TLO Restaurant Review: Smokin’ Joe’s Rib Ranch

When dining in the small farming community of Rush Springs, you’re kind of limited on what there is to eat around there. Not too far from the Watermelon Festival, on Blakely Street, you’ve basically got two options: Redskin’s Diner that, judging from the banners, was now proud to be serving Hunt Brothers Pizza and, of course, Smokin’ Joes Rib Ranch.

It was no contest.

At first glaring glance, Smokin’ Joe’s, 306 W. Blakely St., looks very much like a heavily decorated chain restaurant, full of corny signs and a neon glow; it was actually started, however, by Joe Wells in Davis, Oklahoma, some years back, out of his fledging gas station. People apparently liked his meats so much that he eventually went right ahead and opened up a full-fledged eatery (and RV park, natch), with this Rush Springs franchise launching sometime later.

The line around lunchtime was almost out the door, the place packed with out-of-town visitors craving some dastardly meat-products after stuffing themselves with mostly healthy watermelon all morning. Looking over the basic menu hanging on the wall, I opted for the well-stacked One Meat Large Dinner for $13.50, a price that I found somewhat comparable to Oklahoma City.

What wasn’t comparable, however, were the well-smoked portions; Smokin’ Joes loads your plate down with the meat of your choice (except for, sorry, “loin and chicken”) and you sure as Hell better like it, Tex. With my dinner, there was about five or six fat ribs, cut very thick with a beautifully charred coating that crackled when I bit deep into that first chunk of pork.

This introductory rib was a tender lover of porcine delights; with each successive chomp, the succulent insides played a naughty game of grab-ass with the spice-coated outsides, so much so that even the tasty cartilage nubs around each bone were successfully crunched on as well. Placing the skinned bones beside my tray, I had to box up the remnants, somewhat satisfied after only one or two of these chunky beasts.

While their fried okra was, according to the waitress, “from a bag”—I’ve come to the reasoning that there’s very few places serving fresh okra in Oklahoma these days, so if they can fry a processed batch up decently, they’re probably going to get high marks from me—it was a suitable enough side for today’s lunch.

As was my other side, the chilled potato salad; it was definitely a handmade pleasure, but one that I could only take a few small tastes of because my waitress brought me a cup of their recent most-requested dessert: Watermelon Ice Cream ($3.00). Made by a local woman during the festival season, this frozen dish was the best watermelon-flavored specialty treat of the day and, best of all, no seeds. Cómpralo ya!

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