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Jan 12, 2006 12:02 PM

BBQ in Tulsa and in general -- with Tulsa barbecue recs!

  • b

I'm a New Yorker but lately I've been spending more time in Tulsa than I should. My family moved here and my mom's been sick. So, as a transplanted Chowhound I naturally spent a lot of time seeking out the one thing we New Yorkers lack. Barbecue. What passes for the best BBQ in NYC they'd feed to the dogs here.

When I first got here, I spent hours walking through Northside, which in those days looked like my vision of a tiny deep South hamlet. Wood shacks, lots of swampy trees, sluggish streams with names like "Dirty Butter Creek" I'd seek out tiny nameless joints (see photo below), eat a rib, move on to the next place.

I quickly found a great divide in BBQ philosophy. Some places cared about the sauce. They'd serve indifferent meat with a yummy secret-recipe sauce, and you'd be more likely to get the formula for Coca Cola than you'd be to get them to divulge their recipe. Other places just slopped a sauce together and cared only about the meat. (In Tulsa, pig ribs.) They'd respect you if you ordered your meat dry, without any sauce. And it's this second type of place that I respect. Most of them are on the Northside.

The best places all use coal or wood. They dont use gas. Now an old coal or wood oven (or "pit") is a lovely thing and requires an artist to use it. There are hot spots, cool spots, sweet spots and the meat must be moved from one to the other in the correct time and sequence. (A lot like coal oven pizza at Totonno's, NYC) Also, the meat should be cooked slowly, smoked more than seared. As much as 12 or even 18 hours, and if it's less than four forget it, you're getting fast food.

A great rib has 3 layers. First, a crust, turned sweetly caramel by the long heat and smoke. Then, a pink layer, not pink from undercooking but from smoke. Finally, beneath it all, succulent, moist, juicy pig meat.

My favorite places until this year were Wilson's, Petes, Stutts, and Oklahoma, all in Northside. But Mr Wilson died and the place went downhill, and around the same time Pete's closed. Now my favorite is Reba Dale's, on Cincinnati just north of Apache. It looks like a shack but inside has been decorated like an old fashioned ice cream parlor. And their ribs ... incredible! And the bologna and Polish sausage, while obviously not in the same league, are another guilty pleasure.


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    Paul in Irmo, SC

    Enjoyed your post and I can tell you're a Q pro. Never had Q in Tulsa but hope to some day. I have eaten at Meer's store in Meer's Olka. It was very good but not as good IMHO as the best in the Carolina's. If you're ever in SC check out Sweatman's in Holly Hill. There you can find "pulled rib meat" which I've never seen anywhere else. It's rib meat already pulled from the bone. In a "Guide To SC Barbecue" it was ranked #1.


    15 Replies
    1. re: Paul in Irmo, SC

      I'm glad you find my post worthy of approval. I would love to try NC cue. But I've heard that, although you can find ribs there, they are the unloved stepchild, and the favorite son, on which the pitmaster lavishes all his love, time and attention, is chopped or pulled pork. I've never had this. The closest I've had, strangely, is a Chinese dish called Dong Po Pork. (photo below) The poet Su Dongpo wrote a poem about it 800 years ago, including the recipe, which might make it the oldest written recipe. Pork belly is steamed and then braised in a rich brown sauce. It takes two days to make and tastes like delicious barbecue even though it isn't.


      1. re: Brian S
        Paul in Irmo, SC

        That's South Carolina not North Carolina. Our Q is superior to theirs in everyway. We are an older state with more culinary culture and were making Q when they were just a backwoods territory. Contrary to what you've heard ribs don't play second fiddle here. There are rib shacks all over SC. The lastest phenom is the moble rib cooker. A guy with a grill smoker hooked to his pickup sells ribs on the side of the road. Sticky Fingers and Corky's are local chains here that specialize in the Memphis dry rubbed ribs. These ribs are close to what you'd find at the Rendevous in Memphis. Some of the best wet ribs I've had outside of SC were at Carson's in Chicago. Another unusual Q dish found primarily in SC is our BBQ hash. It's always served over rice and no SC BBQ buffet would be complete without it. In Ga. you see Brunswick stew which is a poor substitute for SC hash. In NC you see some of both. In our PEE DEE region you'll find BBQ liver hash with red sauce also served over rice. Our Q is so good I've seen grown men weep at the first taste.

      2. re: Paul in Irmo, SC

        Paul: If you can't answer this, I doubt anyone can.

