TLO Restaurant Review: Maples Barbecue

According to various accounts that I believe, barbecue as we know it in the States was perfected by Southern slaves who, after a long day of manning the pits of the slave-owners and their hunger, took the scraps and throwaways, seasoned and smoked them, adding a bit of homemade sauce until the meat tasted practically immaculate.

Makes sense to me, and really, that’s how I’ve always seen true barbecue as it should be—the cheapest cuts of meat, masterfully charred until they become their own legendary artforms.

Somehow, Maples Barbecue, 1800 NW 16th St., has managed to reverse this process, by cooking up what seems to be only the best cuts of meat and, someway, making a perversity of what this town considers good barbecue by smoking them into attractive shards of dry boot-leather. Of course, if you read the local paper you probably wouldn’t know that, especially with the usual suspects hyperbolically calling it the best barbecue they’ve ever had in their got-danged lives.

Not even close, hoss.

With a decorating scheme that resembles more of a privatized prison than a down-home barbecue joint, Maples Barbecue is the latest Plaza District restaurant to make “those types” feel safe in their gentrified community – a sit-down version of their old food-truck, the egg-shell veneer morbidly welcomes you in, but the ordering of your meat next to a massive plexi-glass is a bit off-putting right from the start.

With an order of a Pit Master Sandwich ($12.00) and a single helping of Burnt End Beans ($2.50), as I waited for my food, I noticed there were a lot of middle-aged dudes in suits, sleeves rolled up and happily eating outside of their pay-grade today, chowing down on skimpy plates of ribs and brisket. Regardless, I was still going to give it a fair enough chance to please me—maybe these accountants and opticians and has-been local rock stars know something that I don’t. It’s happened before.

With a mélange of pulled pork, chopped brisket and sausage, as well as jalapeno and slaw, the Pit Master Sandwich was the best example, I surmised, to get a feel for most of the meats on the menu—which, if true, grab an extra glass of water to choke it all down, because this meat was dryer than Hell. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem—I would have patiently added some extra sauce into the mix—but, regrettably, they don’t have bottles of extra sauce on the table, and none that could be seen within borrowing distance.

But, for real, if it’s extra sauce you want—and then some—try the Burnt End Beans because it is so overpoweringly sweet with a sugary barbecue sauce that causes the mouth to pucker endlessly, each bite practically has the divine power to cause the kidneys to ache with diabetic worries. Don’t get me wrong: the beans were serviceable enough, but, still, I started to wish I had tried the Custard Mac & Cheese instead, whatever that is.

Looking for much-needed moisture, I ended up dipping a few dregs of meat from my sandwich in the bean-juice, but the damage had been done—sandwich half eaten, beans barely touched, I pushed it away and stood up to get myself a refill of the most holy Plaza District water to wash the obnoxious sugars out of my mouth.

As I walked to the soda fountain, looking around the digs a bit deeper, I fully realized this place just ain’t for the likes of me and probably never would be. In both my barbecue joints and in my waking life, I need a little more hard-earned character that has been perfected through impoverished trial and error—I said it once, I’ll say it again: for honest barbecue, at a much more affordable price, it’s hard to beat Leo’s at 3631 N. Kelley.

As I put my cup under the water dispenser, there they were, next to the twee sodas—the extra barbecue sauce.


Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.

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45 Responses

  1. Jack’s on 39th

  2. This review was kind of weak..there had to have been some upside to the place right? But i have to agree the food is dry and the place has a cold soulless vibe. I went once and realized that it was probably the worst BBQ I’ve had in Oklahoma city.

    Do they still have a food truck? I really did enjoy their brisket from it.

    1. Rex, it doesn’t seem that you found an upside to the place either.

      1. Graychin, you’re so right. I was pushing our author to find hope that i couldn’t find myself.

  3. Fancy and barbecue don’t mix. Nice review.

  4. I will always be bitter that these guys took the place of Chiltepe’s.

    1. Me too!

    2. +1

      1. I’ve been mad ever since they closed down Train Hopper’s. I remember watching Umphrey’s McGee record Local Band Does OKlahoma with about 25 other people watching.

