’t. The preparation gets its name from the large pieces of salt used to preserve the meat. There’s no corn anywhere in corned beef.
One of my all-time favorite comfort dishes is shepherd’s pie ($10.99). It’s like the original KFC Famous Bowl, except good.
The base is a mix of beef and pork sauteed with veggies and mushrooms in gravy. Then they smear on a big batch of cheesy cheddar mashed potatoes and let it crisp up under the broiler. This is peak casserole, folks. Eating it feels like getting a warm Irish hug. It doesn’t get better than this.
Well, I say that, but it does sort of get better, if you’re a fully insane person who orders the Bang’n burger ($13.99).
Truthfully, I’m more of a Black Mist burger ($14.99) guy. That’s a delicious burger piled with corned beef and this Guinness cheddar cheese that is so good, I wish it would replace fondant on wedding cakes. It’s just so gooey and perfect and rich. It’s a damn fine burger.
The Bang'n burger is also damn fine, but it’s kind of insane. Burger? Check. Melty cheese? Check. Shepherd’s pie filling? Uh, check. An Irish banger (sausage) split in half and grilled crispy? Yup. That, too.
If this burger doesn’t remind you of a sandwich Shaggy and Scooby would make, then I congratulate you for not watching a bunch of cartoons. But I have watched all those cartoons. Recently. And this monster tour of meat is downright comical. It’s also really tasty.
Will you have room for dessert? Almost certainly not. But I’ve yet to meet a human with the iron will necessary to resist Guinness chocolate layer cake with dark chocolate ganache ($5.99).
It’s fudgy. It’s dense. It coats the inside of your mouth and I’m sure if you smile after eating it, it looks like you lost a fight with a coal plant. But god help me it’s so delicious. You should definitely plan to share this. Not only because it’s quite heavy, but because if I’m in The Black Raven, I’m almost certainly going to swoop in and steal a bite before running out the door.
Choctaw is a bit of a drive, but The Black Raven is well worth the trek. Especially if you’re walking back to Oklahoma City, which might be the only way burn off this massively delicious, frightfully heavy meal.