In this day in age, where the emphasis is always put on the thought that "New Is Always Better," it astounds me how many people I talk to have missed the metaphorical boat on some of SWOK's most amazing meals.

"Eew, that place looks gross!" says the unadventurous future Karen.

Don't get me wrong, I get it. Take the unordinary median age of people here in Lawton. The majority of the population is on the younger side thanks to Fort Sill and the US Army. I remember in my youth looking forward to Friday night dinner with my better half at my hometown's local Chili's. It just felt really grown up eating in a place with booths and menus.

I can only assume that's the mentality of our youths now... getting dressed up in their Affliction t-shirts and straight-brim ballcaps, apple-bottom jeans and in-style hooker boots... They want to go out and be seen as grown-ups, and there's no better place to do that than at the chain restaurants that were rare family treats as kids.

Most people old and young tend to judge a place/person/thing by the way it's presented. You know... if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck... If it looks old and disgusting from the outside, it's obviously old and disgusting on the inside, but perception is hardly ever the true reality.

When I lived in Corpus Christi, I learned quickly that if there's a consistent line at that run-down, hole-in-the-wall-looking taqueria down the block, odds are it's insanely good. In my travels around Southwest Oklahoma, that theory has held up big time.

Amazing burger joints. Insanely good steak places. Real taco's you could write home to Oaxaca about. These are the creme de la creme local eats, in no particular order, that you'll find here in Southwest Oklahoma.

 

  • 1

    Boomerang - Hollis, OK

    Before you roll your eyes, this is not the same "Boomerang Diner" you're used to. This is the O.G. hole-in-the-wall restaurant in a one-horse town way out in the middle of nowhere.

    Boomerang has been serving the people of Hollis, Oklahoma for at least my entire life. It actually used to be located on the other side of town in my youth... It was THE place to get some traditional SWOK steak fingers and gravy.

    Today Boomerang is closer to the city-center of Hollis, just a block past the only stoplight in the county. While I haven't tried the steak fingers in decades, I can say one of the best burgers you'll ever have in your life can be found here. If the kids prefer chicken, they have some amazing chicken crisper/nugget things too... just make sure you leave plenty of time to talk as the service is on the slow side.

  • 2

    Fred's - Altus, OK

    The first steak house on this list will land you in Altus, Oklahoma just across from, as the locals say, "The Walmart."

    The building is obviously an old Mexican restaurant from the outside, but you're transformed back to a 1970's ranch bunkhouse on the inside. There's really no telling what actual year the vintage slippery brown and darker brown floor tile was put in, but as the smell of seasoned steak penetrates your cotton-gin-stopped-up-sinuses, you don't care.

    For years I've personally thought of Texas Roadhouse as my steak house benchmark. Fred's is better. The cuts and quality of meat are identical, the seasoning is on-point, it's out of the kitchen and on your table lickity-split, and the price is unbelievably low in comparison. Two can eat at Fred's for what a solo trip to The Roadhouse would cost.

    The chicken fried steak is also pretty amazing here.

  • 3

    Ken's Steak & Ribs - Amber, OK

    The second steakhouse on this list exists in the nowhere-town of Amber, Oklahoma. It's North of Chickasha and off the beaten path.

    Officially named Ken's Steak & Ribs, if you look for the sign, you likely miss it. It's a mostly non-descript old building across from the school. Yes, they have a sign... a tiny, easy-to-miss sign... but at least the building says "Restaurant" on the forward-facing side of it.

    The inside is just as nondescript. Plain walls with little decor, it's a lot like an old small-town church fellowship hall. Dirty old-school woodwork and everything.

    Instead of giving you complimentary rolls when you sit down for a meal at Ken's, they give you ribs.

    Read that again and tell me that's not how steakhouses will probably be in heaven.

    Big ole steaks, amazing ribs, Ken's keeps it real simple, and they might just be the best at it in America.

  • 4

    El Rodeo - Lawton, OK

    If you love real traditional Mexican cuisine, the tacos are second-to-none at El Rodeo Grocery in Lawton, Oklahoma.

    Even the people that live in Lawton forget about this place because of the location. Far from restaurant road (Cache Road) and ubiquitously in one of the least desirable areas of town.

    Inside El Rodeo, you'll find tons of authentic and imported Mexican and Central-American goods and staples. It's the best place to buy vanilla, they have a butcher case full of meats, and at the far West end, the best taco bar in SWOK.

    The experience of eating here is far easier if you speak a little Espanol, but I ate here for years using my Google Translate app, using the camera to decipher the hand-written meat cards.

    Here's a simple truth about tacos... The weirder it sounds, the better it tastes. There was a time the idea of eating a cow's tongue really grossed me out, but I can't imagine a beefier tasting part of the cow these days.

    Get them soft or crispy, flour or corn, your choice of onion and cilantro. Normally served with rice and beans for a cheap and filling lunch.

    Don't be a gringo, order the weird stuff and squeeze a little lime on it. You'll love it.

  • 5

    The Salebarn - Hollis, OK

    Hole-in-the-wall doesn't exactly describe or do The Salebarn in Hollis, Oklahoma any justice. You see, it's not a restaurant called The Salebarn... it's literally the sale barn. A place where cattlemen auction off their cattle.

