When Texas Monthly came calling and tried the brisket and ribs served by Wayne Ooten and his son Kevin at the OO Smokehouse (that’s OO as in Oh! Oh!), the magazine was duly impressed, and Texoma had its first entry on the Texas Monthly list of Top 50 barbecue spots in the Lone Star State. It was high praise indeed. Mr. Ooten passed away in 2010, but Kevin is still stoking the smoker in the best family tradition.
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The old gas station building two blocks east of the square in Sherman offers few clues to what comes through the little walk-up service window, but for nearly twelve years, the family-run business has offered its carryout-only fare to local residents. Now, thanks to rave reviews in Texas Monthly and the local media, the parking lot is getting crowded.
“On a daily basis, we’ll see people stop in here from Missouri, Kansas, all over,” Kevin Ooten said. The one item customers order the most? Sliced beef, by far, Kevin said. And when people get a side order—you know, something to balance out the barbecue—more often than not it is a bag of sausage stuffed, batter-dipped, fried jalapeño peppers.
“We sell a lot of peppers,” Kevin said, as he fried up a basket full an hour before opening. Wayne said the stuffed pepper recipe is something he threw himself into for quite some time before perfecting it and offering it to the public. This is the kind of dedication to each menu item that the Ootens say is required to set a barbecue joint apart from other stands and shacks.
Barbecue, good barbecue at least, is a lot of work, and at OO’s it is a twenty-four-hour operation. “We check the meat several times in the night. There’s a lot of prep.” This busy barbecue stand is an around-the-clock operation, and it kicked into high gear after the nationwide exposure last year. Big piles of wood, mostly oak—“All hickory will make the meat bitter,” said Wayne—are stacked alongside the side shack that houses the two home-designed-and built smokers.
Inside, in a space so tight it makes turning around in a hurry a hazard, is a flat grill—they make a mean hamburger too—and an old range of indeterminable color, with several pots bubbling away most of the time. Screwed to the wall is an old fashioned potato cutter that can turn a fat russet into a handful of thick French fries to-be with one pull of a handle.
Outside again, walk up to the window and place an order, and they will ask what color car you drive. Go back to the car, get in, listen to the radio for a few minutes, and they’ll bring your order out in a brown paper bag. The sauce is in a plastic cup tucked in by the paper napkin. Wayne Ooten is not about to cover up his labor of love with sauce, even his sauce. That’s up to the customer.
Kevin said that while they sell a “heckuva lot of sliced beef sandwiches,” with the stuffed peppers coming in a close second, it is the pork ribs and the thick, smoky sauce that gained OO its reputation. The Ootens worked on the recipe for their barbecue sauce for more than a year before they opened for business. It is a secret they share with no one else, not even their family
Owners: Kevin Ooten
200 S. Montgomery Street
at Montgomery & Lamar
Sherman, TX 75090
Mon & Wed 11am-7pm
Tues, Fri & Sat 11am-8pm