Monday, December 29, 2014

Cattlemen's Steakhouse - Oklahoma City

When planning for travel I often decide ahead of time what restaurants I want to go to. I look at the top rated restaurants on Yelp and Trip Advisor and will sometimes get recommendations from others, or google for particular things I'm looking for. For our trip to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma I was not finding anything that jumped out at me. Initially, for our one evening there, I picked a Thai restaurant, but I had down Cattlemen's Steakhouse as a place I wanted to order one takeout item - "lamb fries." Lamb fries, I found after some searching, was a euphemism for lamb testicles. I'd never had lamb testicles and I like to try unusual foods. But I did not want to go to Cattlemen's for our main meal because the other things on the menu were virtually all beef and did not look very interesting. 

However, right before leaving I went back to the Cattlemen's website and gave it a good look-thru and decided it might be fun to go there for cultural reasons, if not the food. It has been featured on the Food Channel's Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, which in my experience means it is not very good, and Man Vs. Food. It is mentioned in the books, Southern Living Off the Eaten Path ["This is the best damned steakhouse in the country. Period. Heaven will have a salty, tender, and perfectly cooked Cattlemen's steak waiting on me if I make it through the Pearly Gates."]; 1,000 Places to See Before You Die ["Cattlemen's sits smack dab in the middle of the Oklahoma National Stockyards, the largest livestock trading center on earth...This is red meat country, and Cattlemen's is the consummate Western steakhouse, unpretentious but luxuriously delicious, lauded as paradise for lovers of good red meat."]; 1,000 Places to See Before You Die In the U.S. and Canada ["Adventurous palates can start with a plate of lamb fries - the deep-fried testicles of lambs. Delicately flavored and melting tender, they can taste pretty good if you don't know what you're eating."]; 500 Things to Eat Before It's Too Late ["At the Cattlemen's Steakhouse in the Oklahoma City stockyards, lamb fries come as an hors d'oeuvre in a mound on a plate with a bowl of cocktail sauce for dipping and a half lemon to squeeze on top. Their flavor and texture are, to our taste, the cowboy cognate of New England fried clams but earthy rather than oceanic. Cattlemen's also uses gonads as a key ingredient in its superb steak soup, a lusty, eat-it-with-a-fork brew of thick-cut vegetables and chunks of tender steak."]; and   Roadfood ["A steak at Cattlemen's is magnificent to see, alone on its white crockery plate, higher in the center than around the rim, surrounded by a puddle of its own translucent juices seeping from within."].  That is all pretty hefty praise. 

But there is more. The "Wall of Fame" includes two presidents, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and such luminaries as singers Toby Keith, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Jo Dee Messina, Reba McEntire and Lyle Lovett; actors Larry Hagman, Holly Hunter, Wilford Brimley and John Wayne; and Barron Hilton, Bill Russell (the former basketball great) and Dr. Phil, for heaven's sake. 

Then the one that sealed it for me: The "Presidential Choice T-Bone Steak," the "steak President Bush preferred when dining in Oklahoma City." I decided I had to try that t-bone. 

A perfect door handle for a restaurant that is all about beef. 
We went on a Friday late afternoon, arriving about 5:10 p.m. We were shocked to find ourselves on a waiting list - we were told about 30 minutes. Even more shocked to see how big it was as we walked through the restaurant to join about 20 other people in a room upstairs to wait. They are feeding a lot of people. 

The decor is vintage 1950s and it is obvious they don't spend a lot of money on the restaurant itself. It would fit right in as a restaurant at a truck stop. 

We only had to wait about 20 minutes. Judy let me order. We got the "Presidential Choice T-Bone Steak," medium-rare, to share; an appetizer order of "lamb fries;" a cup of steak soup; an order of onion rings and an extra side salad to go along with the salad and rolls that came with the steak. 

The salads were standard side-order fare, but actually tasted good because we'd not really been eating any vegetables. In this part of the country, vegetables on the menu are fried okra, mashed potatoes, french fries and creamed corn. 

The onion rings were surprisingly good. They don't make them there, but they were not over-breaded, were moist and large, just the way I like them. 
Judy did not like the steak soup. She thought it tasted like Dinty Moore stew. I actually did like it, in a weird sort of way. Contrary to what was said in 500 Things to Eat Before It's Too Late, there were no "chunks of tender steak" in it at all, not even any gristly chunks, there was nada. But it was thick, probably lots of flour, and had a deep kind of burnt taste, kind of like gravy that has had the burnt parts scraped off the pan and added to it. It was a cold day and the warm thickness was satisfying. 
Steak soup - but none of the chunkiness was beef. 
I've already done a separate post on the lamb testicles, they were heavily, heavily breaded by thick cornmeal and the "cocktail sauce" was watery and Clamato-like. I've had much better testicles elsewhere. 
Lamb fries, a euphemism for lamb testicles.
The steak was beautiful and was cooked perfectly. It was well-seasoned on the outside, had nice criss-crossing grill marks across it, and was nice and warm bloody red inside, like medium rare is supposed to be. Further, the juices that accompanied it were nice for dipping each piece of meat in before devouring it. However, it was missing something, the something that is the reason I don't eat much beef anymore. It was kind of a limpy, tasteless piece of meat, the result of corn-feeding the cows, except for the seasoning on it. This is the reason I prefer grass-fed beef and other stronger tasting meats like buffalo, lamb, venison and duck. This steak really reinforced it for me. It was nicely cooked and it looked good, but it was still kind of ordinary. 
Presidential t-bone steak.
Cooked perfectly - medium rare.
It was fun to go to Cattlemen's, as a cultural experience. To be one of the crowd and reveling in the 1950s decor and the sheer volume of beef that the place puts out. Kind of like visiting the fairgrounds. Good thing it is next to the stockyards. But once was enough. 


  1. Wow, I had no idea this place was so famous. It was just meh for me, although we did have a very nice waiter.

  2. So THAT'S why you don't eat beef--the whole corn-fed issue. I thought it was because you were too busy eating raccoon, reptile, or lamb fries.

    1. It is not that it is corn fed, by itself, but that the corn feeding changes the taste.

  3. Definitely want to get out there one of these days, but I think I will pass on the lamb fries.