Even though NE 23rd Street is one of the most historical streets in Oklahoma City, many locals tend to forget that it’s also home to some of the most grassroots and homegrown eateries in town, the best having a specific focus on soul food, barbecue and old-fashioned Southern cooking. NE 23rd Street restaurants are OKC’s culinary history all in a few blocks and really should be revered as such.
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Ray's Smokehouse BBQ
1514 W. Lindsey, Norman
What works: Ray’s has a wide selection of meats and sides, making it the perfect place for any barbecue lover.
What needs work: It’s not a great place for vegetarians, but then again, it is a barbecue joint.
The tip: The family atmosphere and the great food make Ray’s a solid addition to anybody’s favorite barbecue spot.
Former University of Oklahoma football player Darrol Ray opened the restaurant a little more than three years ago, and it’s been cooking up quite a reputation since.
“We’re pretty mom and pop,” said Kendall Ray, Darrol’s daughter. “We’re not a chain concept. Everyone who works here has been here a while. We have a real family atmosphere.”
So I decided to check this spot out, two times for that matter. On my first visit, I brought a friend along for dinner.
At Ray’s, food is ordered at the front, and then brought to you when it’s ready. There are a number of options to choose from, including meat combos and sandwiches.
I went with the three-meat combo ($12.99), which comes with two sides and toast. I chose ribs, hot links and brisket with fried okra and Southern potato salad. The ribs were delicious and cooked to perfection, making it easy to pull the meat from the bone. The sliced brisket also tasted great, and could easily be cut to pieces with a plastic fork. The hot links were nothing out of the ordinary: spicy, juicy and delicious. I topped all of my choices with the hot barbecue sauce, which took the flavor to the next level. These tasty meats were accompanied beautifully by the crispy and flavorful okra and the fresh and well-seasoned potato salad.
My guest went with the Ray’s the Roof sandwich ($6.99), which Kendall Ray classified as their most popular dish. The sandwich combines pulled pork with a hot link, and is accompanied by one side. The pork was soft and juicy, and it melded well with the spicy hot link. Add some of Ray’s hot barbecue sauce and you’ve got quite a concoction. My friend also chose fried okra as his side. We both left satisfied and full.
my second visit, I went for lunch. Wanting to try a wide array of meats
and sides, I again went with the three-meat combo ($12.99). This time I
chose smoked pork sausage, pulled pork and a quarter chicken with
homemade macaroni and cheese and fries. The pulled pork was still soft
and juicy. The sausage was succulent and cooked to perfection.
The chicken was my least favorite, as I think it could’ve used some more flavor, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I again topped everything with the delicious hot barbecue sauce. The mac and cheese was a bit different than the usual, as it seemed to have a mix of melted cheeses rather than a creamy cheese sauce.
Ray’s offers other meats, such as turkey and bologna. In addition, the eatery has plenty more sides to choose from, such as collard greens, corn cobbettes, coleslaw or a fruit medley.
This spot is exactly what the Rays were going for: a cozy family restaurant. Random trinkets adorn the walls, which is pretty standard for such a place. The tables are well-spaced in the decent-sized establishment, and the lighting is far from overbearing. The service was quick; the staff, more than polite.
It’s a good place for a comfortable and satisfying meal, whether you’re alone or with family or friends.
Gazette’s restaurant review policy is to highlight the positive
aspects, and include constructive criticism regarding food, ambience or
service when appropriate.
Photos by Mark Hancock