November 16th, 2012 by Brian Schwartz – Comments (10)
“This meat is so juicy it soaked through the plate!” I said. And it had. I needed a new paper plate. I hardly noticed. The meat was bursting with juice and fine smoky flavor. I loved it! Welcome back, Knotty Pine!
Call it the Year of the Phoenix. It’s been a grand year for revivals, for new beginnings for forgotten dreams. First Mondo’s on Brookside, then S & J downtown, and now Broken Arrow’s new Knotty Pine. Knotty Pine was a grand old barbecue far far west of downtown, churning out great ribs and brisket for sixty years, the only old-line place to rival Pete’s and Wilson’s and the other fabled Northside joints. You’d step inside and be surrounded by warm, time-mellowed pine paneling and the smoky smell of good ‘cue. Two years ago the place burned down. Now it’s risen again in Broken Arrow with the same staff and kitchen crew, and the food is as good as ever.
We almost didn’t go. I phoned and phoned and let the phone ring 30 times, no answer. Finally after a few hours like this, someone picked up. Oh it’s so packed and busy we just didn’t have time to answer the phone, she explained. I’d read about those crowds. An hour wait to get in on the weekend, they kept the smoker running 24 hours a day and still ran out of meat early on Friday. And it was packed when we got there around 5:15 on a Monday evening a week after opening night.
Well, there are some empty tables visible here, but behind us booths were full, tables were jammed together to seat parties of 20, it was a big and happy crowd. Most of them looked like tough old guys, west side bikers, people for whom the old place was a neighborhood fixture. They’d traveled a long way to the new location. Some people, I’ve heard, came in from eastern Missouri. Were they disappointed by the drab strip mall decor, such a contrast from the lovely old original? My guess is they barely noticed. They were just happy to be back, and happy that most of the old kitchen and waitress staff was back as well.
The food didn’t disappoint. I wanted to try everything so I ordered the Everything Plate. (Actually, it’s called “Assorted Plate” but I like my name better.) It’s $13.50 and has ribs, beef, pork, ham, sausage, and bologna. Prices are a bit higher than elsewhere but portions are a lot bigger, so you get your money’s worth, as you can see.
I started on the rib and man it was great! Tender and juicy and totally delicious. Tried the bologna and that was great too, not too greasy with a lovely smoke taste. Ditto the ham and sausage. On to the beef brisket. This was the only disappointment. It was dry and relatively tasteless. But that’s the way it is all over Tulsa. Still, don’t let it deter you from ordering that Everything Plate. Just pour on a lot of sauce and it’s fine. Underneath all this was a big mound of pulled pork. This definitely ranked high on the succulent scale. Moist, toothsome. Great with or without sauce. (And by the way, they serve the food with sauce already poured on it unless you tell them not to.)
Plates come with two sides. I had seen photos of baked beans simmering and cabbages about to be chopped into cole slaw on the restaurant’s Facebook page, so I chose those two. Great choice! They were both wonderful. The beans were distinctive; no molasses, and slightly denser and less sweet than those I’m used to. Meanwhile, my friends shared a huge plate of ribs ($13.75).
They liked the ribs a lot but thought Oklahoma Joe’s ribs are better. These are a bit fatty, they said, and Oklahoma Joe’s has a better crust and smoke ring. All true, though I should note that these Knotty Pine contestants had a nice crust and smoke ring too. But I couldn’t say that Oklahoma Joe’s is better. I reveled in the fat, juicy flavor. For me that flavor trumped everything.
Knotty Pine BBQ
1424 W. Kenosha (take the Aspen-145 exit of the BA Expressway and go south to Kenosha, which we Tulsans know as 71 Street. The BBQ is on the left side near the corner.)
Open daily from 11 AM to 10 PM. Open on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Brian Schwartz: Author
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.