    As you can imagine, the smells are pretty pungent around this place, but if you've ever driven down Lee Boulevard in Lawton, you'll survive.

    Located at the front of the Hollis sale barn, there's a little coffee bar and cafe. The best time to go is when it's brutally cold. They usually have fresh-made hot cocoa on tap and you'll smell the atomized grease sailing on the winds of steam from the kitchen to the side entrances.

    The burger at the sale barn is ridiculously tasty.

    Admittedly, it's the same meat and bun as what you'll have at the Boomerang down the road in Hollis, but it's prepared differently in an almost equally delicious manner. Wrapped in a paper sleeve, grab it and go bid on a future side of beef.

  • 6

    Mutti's - Lawton, OK

    Before you fire off an email about how Mutti's isn't a hole-in-the-wall, I mean this as a term of endearment. While the looks are pure Germany on the outside, the dark, scantly-lit interior of Lawton's German restaurant is a cross between an average Silent Generation Moose Lodge and the country club from Dirty Dancing circa 1963...

    Grab a table, fill your stein, order yourself the sampler. Some of it tastes like bratwurst because it is bratwurst, other things taste like hotdogs because they are... or what they call frankfurters in Duecheland.

    The real standouts are the schnitzels... The regular old schnitzel with lemon is awesome, but the gravy-covered Rahm schnitzel is to die for. That legendary side of home fries potato thing is also as good as any desert.

    They have a stage and a dance floor there, so one might suppose they occasionally have live music. I haven't had that experience in the few times I've been, but a little polka with a solid meal sounds good to me.

  • 7

    Cocina De Mi Pueblo - Hobart, OK

    Don't be fooled by the old west bunkhouse and/or saloon looks from the road, Cocina De Mi Pueblo in Hobart, Oklahoma is home to some of the best Mexican food you'll find in Southwest Oklahoma.

    Whether you order up a combo plate of your preferred cuisine or visit when the buffet is full of the good stuff, you'll eat a meal that you'll brag about for a solid week or so afterward.

    The enchiladas are amazing. The tacos are massive. The beans and rice are good enough to be entrees. Even the catfish is so good, you'll start to say ridiculous things like "Catfish is life."

    Like any other amazing hole-in-the-wall restaurant, Cocino's won't put a hole in your wallet. Cheap, big servings, nice people, a solid eatery worth the drive.

  • 8

    Haystack - Willow, OK

    If you travel far enough into nowhere, you'll run across a sign for Willow, Oklahoma. It's the type of place that's so off the beaten path, Google Maps hasn't even driven through there... but they've got a secret amazing restaurant you'd love to know about.

    The place is technically called "The Haystack Diner," but when you hear anybody talk about it, it's affectionately referred to simply as "Haystack."

    "Where you going for lunch?" asked Eddie...

    "Haystack." replied Earl...

    Not only can you find another absolute banger of a burger in this little food joint, but you'll also find home-cooked classics like meatloaf as good as your grandma's, grilled cheese blackened to perfection, and the kind of chicken fried steak and thick peppered gravy every other restaurant quit serving a decade ago because "public health" and junk.

    Simply put, if you drive there, you will eat good. You'll also get to finally see why everybody says Southwest Oklahoma is beautiful.

     

  • 9

    Tacos N' Taters - Frederick, OK

    Believe it or not, Frederick, Oklahoma is home to some of the best tacos this far North of San Antonio... which is saying something, especially since Tacos N' Taters don't conform to the traditional makings of a good taco.

    Sure, there are spiced meats and all sorts of toppings... but they'll also throw fries and halved peppers in the mix. Looks weird, sounds weird, tastes amazing.

    TnT's has done to tacos what S&B Burger Joint did to burgers... You'd almost guess some of the concoctions were dreamt up by hungry stoners in their moment of munchies need...

    Want a taco burger? Done. An everything burrito? Got that too. Taco cheesesteak? Why the heck not!

    If they offer you free complimentary mini-pumpkins, don't fall for it. They're habaneros. Don't ask.

  • 10

    Mazzio's - Duncan, OK

    Taking a slight detour into what we call Real I-talian in this part of the country, there isn't a single pizza joint within two-hundred miles that can compete with Mazzio's... if you care to take that bet, the only other Mazzio's as good as the Duncan Mazzio's is in Pryor, OK 200 miles Northeast.

    What makes Mazzio's so good? A bunch of things. There's the quality of the ingredients, I assume... At least it tastes like quality to me. Then there's the old-school salad bar with the best ranch dressing on god's green earth.

    Holy.Smokes.It.Is.Good.

    Really, it's the Duncan location that really sets the bar high for hole-in-the-wall pizza. Between the Spanish tile, the natural wood paneling, and that classic sunroom to dine in, Mazzio's Duncan is just two arcade games shy of stepping back into the early 90s.

    Hand-tossed is a classic but the thin-crust is amazing. The sauce is good enough to eat with a spoon, but I'm always torn on toppings. Classic pepperoni is a pizza staple, but the regular sausage tastes like being a kid again.

