One of my ladyfriend’s favorite hobbies is antiquing on the weekends. While she typically enjoys finding things like rustic furniture, unique jewelry and other semi-conversational items on the cheap, I usually tag along to seek out somewhat collectable records, but, sadly, only coming up with a water-damaged and badly-scratched copy of Foghat’s Tight Shoes.
On a recent relic run, we stopped by one of her favorite antique shops, the Rink Gallery, 3200 N. Rockwell Ave. in Bethany. While she found a couple of art-deco necklaces and other vaunted treasures of the price-tagged past, I, of course, came up empty-handed, disappointed by the lack of listenable vinyl recordings that I had hoped to find.
Still, as I was looking at a stacked bookcase filled with mostly aged textbooks, I could smell the strong scent of barbecue hovering in the air; like an animated dog with a hungry nose that whimsically floats him to the source, I found myself at the somewhat blocked—for Covid-19, of course—snack stand with a glass case on the counter where, wrapped tightly in butcher paper, sat one last slab of meat.
The guy that ran the Rink’s food-stand walked over to me and told me they were baby back ribs and, since he was about to shut down for the day, would give them to me for the discounted price of twenty bucks; apparently to have one remaining rack was a rarity here, as they sell-out sometime around noon.
While twenty may seem like a lot, it had to be fate that one was still there. As I made some small talk with the guy—his name was Mike, I believe—he told me how he methodically hand-rubbed them with an array of seasonings and smoked a few racks every weekend to sell. As he loaded a few wrapped servings of his homemade barbecue sauce, he asked me if I’d like to try a couple of his hand-made hot links.
Hell yeah, I would.
Giving him praise like the savory savior of meats in this building full of antiques, as my ladyfriend stood in line with her own trinkets and baubles to purchase, as the steady heat radiated from the paper bag, I thought about the places where I had had barbecue in my life; from the smokehouse to a smoke-shop, I’ve enjoyed it in just about every place you could think of…with the exception of an antique store.
Finally back home, I unloaded the afternoon’s purchase like a greedy child on Christmas morn. Carrying my barbecued bounty to the kitchen and unrolling the meticulous butcher paper and then unraveling the well-proportioned foil, this carnivorous treat let out a spicy blast of charred meat slathered in whispers and secrets, the things that only Mike seems to know.
Using my sharpened knife to slice into the muscled slab, this pork delicacy had very little fat on it; instead every inch was covered in thick sinews of tempered flesh, well-cooked patches that were moist and meaty, with a smoky flavor that brought tears to my fevered eyes…could these be the best baby back ribs in Oklahoma City?
They were for me.
And though satisfied with a full rib dinner, I managed to save room for one of the well-regarded hot links; herbaciously heated to ribald perfection, this was a love connection as well. I was told by Mike that it goes even better with some of their special mustard, but it was a perverse form of fattening dessert without it.
As I began to clear the plates off the table, my ladyfriend brought me a present she found at the Rink, an old matchbook for a Niagara Falls joint called, apropos enough, Louis’ Restaurant. Though it’s probably long gone, I wonder if they served baby back ribs as good as this antique shop.