46th state

Today, we visited my 46th state and Chris’s 47th state — Oklahoma! When I’ve shared with friends and colleagues that Oklahoma would be the first stop on our southern travel itinerary, most asked “Why?” or wondered “huh?” when it came to how this was part of our plan. Since visiting Arkansas in 2010 to visit my friend who was living there, and during that trip, doing a day trip to Memphis, Tennessee, my desire was sparked to see every U.S. state and every presidential library. I’m getting closer and closer to that goal; now, I’ve just got Indiana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Alaska left. Chris has already seen Indiana since he used to go there for work all the time, so he is one state ahead of me.

What few people are aware of regarding Oklahoma — well, a lot of things, but the first things that come to mind: 1) it has a relatively large Vietnamese population, and it arguably has more homely Vietnamese restaurants and bakeries than New York City; in fact, I would say it DEFINITELY has the types of bakeries and shops you’d be more likely to see in Westminster or San Jose, California, than in New York, where you can get Vietnamese baked snacks, pastries, and even freshly made Vietnamese candies and cookies. I don’t even think New York has a Vietnamese bakery period, unless you count the handful of subpar banh mi shops. And 2) Oklahoma has its own barbecue culture. While certain areas of the U.S. such as Texas or Kansas or the Carolinas are well known for their barbecue culture, Oklahoma is quite under the radar. The way that people tend to characterize the Oklahoma style is a cross between Texas and Kansas City: The way the meats are prepared and smoked is like Texas, while the sauces are more tomato-y like in Kansas City. I’m not a huge barbecue sauce fan, so I stick with the meats as they are. As a friend of ours says, “You don’t eat barbecue for the sauce. You eat it for the meat. If you want the sauce, then just eat the sauce!”

We went to a spot that is quite popular and well known called Clark Crew BBQ, and it definitely impressed, not just for the quality of the meats, but also for the serving sizes of the vegetable sides we got. We started with an appetizer many Yelpers raved about, which I’ve never seen at a BBQ spot before: deviled eggs! And I’m so happy I ordered these: the deviled eggs had just the right level of creaminess and savoriness, all balanced by a small crispy piece of bacon on top, plus a slice of pickle on the bottom — a very well rounded bite! Then, we had brisket, ribs, and chopped pork, all of which were lip-smackingly delicious. The two sides we got were the coleslaw and the grilled broccoli — the portions were HUGE! The coleslaw wasn’t swimming in mayo, thankfully, and had a good level of crunch and sourness — it was likely the best coleslaw I’ve ever had anywhere that wasn’t homemade. And the grilled broccoli, which also got rave reviews, really was super tasty: grilled to perfection with bits of char, this broccoli very likely was grilled on the same grates that the meat was cooked on. Chris insisted that the broccoli had a meaty flavor, so it was no wonder so many people insisted that this was a must-order. How often do you go to a barbecue place where they tell you that a VEGETABLE is a must-eat?! Lastly, the cornbread was a bit too much on the sweet side, so that was the one tiny downside of the meal. But overall, we loved our experience at Clark Crew BBQ and would highly recommend it to anyone visiting Oklahoma City. We also loved that the portion sizes for the meat weren’t so overwhelming. While we did have some leftovers, it was mostly our sides, and lucky us, as we have both a microwave and a fridge at our hotel.

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