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LEO'S BBQ: Southern Summer BBQ Love

Brandon King / Red Dirt Report
Ribs and chicken are slowly cooked in a smoker at Leo's BBQ.
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OKLAHOMA CITY- It’s 100 degrees in my car as I drive along the side streets of Oklahoma City. Various food chains are sitting side by side on the sweltering streets. People travel from one run-down store to the next in hopes to stay away from the stagnant Oklahoma air.

As my car comes to a stop at the light on the corner of Kelly and 36th, I see a white building with red roofing. With not too much to look at, I’m about to drive away until I see the small black sign hanging at the front of the building on the corner: "Leo’s BBQ. 424-LEOS."

Above the cursive black lettering of the L sits a golden crown insignia.

Just before I’m about to let my car roll down the road, the smell that comes wafting from the restaurant seeps into my car. And here I thought it was only Disney characters with pies that floated off the ground.

Hints of hickory and charcoal tinged the air as if to tease anyone close to Leo’s BBQ. Walking up the small metal ramp, I open the door and walk in.

What I discovered that day is what I can only describe as Heaven with BBQ sauce.

Turn your lamp down low. I beg you all night long, baby, please don’t go.”

The sounds of Muddy Waters came crackling over the speakers in each corner of the small eight tabled restaurant. Two men in their early 30’s and 40’s were working both the cash register and the kitchen.

Almost full on a Tuesday afternoon, the BBQ can be smelled all the way outside. (Brandon King / Red Dirt Report) 

With some friendly chatter, I sat down and began to look at the menu. Platters like full racks of ribs lined with brisket can be met with orders of chopped brisket sandwiches.

These meals don’t play around, folks.

If you’re not used to rolling up your sleeves and diving deep down to find your inner Neanderthal, I advise you come back when you’re ready.

As I’m sitting at the picnic style table, I glance over to the right of the joint and can see a thinly draped curtain. Pots and pans can be heard clanking off the metal wired shelves. Homemade cornbread comes out the oven while a fresh bowl of baked beans is being scooped by the ladle.


A look inside Leo's famous smoker full of ribs and chicken (left) while the finished products are carved for serving (right). (Brandon King / Red Dirt Report) 

A plate with 3 newly cut, heavily smoked ribs with sides of okra and beans were set in front of me. After the first bite, the aftermath of that meal can only be depicted on an old zombie flick or one of the shows on Shark Week.

When asked what would be to drink, I always try to ask what they have. Water, Iced Tea, Lemonade were all named but there was one that was listed. It would be mine. Oh yes, it would be mine.

The clear cup was set on the counter and I could see the blood red liquid wash over the tiny bits of ice.

It was the red Kool-aid that we all grew up with. And yes, they didn’t skimp out on the copious amounts of sugar the way that grandma used to make.

By the time the meal seemed to be over, my belt was the only thing to hold in my gut from busting out in public. In all honesty, it was a miracle that the remains of the animal I slaughtered didn’t get on my shirt.

The genuinely nice man came to the table with the menu clutched in his hand.

“Man, looks like you destroyed them ribs.” We laughed and then he asked if I wanted dessert.

“If you want to shovel my fat ass out this chair and roll me out to the car, then I’m good with that. Surprise me.” With that, he left.

He came back and held a small plate with a slice of yellow cake and glazed frosting. Off to the side sat a tiny pile of ripe sliced strawberries. What I didn’t know was that the name of the dessert definitely should live up to its reputation.

It was Leo’s World Famous Strawberry-Banana Cake.

Leo's World Famous Strawberry Banana Cake served weekly. (Brandon King / Red Dirt Report)

An hour and a half of my day had spent at Leo’s BBQ joint and not a minute of it was wasted. I went to the cashier and paid my tab. Sometime after was spent after discussing who was the better guitar player: Chuck Berry or Muddy Waters. It was time for me to go but all I wanted to do was go right back in.

After all, when you find a place that makes you feel like coming home, you never want to leave. 

Leo's BBQ
3631 N Kelley Ave
Oklahoma City, OK 73111
Phone: 405-424-5367

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About the Author

Brandon King

Brandon King is a journalism student at OCCC, working towards becoming a professional writer....

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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