The new Franklin’s Pork & Barrel Beefs up the Rose District

By on November 12, 2015

I really enjoy the drive to Broken Arrow’s spiffy newly developing Rose District. Simply exit the expressway at Elm, turn left on Kenosha and right a few short blocks later on Main Street. It’s fun watching the blocks of down-at-heel shops and nondescript houses suddenly turn into a street of lively bars and restaurants, a bit like Paris, France suddenly rising out of Paris, Texas. But I won’t have to sell you on the drive when you find this at the end of it.

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This is the kind of food that you’ll find at Franklin’s Pork and Barrel. It’s flamboyant yet casual. It’s deceptively simple yet takes days to make. It backs a massive flavor punch. The chef favors smoking and grilling. That’s not surprising when the chef is Doug Zimpel, who used to be Exec. Chef of the Boston Deli. I think there’s a new Tulsa style of food as distinctive as Tulsa sound. It emphasizes the aforementioned qualities and has been developing in places like Smoke, Tallgrass and of course BurnCo. But the guy who timewise led the pack was Chef Doug, over at Boston Deli, where he’s been working for the past decade or more. Doug, incidentally, disagrees about there being a Tulsa style, but said that my words could well be used to describe HIS style.

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“You couldn’t really call it haute cuisine,” I said jokingly. “They won’t find you using tweezers to plate your dishes.” But there are some dishes that are indeed haute cuisine where tweezers are indeed used. This is one of them. Pork belly “snack” ($8). The level of care and attention is amazing. The pork belly is made in house and is studded with such treats as sweet green “bread and butter” jalapenos and mustard seeds pickled in Guinness beer. Here’s Doug’s reply to my haute cuisine comment:

“We take the care the food demands. We smoke and brine and rub when we have to. We know to be patient. We dry-rub the pork shoulder one full day before we smoke it. That amplifies the flavor. A lot of people don’t take the time and the food isn’t nearly as good.”IMG_9253

(Chef Doug on the Left, Owner Ben Buie on the Right)

I think Doug learned this patience from Tim Inman, with whom Doug worked at Stonehorse. “A lot of people don’t realize the influence that Tim has had on Tulsa restaurants,” says Doug, “but so many of Tulsa’s finest chefs passed through his kitchen.” California also had a big impact. After starting at the bottom of the ladder at Boston Deli, Doug went to OSU cooking school and then gained crucial experience at Brix, a Napa Valley restaurant run by Chef Anne Gingrass-Paik, a veteran of the California cuisine scene. I asked Doug what the main things were he learned there, expecting the usual answer of simplicity and letting the ingredients speak for themselves. Instead Doug responded:

“I learned how intricate tastes can be. I learned how subtle and complex something easy like sauteing shallots can be. I learned how a tiny change in ingredients — adding orange juice to fennel — can have a game-changing effect. I learned the power of fresh ingredients. I learned that it’s better to pack a lot of flavor into a tiny bite than a tiny bit of flavor into a big bland dish.”

The stuffed and smoked pork chop dish exemplifies his thoughtful answer. The meat has a rich smoky flavor. It’s tender and juicy. The stripe running through it is the stuffing, made of chorizo and cornbread, and it adds another meaty taste to the flavor mix. The “skillet corn” is a succotash of corn and peppers and it too has a nice smoky taste. It’s $11. It’s a steal.

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“It’s Heaven on earth, I swear to goodness!” I heard a voice shout out as I walked past the bar.  I turned to find an elegant lady devouring a Fried Egg and Smoked Pork Belly Burger ($10). Turned out she’s the owner of a rival restaurant! It was refreshing to see how the local restauranteurs in the Rose district all support and encourage each other.

Cathe ordered a similar burger, the Smoked Pimento Cheese Burger and I took a taste. The patty had a delicious and very distinctive taste of smoke and bacon. Surely one of Tulsa’s better (if not best) burgers. Nice fries too.

Doug suggested we order a Bar-B-Que Platter. “I’ll even bring you sauce if you want,” he said, “though I’m totally opposed to sauce.” Finally, a man of my own taste. I’ve always thought that sauce just masks the flavor of the meat. I had high expectations and the platter didn’t disappoint. It came on a carving board shaped like Oklahoma but slightly smaller. I grabbed the rib. Flavorful, impossibly tender, it was all a rib should be. These are some of the best ribs around. There’s also pulled pork, brisket, turkey, sausage, pickles, red coleslaw and fries. All good, but nothing to beat those ribs. But the next entree did!

