Climbing Mt. Everest.
Winning a UFC title.
Getting me to leave the couch.
The world is filled with challenges so difficult that very few have attempted them and even fewer have actually completed them. But when the fine folks of Chickasaw Country said, "Hey, you want to try some pizza?" they cracked the code.
That's right, I climbed Mt. Everest as the UFC Ultra Extra XXL Heavyweight Champion. No, sorry, I got confused. I went to Chickasaw Country for a Pizza Tour of some truly wonderful restaurants that run the gamut from family-owned pizzeria to upscale bistro and everywhere in between.
501 Ash St.
Maysville, OK 73057
Our first stop was Baker's Pizza in Maysville. You know it's a good sign when there are more people in the restaurant than the entire population of the town.
Owners Rick and Melissa Baker are the kind of folks you wish were your family and they treat every customer like kin, just in case.
I was really taken with the Rick Special, which tops the crispy glory of the Baker's crust with homemade marinara, piles of fresh spinach, and a layer of pepperoni dusted with garlic salt. The interplay of the lightly bitter spinach and the spicy pepperoni is as tasty as it is unexpected.
Rick has 40-plus years of pizza-making experience and it shows. Walk around the restaurant for a minute and you'll meet people who have been eating his delicious pies for decades. One couple behind me said they were eating pizzas he made back when Rick was a teenager. His dedication to the craft of pizza is why every pan that comes out of the oven has a table of ravenous locals just itching to dig in.
Second only to the Rick Special in the regulars' hearts is The Supreme, which is about as supreme as pizza gets. You know how some places will try to tell you that a Supreme comes with five or six toppings? The gall. The audacity. At Baker's, the Supreme has five meats AND five veggies packed onto one pie. Is there cheese? Sure, but you've got to dig through a mountain of pepperoni, ham, sausage, hamburger, Canadian bacon, olives (green), olives (black), onion, mushroom, and bell pepper to find it. The toppings are so numerous that every bite lets a different flavor take center stage.
It's not pizza, but with the weather still chilly, I have to recommend the creamy, well-seasoned baked potato soup that comes straight from Melissa's recipe. Only problem? After you finish a bowl, you might not have much more room for pizza. So do like I did and take Jess. Wait, no, take your own Jess. This one is mine. Then you and your knock-off Jess replacement can split a bowl of delicious soup, a pizza, and still have leftovers to keep you smiling the next day.
Ten Star Pizza Kitchen
109 E Main St.
Ardmore, OK 73401
Pizza joints aren't usually as fancy at Ten Star Pizza Kitchen in Ardmore, but maybe they ought to be with pizzas like this. Jess and I really loved the relaxed atmosphere and the extremely friendly and attentive staff. There was a sense of fun, but no one was goofing off (no one has time to goof off with the steady stream of customers coming in), and it made for the perfect environment for some top-notch pizza.
I don't know how to describe The Ballpark pizza except to say it's perfectly named. The base is Ten Star's light and crispy crust, which is some kind of alchemy. It's so sturdy and yet so tender, not to mention tasty. On top is a mustard-pesto sauce that strikes the perfect balance between mustard and relish without getting to aggressive or too sweet. Then comes a pile of perfectly portioned toppings: diced chicken, chopped bell pepper, sausage, grape tomatoes, and bacon covered in a layer of cheese. I would like to avoid this pun, but as a legally recognized father, it's impossible not to lean into dad jokes.
The Ballpark is a real home run (I sincerely apologize) in texture and flavor, but what gets me is how it has bits and pieces of other baseball fare mixed together to not just mimic a cheeseburger or a hot dog, but to evoke the overall experience. Just amazing.
Jess opted for a cauliflower crust on The G.O.A.T., which includes an olive oil base dotted with goat cheese and crispy bits of prosciutto, thick slices of caramelized figs, red onion slivers, and a balsamic glaze. I was shocked at how crisp the crust got on that pie. It helps that it's a relatively light set of toppings, too, but still--I wouldn't have know it was cauliflower if I wasn't there when it was ordered. Add in the dark sweetness of the figs and the tangy pop of red onion and goat cheese and this is one delectable combo.
Hello, this one goes out to all the Meaty Boys™️ in the audience. (Meaty Boys™️ is a gender neutral organization, open to all humans and several non-humans.) The Babe is...a lot. For one thing it's a darkly clever name for a pizza that truly celebrates bacon. Here's what you get: delicious crust, super tasty marinara, an entire cruise buffet of chopped crispy bacon. While I prefer thick bacon with my breakfasts, thin bacon is useful in plenty of applications and none is better than this. It's so light and airy it almost melts that smoky salty deliciousness right into your taste buds. If you are a Meaty Boy™️ or just aspire to become one, this pizza's for you.
And, for an added pop of flavor, take the Manager's advice and ask for a side of bruschetta topping. The cold juicy blend of tomatoes, onions, and basil goes head-to-head with piping hot pizza for an exercise in culinary harmony.
Ten Star does so much more than just pizza. A few more musts on your list to try:
· The cheese sticks use Swiss, not mozzarella, so they're more creamy than stringy, but that mild tanginess is a perfect pair for a dollop of cold marinara.