        1. Dude, I was at that show!

  5. You ever tried George’s Happy Hog Louis?

    1. George’s Happy Hog is a good place. They serve some solid BBQ there.

  6. Old joke from where I grew up. If the Bar-b-q place has a clean floor, go somewhere else.

  7. BBQ from people who learned to cue by watching YouTube videos by pretty white people.

  8. Just one look at that fancy entrance and I would have turned away. And I second the Leo’s!

  9. I’d put up what I can do on my back porch drinking beer all day against any joint around, just using a crappy old cabinet smoker I got for free. Paying for b-b-q; you all Rockefellers or something?

    1. Yup; beer, fire, and patience is all it takes.

  10. I went to thier food truck ONCE in Midtown. I ordered the overpriced brisket, which they meticulously weighed and measured. hidden underneath the brisket was a slice of pure fat bigger than a king sized snickers!! Gross! I was so shocked and disappointed

  11. Sadly the bar for great BBQ isn’t that high, which moves the mediocre to the excellent category. There are, or used to be some good places when I was in the area. On the weekends Bill Kamps Meat Market made some outstanding brisket. He was limited to what he could pack into his smoker, and you either had to get their early or pre-order.

    Burn & Co in Tulsa in their original location was legendary. When they moved to a bigger location there was the fear quality suffered. It didn’t, and the new location just had longer lines. I think the key to a BBQ, or restaurants in general are to find places where the person who owns it and runs it just likes doing it, an example would be the simple fare of a burger, and you look at Nic’s on Penn who has figured out how to make a living, along with reasonable working hours doing something he likes, working a grill.

    Always like it when Louis finds the real mom & pop restaurants, as they are a rarity in OKC.

    1. Excellent BBQ is quite rare for OKC. BurnCo in Tulsa is very good. The place in Wellston is also excellent. I thought Maples from their trailer was also great. Not so much in the brick and mortar place. They changed the way they do it. Too bad.

      I think there is room for a couple of really good central-Texas style places in OKC. Something like The Pecan Lodge in Dallas or any number of places in Austin. I’m shocked someone hasn’t figured that out yet. Backdoor sounded like they would, but they didn’t even get close. You can get a good meal there, but it’s nothing like these places in Texas. The same is true with really good fried chicken joints… a rarity in OKC.

  12. When they were just a food trailer it was the best brisket you could get in the city by a large margin. I’ve been to the brick and mortar once and I order FATTY brisket. It was very good, but small chinzy portion. I was disappointed in the sides and the prices were way too high for what you get.

    Make sure you order fatty brisket if you go back. I can’t speak to any of the other meat. I really wish they had kept their trailer open because with the authentic central texas pit right behind it, they churned out fantastic brisket.

  13. I haven’t tried this place and probably never will. Once you’ve had Butcher BBQ in Wellston off the Turnpike, nothing else comes close. We drive to Wellston from Norman at least once a month to get our BBQ fix.

  14. My friends and I have a standing appointment to meet for lunch here every week. No complaints from me. Glad I live within walking distance. Since plaza parking.

    Give it a try.

  15. The BBQ inside Saints is awesome. You were so close.

  16. Meh, it sounds like Louis had a predisposition about the place with his remarks about the location and judging the people dining there. He already had his mind made up before he walked through the door.

    I’ve been to ATX for bbq and I have had both Maple’s truck and location bbq. I think it is great. I will agree that it is on the expensive side, but I’m willing to pay for this over the extreme lack of portion size that you receive at places like Backdoor BBQ.

    Sure there are some quality places outside the metro area, but if I want to have great bbq within a 15 minute drive I’m going to Maples.

    1. Agreed. Maples is pretty good for OKC BBQ. It seems that his main problem was that he didn’t know where the sauce was. His inability to find something that is in sight from most of the restaurant is a slight on him, not the restaurant. I’ve never tried the beans, but I have friends that have tried them and thought they were good.

      I’ve been to Leo’s and had great BBQ and have had terrible BBQ. That place is inconsistent. There isn’t anywhere around that is in the ballpark of KC BBQ. It’s all better than Dallas though!

      1. My personal BBQ creed is that if you need sauce to make it good, then it’s not good BBQ. Sauce should never cover for badly cooked meat.

        Granted, I’ve never been to Maples and have no idea if it is good or not, I just don’t think sauce is ever going to make or break bbq.

  17. We ate at Maples after deciding to not wait 30 minutes for pizza next door. Asked the guy outside cleaning the windows if the BBQ was good. He replied, “it’s okay”. He was right.

