The Fifth Entry: Gas Station Delight
“It’s the best BBQ in Kansas City, which means it’s the best BBQ in the world.”
If Oklahoma Joe’s is good enough for man-about-world Anthony Bourdain and his extensive foodie prowess, than it’s good enough for me. The Travel Channel’s No Reservations host placed it thirteenth on his list of 13 places to eat before you die. For Bourdain, I’ve lived two lifetimes worth, as I’ve only dined there twice. The first time was a riot, unpredictable and sloppy.
But tonight was different – I walked in with confidence and immediately wound my way to the back of the line around the XL candy bars. You have to know a gas station is special when they only sell XL candy bars. Here, the average-sized Snickers is considered diet food.
I wanted a beer to wait in line with so I sneaked up to the front with Dad while Mom waited in line reading the Pitch. She might as well have read something in Korean – alternative liberal media is not her thing. She’s more of a Fox News viewer. She also doesn’t dig the whole folksy nitty gritty BBQ joint shtick. She likes clean tables, servers with clean uniforms, salad options, places to sit and wait, gargantuan booths and bread baskets – everything that OK Joe’s isn’t. I don’t think she was expecting to wait in line for an hour behind three tipsy and brazen women either, but that’s besides the point. We were there to eat and I was there to eat and drink.
I flashed the cashier my real ID, legitimate at this point for two whole days and he handed me two Miller Lights. I looked like a twelve year old drinking with her parents in my retro stripped long-sleeved t-shirt and jean shorts, which made the whole experience that much better.
We were in line so long, my parents and I ended up talking about everything – literally everything. I fought, laughed, ordered more beer, listened in on other people’s conversations, read everything on the wall, took photos, reminisced about when I was a little girl, talked about my future. By the time we made it to the front – my mom and I had just patched things up and my dad’s mustache was coming in.
I knew I wanted the Z-Man – just to say I tried it. To be honest, Swiss cheese and onion rings on BBQ Brisket doesn’t sound like a natural combination. But if the city swears by it – who am I to question it? I ordered it fast and this time with a Bud Light.
Dad ordered the works – ribs, brisket, beans and toast. And never one to do anything just because everyone else is doing it, Mom ordered the chicken salad. We sat down to a glorious meal at a wooden table in the corner and devoured the spread. Dad gave the beans a 7.5, the brisket a 9 and the ribs a 9.5, “because a 10 for ribs is impossible.”
Mom said the salad was “satisfying” and I felt like I ate my Z-Man in two minutes. Yes, I’m pretty sure I ate my Z-Man in two minutes. Labeled on the menu as “KC’s Best Fries,” I like mine with a fair amount of seasoning on it and I question the sanity of anyone who requests their fries without their famous seasoning. Frankly, I don’t want to know that person because it’s that irrevocably good.
Throughout our meal, a special attendant kept checking to see how we liked the goods.Charlotte has been on the OK Joe’s scene for over 5 years. She loves her job and watches over the place as if we were all her children. Remember to ask for Charlotte.
Oklahoma Joe’s is so good that even at capacity, I feel a small void that yearns to taste more. That is the mark of a great restaurant – a place with endless character that serves up such satisfying fair that somehow, you leave unsatisfied with your stomach’s physical limitations preventing you from eating more. And just when I was beginning to feel forlorn – with the Z-Man being gone in a flash and with my soon-to-be departure from Kansas City and Oklahoma Joe’s – my dad planted a seed of great curiosity in me.
He said, “You know Coco, Houston has great BBQ too…”
And I look forward to deciding that for myself in less than one month.