· The tomato-basil soup is so good I wasn't even surprised to hear that it's a best seller year round. It's mellow and sweet, with bits of nutty Parmesan mixed in. So good.
· The desserts are no joke. Made by the owner herself, these sweets were so good I nearly made myself sick because I couldn't stop eating. I had so much pizza and sweet tea already, but her pies demanded I eat more. Sorry, but how do you stop eating creme brulee pie? You don't! A ton of creamy vanilla custard, a crisp cinnamon sugar topping, and a blend of berries to add some tartness to the sweetness.
The chocolate pie was a magic trick. So rich and so fudgy, but the texture is light and it goes down smooth. Like...how? How do you do that? I'm still as baffled as I am hungry.
And that lemon curd topped cheesecake was bonkers good too. I remind you, this isn't a bakery or a dessert bar. This is Ten Star *Pizza* Kitchen.
Ardmore really has a winner with this place. Finding a second owner who cares as much as the founder did about quality AND finds a way to continue evolving and improving the menu is something special.
Jo's Famous Pizza
1438 S Green Ave.
Purcell, OK 73080
When the word "famous" is in the name, you know it's a good choice. Famous Amos Cookies, Famous Footwear, a third thing I'll probably think of later and be really upset with myself for forgetting—they're all at the top of their fields.
It takes a little chutzpah to declare your restaurant famous, but there's nobody arguing the point in the booths of Jo's Famous Pizza in Purcell. The third stop on my Chickasaw Country Pizza Tour, Jo's is unassuming from the outside, but it's going full-tilt inside.
A few things before we dive in: Jo's Famous Pizza is the same family as the one in Edmond, but the menu is different. If you're reading it online, that's likely the Edmond menu. The Purcell menu is pared down slightly, but it's no less delicious. After all, the Purcell location was famous first.
One of the first things I fell in love with at Jo's was the crust, which has a bit more body than most. It's not dense, per se, but it's got a rich, buttery flavor and it's quite sturdy—a necessity when you're going to load it up with toppings.
An absolute must-have is: The Taco. (Don't worry, it's still a pizza.)
This one comes with a basic base of red sauce, mozzarella, and seasoned ground beef, but the real magic comes after it cooks. That's when they dump an entire salad bar on top—cheddar cheese, black olives, shredded lettuce, and diced tomatoes. The kicker is the taco sauce packets you apply at the table, so you get just the right amount of taco flavor.
Tacos are great. Pizza is great. They don't need to cross over, but they did and it's wonderful.
Much like at Baker's Pizza in Maysville, Jo's Famous Pizza in Purcell goes all-in on their supreme pie. Here it's called The Combination. This thing is piled to the tippy top with shredded Canadian bacon, pepperoni, onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, green olives, black olives, hamburger, sausage, and ham.
Ham and Canadian bacon? Yes. They are different things with different flavors.
This really does hit all the high notes of a supreme. The sturdy crust just baaaaaarely holds up all these toppings, but once you get it to your mouth, you don't care. It's just an all-around excellent pizza.
If you're feeling supreme-ish, but not terribly carnivorous, The Veggie is a great option. It's basically The Combination without the meats, so you're getting loads of peppers, onions, olives, and mushrooms. It's not really "lighter" than a meaty pizza, but if you've spent a weekend with me, you're probably all good on eating animal flesh for a while.
Know before you go: Jo's gets busy. Ordering ahead is a smart option, but if you're looking to really know the town, you should eat there. I swear, I think every bottom in Purcell (and more than a few from out of town) hit the seats of those booths while we were there.
117 NW 32nd St
Newcastle, OK 73065
Did you know pizza is an Italian food? I hate to say it, but I kind of forgot. Pizza is pizza, and while its origins are Italian, it has kind of become its own thing, regardless of nationality.
Still, some of the best pizzas come from places that don't only do pizza, and one of them is tucked away off a back road in Newcastle at Luigi's Bistro.
While I am always eager to go berserk on a plate of linguine with pesto or a big bowl of ravioli, I was in Chickasaw Country for a Pizza Tour. So I compromised and had the Chicken Alfredo pizza, which is about as pasta-y as you can go without having any pasta.
First, however, we split some ridiculously tasty Italian wedding soup. (The name comes from the "marriage" of the ingredients, btw.) The weather has been in flux lately, but I would eat this soup in the summer it's so good. The meatballs are fall-apart tender and the veggies in the richly seasoned broth are ready to melt. When I go back, I'm getting a bowl and I'm not sharing.
I will share the pizza, but only because it's too big to eat alone. Swapping out alfredo sauce for the usual marinara, this pie was one of the fluffiest we had all weekend. As much as I love a thin-and-crispy pie, it's also nice to dig into a pizza like this with a little more heft to the crust. And it's necessary when you're slathering it with creamy sauce and topping it with big chunks of grilled chicken, crispy bacon, spinach, jalapenos, and onions.
While I didn't think the peppers added much heat, the flavor was excellent. Still, if you're spice averse, you might ask them to leave the jalapenos off. Otherwise, this was a really delightful pizza to wrap up a weekend in #VisitChickasaw Country.
I know there are more great pizzas down in southern Oklahoma, so drop your suggestions in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org before my next trip.
Want to know more about Chickasaw Country? Click the link for info on great places to stay, eat, play, and more.