“…and I like chicken fried” — Oak Leaf Smokehouse
By Alvaro Chivas Fernandez
“And I like chicken fried, a cold beer on a fried-day night, a pair of jeans that fit just right, and the radio on.” Other than the pun I couldn’t resist adding, those are the famous words of one of my favorite bands — Zac Brown Band. What can I say, the song “Chicken Fried” speaks to me; it grazes my brainheart in the same way that the year’s first cool night’s breeze grazes my face and reminds me that there are moments of my Houston life that don’t take place on top of a puddle of my sweat. So, to me, it comes as no surprise that when I was blasting that song and saw the sign for Oak Leaf Smokehouse, I absolutely knew that I had to stop by and eat there.
I had driven by the Dumble and Telephone Rd intersection a number of times but had not really noticed Oak Leaf before. In part, I think I hadn’t noticed this place because it’s decently sized parking lot was always empty when I drove by. As stated above, I was jammin’ out to some pop country (#pcp, #popcountrypunx, #datlyfetho #2frat2care) so my country mindset enabled me to spot this spot.
The first thing I noticed as I was pulling into a parking spot is the RV just chillin’ in the back (by the way — I say ‘chillin’ instead of ‘parked’ because it is pretty apparent that that RV had not been moved in a bit). Instantly I got a good feeling about this place. After walking into the restaurant itself, I can tell you that I was not disappointed. Many of y’all who’ve been there might be a bit confused about my lack of disappointment; however, I challenge you to look once again.
Oak Leaf Smokehouse — the physical building — is pretty barren. It’s the barrenness, however, that gives it its charm. The smokehouse is essentially four walls with one wall-wide menu and one set of longhorn horns hanging right above the menu. That, I think, is the way smokehouses should be — to me it says, “We mean business, you are here to eat not to sit in a pretty room made to distract you from your food.” It’s a shame, however, that their food did not say the same.
I’m a very indecisive person, so I asked the cashier what his favorite thing on the menu was and he stared at me not knowing what to say and then stared at the menu and said, “Try the Chicken Fried Brisket.” — literally the one item that is bigger and bolder than anything else on the menu. Don’t get me wrong though, the cashier was super nice and really tried to help and be cordial — there’s only so much anyone can say about a restaurant when they don’t eat there.
The food came out in a jiffy. Upon seeing the plate I knew that something was amiss — chicken fried brisket should not look like something that an Iron Chef came up with. I never thought I’d see a plate so faux-gucci-ly dressed at a smokehouse. I sat there poking at my food for a couple of seconds wondering, “Why do these veggies look like you’re SUPPOSED to eat them?” That, the veggies, the thinly sliced deep-fried onions artistically placed on top of the gravy, and the fact that the BBQ sauce was on a very small plate on the side made me question every single life decision I had made until that moment. Until then I had never been to an artsy smokehouse; a smokehouse that did not force you to drink 25 gallons of their BBQ sauce and whose pickled veggies were strictly for decoration purposes.
Not entirely discouraged I dug in. It turns out that the veggies were in fact meant to be eaten and so were the x-tra thin onion rings covering the chicken fried brisket so naturally I just set those aside and went to town on the mashed ‘taters and brisket. The chicken fried brisket was not bad, especially once it got cold (not kidding either, I took it home and placed it in the fridge) but by far the best part of my meal were the mashed potatoes covered in gravy. The mashers (as they call them) were softer than angel butt and as well-seasoned as an angel diaper. The mashers were coupled with gravy creamier-than-all-others and taste similar to sitting on the bed of a truck in the middle of a field watching Independence Day fireworks. I’m not even exaggerating when I say that that combination itself is enough to start WW4 if someone were to take a bite out of your plate.
In short, I don’t blame Oak Leaf (formerly Pete’s BBQ) for anything. They offer glutton-free brownies. If a smokehouse ever offers glutton-free anything, then you know that they are struggling. With all these hipsters “not gentrifying” the area, local businesses have had to keep up, and we all know that if there’s one thing hipsters like it’s glutton-free stuff and complicating stuff from the ways it was traditionally done.
Would I go there again? Probably not, because I can just have it delivered.
by Guest Author