Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ken's Steak and Ribs

OKLAHOMA: Ken's Steak & Ribs
408 E Main Street

Amber, OK 73004


Open Thur-F 4:30-9, Sat 4-9

After a long drive from Oklahoma City, we were all ready to eat when we arrived in the parking lot outside of this gas station and restaurant on the day after Thanksgiving. The smell of mesquite was unmistakable as we passed through the front door. This trip had all been my idea, so the happiness of the in-laws was all on me, and I'd never been here before. I was worried, but hopeful that may father-in-law's general annoyance with waits of any sort would be averted after seeing that there was a table ready for our large group. I was also happy in the knowledge that a reader named Steve had provided a glowing endorsement of the joint about a year earlier.

Happy faces surrounded the table with the arrival of the complimentary rib basket that was plunked down while we were being seated. These large spare ribs had a deep smokiness with a great crust. A flavorful salty rub covered them, and the meat was nice and moist. It took some tugging to release meat form bone, but the flavor of the meat made it worth the effort. The rest of the unwritten menu was pretty sparse. Prime rib, sirloin, smoked chicken and brisket were all available along with the salad bar. I ordered a slab of prime rib for me and a brisket plate for my daughter. My wife being a chickentarian got the smoked chicken.

After the great ribs, the dry brisket was a major disappointment. The slices had no smokiness and had the taste and texture of meat that had been rewarmed on a flat top griddle. The surface of the slices was brittle and the flavor was off-putting. Luckily my daughter likes steak too. Prime rib had been smoked as well. The thick slabs were still a bit cool, but had grill marks. My guess is they have slices in the cooler that are warmed over the mesquite fire until they reach the required doneness, and since mine was medium rare, it got little time on the grill. The meat was a bit chewy, but the smoky flavor and the excellent rub mixture made it a great tasting steak.

A half smoked chicken on my wife's plate had good moist meat beneath an under-crisped skin. The smokiness was there, and the overall flavor of the meat was great. Some of the other family members opted for the sirloin which was grilled raw, so the meat was hot and juicy. Some thought it was too smoky, but I don't normally find that to be an issue. Maybe it's a stretch to make the 45 minute drive form OKC very often, but I could see myself coming back for the sirloin and ribs. If you can make the trek, stay away from the brisket and be sure to bring cash.

Rating ***
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Each joint is judged on the essence of Texas 'cue...sliced brisket and pork ribs. Sausage is only considered if house made. Sauce is good, but good meat needs no adornment to satisfy. Each review can only be based on specific cuts of meat on that particular day. Finally, if the place fries up catfish or serves a caesar salad, then chances are they aren't paying enough attention to the pits, so we mostly steered clear.