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You can praise this next entree to the skies and you won’t be too far wrong. It’s Franklin’s Three Way Chili with Smoked Chicken. It’s $14 but you get a big half-chicken. I didn’t get a smoky flavor from the chicken and maybe that’s for the best. It tasted like perfect roast chicken with none of those unfortunate dry bits. The chili was rich, definitely not low-fat, and delicious. It was served under the chicken and atop cornbread. The cornbread was fine and the chile soaked in and it was good. Hemingway could have written that last sentence. It’s just the sort of rustic dish that you can imagine Hemingway tucking into with gusto one long winter night in a peasant inn somewhere in northern Spain. (Except that it’s not Spanish but hey it does have exactly the sort of rich slow-cooked flavor that people in Asturia or Galicia would like.)

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“I like the chicken a lot more than the steak,” Chef Doug told me. And, I agree. I’m not usually a fan of sous-vide steak, though Doug seared it to give it extra flavor. He is well aware of the Maillard reaction caused by searing and can explain it in detail. And it looks so lovely, that Sous Vide New York Strip. It’s brushed with coffee-infused butter and accompanied by tasty lime-scented sweet potatoes, spinach, chili-dusted onion straws and a demi-glace sauce. Perhaps I would have loved it more had I not been so stuffed by previous courses. Or if it had been available very rare which, as a sous vide, it’s not.

The manager stopped by our table and was very welcoming. I asked him if a lot of drinkers stopped by the bar. It’s a nice bar, and serves handcrafted mixed drinks. “We get a good crowd on weekend nights”, he told me, “and a lot of diners stop by for brunch”. Breakfast and brunch, in fact, are a whole different story. I’m looking forward to returning to try their Eggs Benedict and Pastrami Hash. Doug let me try some of the smoky house-made pastrami used in the Hash. You can also opt for such delights as Green Chile Breakfast Burrito or Lemon Blueberry Pancakes with vanilla butter. They are served in a restaurant next door, using the Franklin’s kitchen. Franklin’s features long bar tables, but the spiffy brunch place next door, open for breakfast and lunch every day, is bright and homey with crisp linen tablecloths. I wish you could eat dinner there. But the brunches must be fantastic. It’s called Toast and it’s Broken Arrow’s version of Bramble Bar.

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One more note on the subject of drinks. Apparently Franklin’s has a $4000 machine that uses inert argon gas to make sure each glass of wine is as fresh as if the bottle had just been opened. So, for you oenophiles out there this is a big bonus to the dining experience at Franklin’s for certain.

On our way out, I stopped for a brief chat with the affable owner, Ben Buie. He told me that Franklin’s was named after Broken Arrow’s first doctor, Dr. Onis Franklin. I’d heard that it was he (Ben, not Onis) who had the idea of making the restaurant emphasize smoked meats. “Yeah it was my idea,” he said, “but I had these ideas because I used to eat Doug’s food at Boston Deli three times a week.”
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So we drove off into the night. Just after turning onto Kenosha, we made a stop at a little house with a big sign that says “PIES!” Pies means fried pies, totally made from scratch. That’s what you find at Fulton’s Pies & Pies. You order at the counter, they shape the dough, fill it, seal it, and plunk it in the fryer. These are the grandsons of the woman who runs Arbuckle Mountain, the world’s most famous fried pie shop. It’s a sweet end to the meal.

Brian Schwartz

About Brian Schwartz

Born in NYC, age 0, on my birthday. College in Oxford at age 16. Law School in New Haven, Conn. 6 years travel in Africa and Asia. Haven’t done much lately. Still, I’m the only Tulsa member of the little-known Omega Society. www.theomegasociety.com I speak enough Chinese to order food not on any English menu. Spanish French Italian too (not fluently but food-ently) My favorite restaurant is Jean-Georges in New York. But those NYC chefs would sell their soul to get the produce available from the farms around Inola. “A writer writes alone. His words tumble forth from a magical inner void that is mysterious even to himself, and that no one else can enter.” And yet, the most important thing to me the writer is YOU. Without you to hear them, my words are worth less than silence.

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