Oklahoma Smoke BBQ

25. July 2007 American, West + East Harlem 4

231 West 145th Street between Frederick Douglass and Adam Clayton Avenues
about $31 for four people, with two sodas, without tip

The day Oklahoma Smoke opened in west Harlem, they ran out of meat. I stopped by to check their menu and they told me they just didn’t anticipate how many people were going to show up. Really? You knew it was your opening day, right? The next day, I stopped by at 2pm. They were open, but the guys in the front had to ask the kitchen what time they think they’ll be ready. 5pm, someone said. Two days after that, I called to order dinner for pick-up. It was loud in the background but I managed to order a rack and a half of their pork jerky ribs. The guy on the phone said two side dishes come with my order, so I picked collard greens and rice and beans. He also reminded me that I can have a can of Coke with it.

Half an hour later, I walked in to pick up my order. There were a few of us standing around and waiting for our orders. Once in a while, someone would announce a number. They finally stopped when they realized their customers don’t know what the numbers mean. (Them: Who ordered number 23? Us: What the hell is number 23?) They packed up my order while I waited, but then realized someone had done it already. When I looked at that bag, the wrong sides were included. So I waited some more. When I received the sauce-stained paper with my food items checked off, the young girl at the counter didn’t know what buttons to press to register my order. One of the older men had to help her. At this point, I’m not quite sure who’s working for the restaurant. When I was finally handed my order, they told me they ran out of Cokes. I picked an orange soda instead. They gave me two.

Back at home, I served the ribs to three others. I had to use my hands because the meat easily fell off the bones. I wasn’t quite sure why they were called jerky; they tasted more like they were boiled before they were slow-cooked. Without the orange-colored sauce, the meat barely tasted like barbeque. Curiously, I texted Aaron, a friend who grew up in Oklahoma, and asked him what makes barbeque an Oklahoman barbeque? All I got in response was, We use a hillbillie recipe.

Harlem is going through a lot of changes. Business owners need more practice in running a restaurant to please more than just their neighbors. At Oklahoma Smoke BBQ, they’re trying really hard–at least they do their collard greens right.

Related post/s:
Another Harlem restaurant I’m holding out hope for

4 thoughts on “Oklahoma Smoke BBQ”

  • 1
    Jerky on July 27, 2007

    I lived in Oklahoma for 11 years, and the good BBQ tended to be dry-rubbed and smoked, with any sauce on the side….very much like Texas BBQ. Never seen anything like those ribs and orange sauce; sides were typically potato salad/beans/cole-slaw. *Definitely* no collards or dirty rice.

  • 2
    CaliB on July 31, 2007

    Okay, I thought it was just a problem I had with the customer service in this spot. They definitely don’t know what they are doing in there. The pulled pork was tasty (well the sauce was) though a bit tough. Better than the other options in the area. Sherman’s always smells so strongly of swine that I can never bring myself to order anything and the place is filthy yet their prices are high. Go figure! Not sure how they stay in business…must have a great deal on rent.

  • 3
    cia on July 31, 2007

    You should try Sherman’s. The meat falls off right away–probably not necessarily good for a barbeque, but good for soft, flavorful meat. I’ve bought almost a rack there for about $10 served as individual pieces and barely with bones.

    Another one to try is the stand on Adam Clayton around 135th Street. There’s a big momma on the sidewalk who serves ribs cooked in an old drum in the summer. Expect to be charged double if you don’t “look like” you’re from the neighborhood.

  • 4
    Tia on August 13, 2007

    It was my birthday and I was NYC for the occasion, I am originally from Oklahoma City so I decided to go to Oklahoma Smoke. The location was perfect; Just a few blocks away from the subway so finding it was easy. The smell when you walk in is delicious. My husband and I ordered the ribs while our friends got the chicken and smoked shrimp. The Chef was sweet enough to prepare a table for us and put some beautiful rose petals and a candle on one of their tables. Our sides came out first and were amazing. Next our meats came out so artfully arranged on the plate, it was gorgeous. But then the true test came, we ate. The meat on the chicken and the ribs was so tender that it fell off the bone. The Rub is mouth-watering and so is the BBQ sauce. You almost can’t believe you have only spent about $10 a person. The place is really busy but you don’t have to wait long. And ask to look at the chef’s picture album. I couldn’t ask for a better place to eat for my birthday.

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