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Call of the Wild
Some of Oklahoma’s best steaks—not to mention fried frog legs, rabbit, and other unexpected dishes—await at this Osage County restaurant.
By Greg Elwell
Published July/August 2014
No part of the Wild Country Meats experience is ordinary. From the east, all there is to see is a pair of towering cattle cars, their windows black and sealed. From the west, there’s a series of narrow gates and welded metal fences. In the parking lot, the wind whips dust around customers making their way to and from their cars. A sign on the building tells deer hunters where to leave their trophies for processing and to indicate if they’d like to keep the antlers. Behind a pair of trailers, men in white aprons stand over grills spewing fire—they’re cooking steaks.
But Wild Country Meats didn’t start out as one of Osage County’s quirkiest restaurants. It didn’t even begin as a spot for local ranchers and hunters to have their livestock and game processed. When Chris Gabriel started the business with his mother, LeAnn, in May 1998, it was a meat market built to serve area oil men and ranchers. Gabriel’s previous experience as a butcher brought in customers seeking his meat processing skills, so he expanded the operation. But when local farmers started downsizing their herds due to drought, he was faced with a dilemma: lay off his workers or find something new for them to do.
“That’s when the restaurant started, about two-and-a-half years ago,” he says. “It’s our way to fill a need in the community and have enough hours for our employees.”
Gabriel also wanted to serve his community the kind of steaks he’d want to eat. Nothing here is frozen, tenderized, or marinated. The only seasoning is a secret blend of Gabriel’s own creation, and it goes on just before the meat hits the grill. The results have turned Wild Country Meats into a local favorite and a destination dining spot.
Inside the renovated cattle cars, the loudest sounds are the whir of the air conditioner and the staccato of knives and forks scraping morsels from plates. Clayton and Mallory Casebolt of Cleveland sit at rustic tables atop the metal diamond tread floors. While her husband dines on a gravy-covered hamburger steak, Mallory enjoys a plate of chicken strips. But she’s really looking forward to dessert—a complimentary root beer float that is the perfect end to her meal.
“I eat my float,” she says. “Then I eat Clayton’s.”
The eighty-five-seat dining room is packed for lunch and dinner—reservations are not required but often are necessary to avoid a wait. Many diners begin with fried appetizers like frog legs, rabbit, and calf fries, all expertly prepared. The sight of these country favorites on the menu might scare the uninitiated, but the flavors—a little savory, a little sweet—appeal to those brave enough to sample them.
And while there are a couple of salads, sausages, and sandwiches on the menu, repeat guests know to order steaks like the Chris’ Special. The owner’s favorite, it’s a bone-in rib eye that starts at eighteen ounces but often packs a bit of extra meat on. Cooked medium rare and seasoned sparingly, it’s a classic steak with a nice rind of fat and a tender texture that melts on the tongue.
With its unforgettable food—and patrons clad in everything from motorcycle leather and camouflage to Sunday best—Wild Country Meats is one of the most unique restaurants in northeastern Oklahoma. As the wind blows outside, within this pair of converted cattle cars there is refuge. And steak. Really, really good steak.
Get There: Wild Country Meats is open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. 801 East First Street in Hominy. (918) 885-6758 or wildcountrymeats.com.