        Once while driving to the fabulous Sweatman's, I saw a sign for "Dupree's BBQ." Is this a secret barbecue treasure known only to locals? Or does it rightfully remain in the shadow of Sweatman's because it's no good? I'd give it a try if I knew I wasn't passing up Sweatman's cue for an inferior competitor.

        1. re: Bob W.

          Well, Sweatmans is a great bbq place that could certainly set a standard An experiment may be in order - I suggest that you go to Sweatman's first and THEN go to Dupree's immediately afterwards. If you are able to eat any of their stuff, then it's a winner.

          Unless, that is, the place is owned by Southern cookin' belle par excellence Nathalie Dupree. If you see her behind the counter, run.

          1. re: Bob W.

            I have never heard anything good or bad about Dupree's but if I'm going to drive the 65 miles to Holly Hill I can't take the chance that it might surpass Sweatman's. Reminds me of the time I drove over to Leesville and on some local person's recommendation I ate at Hite's instead of Shealey's. While Hite's was good I was disappointed that I had not eaten at Shealey's. Now if Hite's was in Irmo I'd probably like it better. Does that make sense?

            Dupree's is not mentioned in any of my BBQ books.

            1. re: Paul in Irmo

              That's the problem for us out-of-towners. We can't risk wasting a precious opportunity.

              I like Jimmy Buffet's suggestion to pop into Dupree's AFTER pigging out at Sweatman's. I'd risk the few bucks knowing I've already had superlative cue.

              Dupree's is completely off the radar screen but for its proximity to Sweatman's alone, it has my curiousity piqued. Someone needs to check it out. Perhaps it's run by an ex-Sweatman employee?

              1. re: Bob W.

                I didn't get anything to eat, but I scoped-out Dupree's pretty well. Two cars parked outside. No pit. No smoke. No wood. Therefore, no barbecue. Stick with Sweatman's. It's a one-of-a-kind place.

                1. re: Jim

                  Thanks for the info. Couldn't imagine it being great without hearing about it.

                  Have you been to Carolina BBQ in New Ellenton just down the road from Aiken? I'd rank that one up there with Sweatman's. A full buffet and a real bargin for $6.00. Also like Lone Star in Santee with their Q ,tomato pie, and blue grass music.

                  1. re: Paul in Irmo
                    1 wiener hound

                    I have not been as yet but have heard good things about Lone Star. Coming from Summerville would have to go on a Sunday so I would not be drawn to Sweatman's. If you have been to Lone Star. How 'bout a review. The website looks interesting.

                    1. re: 1 wiener hound

                      Lone Star Mercantile BBQ is an interesting place. The owner has this thing for old time country stores and he moved three of them to Santee and joined them together and they still retain some of their original contents. I haven't eaten there lately and wouldn't rank their BBQ beyond decent. The item on the buffet that is outstanding is their tomato pie. That alone was worth the drive from Columbia. On some nights they have "picking and sanging" and I recall some good veggies on the buffet. I think they usually have tomato pie on the menu but I will definitely check to make sure before I go back and I hope that's soon. Tomato pie for the record is not sweet and boy is it tasty! The place is located near the entrance to Santee State Park. When I'm in Santee it's hard to decide where to eat as the wonderful Summerton Diner is close by and Sweatman's is not that far.

                      1. re: Paul in Irmo
                        1 wiener hound

                        Thanks for the review. Wish the Q was better. Bur will have to try the Mater Pie. I have tried to make it at home and made a mess.

                    2. re: Paul in Irmo

                      Carolina BBQ is really good stuff!

                    3. re: Jim

                      Jim: Thanks very much. For me to pass up Sweatman's on one of my sadly too infrequent trips through the Holly Hill area would take a lot more than what Dupree's appears to offer.

                2. re: Bob W.

                  Can anyone give me directions to Sweatman's from I-26? I will be traveling to Charleston at the end of the month and would like to stop and try it out on my way in.

                3. re: Paul in Irmo, SC

                  That may be because Meers isn't about BBQ, never has been. It is about burgers. Beef. Plain, relatively unsesasoned Longhorn.

                  THANKS for the Tulsa post. Awesome. Bless your heart, and I hope your mom gets better.

                4. Mac's Barbecue in Skiatook gets a lot of praise on the BBQ Forum. Might be worth a try if you haven't been there.

                  1. I went to school in Tulsa (UT), live in New York City now and write tonight from South Carolina...

                    Sad to read of Pete's closing. It was absolutely one of the best North Tulsa stands in the history of the region. I feel like small part of my youth has died. Chowhounds need to keep some of these places alive somehow...