  • 11

    Dry Beaver - Pumpkin Center, OK

    While most might assume a place called Dry Beaver Supper Club is upscale, it is and it ain't. The steak flight, mahi-mahi, and flounder say "fancy," but ultimately the atmosphere and menu are best categorized as redneck fine-dining.

    First off, the food is ridiculously good. The steaks have been awesome. The seafood tastes like you're on the coast. The various cajuning of dishes hit your discernable palate with a punch you'll sado-masochistically enjoy, asking for more.

    True, the intention was to fancy the interior up with real wood paneling and the kind of rural decor most would deem Southwest, but you'll sit at the same table in the same chairs every restaurant in the middle of nowhere has. It only adds to the character of your experience.

    Being out in Pumpkin Center, this one is closer to home... just make sure they're open before you hop out on the highway.

  • 12

    Smokin' Joe's - Rush Springs, OK

    What good hole-in-the-wall list of restaurants would be complete without at least one barbeque joint on it?

    The original Smokin' Joe's Rib Ranch has made a big name for itself over in Davis, Oklahoma... but you can get that same smokey goodness closer in Rush Springs.

    Just like the original, Smokin' Joe's Rush Springs looks the part of a hole-in-the-wall. It may be in a downtown shopping center, but it might as well be the woodshed your granpappy got switched behind back in the 40s. Inside, vintage oil and gas signs you'd love to have in your man cave hang from the ceiling, and you might as well accept that you're gonna smell like smoke for a few days.

    Besides the BBQ techniques and familiar flavors, Smokin' Joe's Rush Springs is as big on portions as the OG Rib Ranch in Davis. They don't serve food on plates, they serve it piled high on trays.

    Being so used to the tiny BBQ portions we're oppressed by in Lawton, I ordered a triple-meat combo on my visit. It fed me for the next two days.

    While the barbeque is delicious, I would recommend taking your own bottle of your preferred sauce. The Smokin' Joe's house sauce is OK, but there's only one true BBQ sauce in this world and it's called Head Country Hickory Smoke.

  • 13

    Allsup's - Frederick, OK

    If you're ever passing through Frederick on a late-night cruise, don't pass up the heavenly goodness that is the simple, humble, fried Allsup's burrito. It's easily as famous as Buc-ee's brisket or EZ-GO's cheddarwurst.

    I can't tell you how many cold, wintery late nights I've ended up at the Allsup's in Childress, Texas craving that famous burrito. I also made the mistake in thinking it was exclusively a Texas thing... Like Allsup's was the Texas version of Braum's... but to learn it's only an hours drive down to Frederick to stock up on the best burrito in Texas? Why aren't we teaching these kinds of facts in schools?

    Of course, you'll want to take advantage of a good deal and pick out a fountain drink and bag of Allsup's own chips for a quick-and-cheap $4.99 combo... but skip all that.

    In a world where you could fill up with a second Allsup's legendary burrito, don't pass it up for a bag of chips. Or just add a second burrito to your combo order. It all works out.

    I know you're probably raising an eyebrow at the sheer audacity that a gas station burrito could be one of life's best meals, but you can't comprehend until you've experienced that pure Allsup's burrito bliss.

  • 14

    Bill's Fish House - Waurika, OK

    If you love catfish you'll love Bill's Fish House - often simply called Bill's by locals and regulars. Located out on a two-lane highway between Waurika and the Red River, it's the kind of place you have to get lost before finding it on your own. Luckily, you've got me to tell you about it.

    Bill's keeps it simple as they have since 1962. On that first bite, there's a definite crunch through the battered and fried fish within. As your teeth sink deeper you find warm, buttery, flaky fish cooked to absolute perfection. You take a gamble and try the house-made tartar sauce, it's like an explosion of flavor as if you ate a sparkler. It travels across your tongue front to back.

    With any reputable basket of fish comes the standard chips as the Brits call them. French fries that are perfectly crispy on the outside, tender on the inside with a little bit of a chew. Perfection. The onion rings are also popular if you're into that sort of self-loathing "at least it's a vegetable" kind of way.

  • 15

    Mr. Burgerz - Carnegie, OK

    The last entry on this shortlist is another great place to get a dynamite burger.

    If you were to look up the definition of "hole-in-the-wall restaurant" in your parents' 1970's Encyclopedia Britannica, you'd likely see a picture of Mr. Burgerz up in Carnegie, Oklahoma. The place just looks like a tetanus shot. Galvanized steel nailed over what was probably once asbestos siding... It takes a trained eye to see the diamond in the rough at this place.

    But like any other place that has earned its place on this list, the food you can expect to feast on is second to none and totally worth the drive however far it may be.

    The pictures you'll see describing the food are somewhat misleading... They don't scale for actual size. You may clear a bacon double cheeseburger at every burger-hut you've tried before, that doesn't mean you can do it at Mr. Burgerz. You should still try, you'll love the taste of making yourself miserably full.

    Mr. Burgerz is also the home of probably the best fried pickles in America. Just enough batter-breading to stay intact while you grab at them with your greasy fingers, but not so much it buries the taste of those playful little pickles.

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