Baker’s Fish House – Way off the Grid

By on October 28, 2010

Baker’s Fish House is way way off the grid. Your GPS can’t find it. The street address is just plain wrong. No one is sure what town it’s in. Some say Porter, others say Oktaha, and a few maintain it’s in Wagoner. Best to say it’s somewhere between Wagoner and Muskogee, right near the Verdigris River. You have to find it the way people did back in the 20th Century. Phone and get directions. Drive about 40 miles on the Muskogee Turnpike, past farms and cows and big patches of emptiness till you get to Route 69. Take 69 north and drive two miles.

We did just that and couldn’t find it. So we used our cellphone and phoned again. “Where are you?” asked the woman who answered. “It’s the middle of nowhere!” I said. “Nothing but trees and road.” She insisted on staying on the line until we reached the door. It was lucky she did. The place is on the west side of the road just before the bridge over the Verdigris. The only clue is a big yellow sign that probably looked bright and modern back when the place moved to its present location back in the 1950s. That, and a low-slung nondescript building and a parking lot full of cars.

Baker’s is a family place. It was opened by Verbal Baker back in 1947. His wife Viva Dean Baker worked there almost every day from then until she died 60 years later. It is now run by their son and his wife. There’s no website, no Facebook, no fancy reviews in Gourmet Magazine. But over the years their fame has spread and they have a loyal following. It was a reader who tipped me off, told me to hustle on down there. He’s mysterious, goes under the moniker of “Tulsa Food Guy”, which I am pretty sure is not his real name because he was born in Chicago. He’d read my review of A-1, “the crown has been passed”, and he told me that Baker’s just might deserve that fried chicken crown. It’s a stealth contender, since Baker’s is famed for catfish and one other thing. This:

Onion rings. One order of their incredible onion rings ($8) is large enough for two villages to share. So I nearly didn’t get to the chicken; these were so good I grabbed handfuls of them and shoved them in my mouth and it took all my willpower to stop, otherwise I would have been stuffed beyond repair by the time the fish and chicken came. Here’s the Catfish Dinner ($11). It includes fries or baked potato and a salad.

And yes the fish was as good as it looks. Fine fresh fish, crisp crunchy breading. I think I prefer the breading at Lazy Fisherman in Bixby or Sweet Lisa’s in Northside but this fish was just fine. I was satisfied until I tasted the chicken. Here’s the Chicken Dinner.

It was Cathe’s and not mine, so I got only one piece. A huge juicy thigh. When I tasted it I begged for more. But Cathe had given her second piece away and had only one small drumstick left. I would have grabbed even that — by then I was shameless — but she had already eaten it. The chicken was juicy, full of flavor, indescribably good. The breading was thicker than A-1, crunchy, crisp, corrugated like corn flakes, incredible. I can’t say it was better than A-1 Chicken Shack, but it’s a close call. And, as I said, it’s completely different so even if you’ve been to A-1 it’s worth the trip to try this. And, as I also said or at least tried to convey, it’s quite a nice trip and takes you far away from city life.

We could have gotten more fish. On Tuesday, the $11 gets you all you can eat. And I’ve heard that Baker’s has some lovely home-baked pies. But I was stuffed by then. I did find room for a few more handfuls of onion rings. That was my dessert.

Baker’s Fish House
Hwy 169
Porter, OK 74454
(918) 682-2367
Open Mon to Fri 4 PM to 9 PM
Saturday Noon to 10 PM
I think they are open Sunday as well.
On the west side of U.S. Route 69 two miles north of the Muskogee Turnpike intersection and just south of the Verdigris bridge.

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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.

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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