  18. Big Boy’s BBQ on Rockwell and Britton. Behind the 7-11. It is the awesomeness of BBQ for me.

    1. Just moved to the area and eat there all the time. Real good.

  19. Louis, your food reviews are beautiful — more than the world deserves. I read them, always, and hang on every word.

  20. gary glenns bbq on 59 and sooner in MWC is the best bbq in OKC for me..

  21. I thought I was being hard on the place since I’ve lived in Texas for 10 years. Glad i’m not the only one who thinks Maples was a bit more hyped than they can deliver.

  22. Just another example of a food truck concept that should have kept the wheels. I ate their the other day, wish I would have read this review beforehand and saved my money. It was overpriced for what it was but this seems to be the trend when a food truck moves into a brick and mortar. For those who think this is good BBQ or concept for that matter, I pity you and your lack of taste buds. You probably also like a $9 shitty biscuit too.

  23. This review caused such a ruckus I’m not even sure anymore whether its college level trolling or serious.

    IMHO I agree it is expensive and an overly sanitized atmosphere, but the fatty brisket tastes pretty damn close to Franklins in Austin which is the brisket everyone likes to jerk off over. Probably a sandwich wasn’t the best choice at a primarily brisket joint. I personally didn’t think Leo’s or butcher or any other bbq I have ever had in OK other than Burn Q or whatever in Tulsa is comparable, or even particularly good. I judge based on brisket exclusively so ymmv.

    1. Literally? They literally jerk off over Franklins barbecue in Austin?

      1. Maybe I need to watch my phrasing more carefully LOL My filter is already off because its TLO

  24. Let me crack an egg of knowledge on most of the post here. A lot of talks about overprice and what you get for it. Maples uses PRIME beef and DUROC pork. Go to a grocery store that sells prime beef and compare the cost. ( Walmart doesn’t carry prime so go to a real grocery store). The trend in bbq today isn’t about using the cheap cuts anymore. It using USDA PRIME black angus beef. Furthermore anyone who has cooked the bbq the real way i.e. with wood and a live fire. Knows that it takes a long time. Part of the cost for bbq is paying on that time plus the wood used to cook it. If complaining about that price is your problem then cook it yourself and stop bitching. PRIME brisket isn’t cheap and neither is good bbq. Do some research before complaining about how PRIME brisket isn’t as cheap as it is at Earls, Swadlyes, Rudy’s or any other cheap hack job bbq joint in oklahoma. There’s plenty to chose from.

    1. If they use prime, then they really don’t know how to cook. Making a prime cut dry is a challenge.

      The fact that you compare it to Earl’s, Swadley’s and Rudy’s shows that you have no idea what BBQ is.

      Stick to your overpriced corporate BBQ, I’ll get it from mom & pop.

      1. Will do thanks! Those “ mom and pops” stores you are talking about count on suckers like you thinking that’s real bbq. They use set it and forget it ovens to cook. But yeah keep up the good fight. FYI Rudy’s is a corporate chain out of Austin.

      2. bahaha corporate bbq lmao maples is the EXACT opposite of that

    2. I wish you could eat those eggs of knowledge yourself. I recently ate at Maples. For serving prime beef I found it interesting that you would coat it in such an overpowering rub, one would think that you would want to highlight the flavor of the heat and meat. I had the brisket (fatty side) and the separated mac and cheese custard dripping with oil. The meat is good, if you cut the rub off and discard it, otherwise it’s all you will taste, for days. Maybe cut down on the rub and spring for a little sign over the BBQ sauce that is disguised as a tea dispenser, great idea btw. It being my first time there I was a little dismayed how unhelpful the staff was at pointing things out or even being friendly, not a smile to be seen in the place. I can only assume that BBQ Guy was the brooding guy sitting at the bar endlessly staring at his cell phone instead of working the floor during service bc who cares what a customer thinks or how it may appear to them, what they know. I guess he was to full of his knowledge omelet to insure that his guests were being met with the service or quality one would expect for a $20 lunch. And asking for a tip during the payment transaction! For what!? It’s self serve!

  25. Let’s leave Earls out of this. They are consistently good. At every location.

  26. Dynamite bbq. Get over the decor, the beef and pork are great, the sides will draw you back also. This BurnCo loving family thinks Maples is getting it done. Louis, sorry but you blew it this time.

  27. swadleys THE worst bbq ever………the jims chicken sucks as well read luis review of jims ….

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