Back Door Barbecue
Think back to when you were a kid, watching cookies rise in the oven. The minutes lasted hours while you were waiting for them to bake, and even more excruciatingly, waiting for them to cool. That anticipation turned them into the best cookies of all time, every time.
Anticipation works like that, and good barbecue is the apex of food anticipation. As my mouth watered over the smoky smells coming from the kitchen of Back Door Barbecue, owner Kathryn Mathis reinforced the lesson that good things definitely come to those who wait, and added to it that with barbecue in particular, low and slow is the key.
Restaurant Name: Back Door Barbecue
Your Name: Kathryn Mathis
Where can we drop in and try out Back Door Barbecue?
315 NW 23rd Street, Oklahoma City
When did you start your business?
How did your business get its name?
Since our parking lot is behind the restaurant, our back door is really our main entrance. We wanted to let people know that from the name.
I lived in Austin for fifteen years and had some really good experiences eating some great barbecue. My business partner, Chris Lower, and I were having lunch one day and we decided that Oklahoma City needed to have a Texas Hill Country style barbecue restaurant. We took a trip to Austin with a side trip to Lockhart (considered the barbecue capital of Texas), got some great ideas, and developed our standards for what we wanted to do. A great space became available down the street from Big Truck and we decided to jump in.
Where did your love of cooking stem from?
I’ve loved cooking since I can remember. As a kid I watched Julia Child and I knew that was what I wanted to do. I cooked with my mom all the time. I started working in the food industry at 21 and never stopped. I worked for Chris for about five years, then went to Austin and worked as a private chef until I came back to Oklahoma City and started Big Truck Tacos because I missed breakfast tacos.
Why did you come back to Oklahoma City?
I grew up in the Panhandle, so I wanted to be closer to my family. I still had friends in the industry in Oklahoma City so it seemed like a good fit.
What do you think is the key to good barbecue?
You have to have the smoke – it’s the essence of barbecue. Learning how long to put something on the smoker is key. Finding a good rub is important. We don’t use a whole lot of barbecue sauce, but it is also essential. We have six different sauces that we offer and they all bring something special.
What are your sauces?
Classic, Sweet, Mustard, Espresso, Hot, and XXX-Hot
What is your favorite?
The XXX-Hot and Espresso, but the Mustard too. But that’s hard. It’s kind of like asking a mother who her favorite kid is.
Do you ever smoke anything other than the traditional meats?
We’ve always played around with “if you can eat it, we can smoke it.” So we try to bring something unique. We have done duck, goat, lamb, alligator, rabbit, and shrimp. We smoke the salmon for Pizzeria Gusto also.
Any that were surprisingly good or bad?
They were all delicious—the lamb and goat really stood out. Some of our friends from Louisiana raved about the alligator. Duck is probably my favorite.
If you were to put together a perfect barbecue meal, what would that include?
Sausage, fatty brisket, and nice ribs with some potato salad, corn, and beans. Our Granddad’s Platter is a little bit of everything. We wanted to make sure our sides could stand on their own, so they are as excellent as the meat.
What is your favorite item on the menu?
Fatty Brisket. I love the burnt ends too, when we have them.
How did you develop your menu?
We wanted it to be uniquely Oklahoma, and the recipes are chef driven—not your normal cookie cutter menu. We wanted to do something that was a little different. Our potato salad has bacon in it. For our cheeseburger, we smoke pork belly as well as the cheddar cheese, and then slice it.
What drives your food concept?
I cook what I like. You have to like what you’re serving, and there isn’t anything on the menu that I don’t like. Sometimes I go in and just get a salad with smoked turkey. We even do smoked portabellas and tomatoes for vegetarians, and that’s great too. We want a group of people to be able to come together, and there is something for everyone.
What aspects of Oklahoma City do you think are best for having a restaurant?
Oklahomans really like their food. There is a growing population of people from outside the state moving in, and the restaurant industry is diversifying a lot since I’ve been back. The people are great. Oklahoma City is really coming into its own in the food business. It is an exciting time for us. And people are willing to go out and try new foods.
In what ways do you wish to see Oklahoma City grow, and which aspects do you hope never change?
I hope it never changes that we are good, kind-hearted, hard-working people. I hear from so many people who move or visit here that Oklahoma people are so nice. I hope that never changes. I think we are already growing and stretching and I’d like to see that continue. As people move to the state and travel around, I hope that we continue to be inspired by other places and not be afraid.
Do you have any tips for us and our home barbecuing?
Low and slow. Low and slow. That’s what barbecue is all about. Just be patient and let that brisket cook for fourteen hours at around 200-220 degrees. And don’t forget to salt and pepper. That’s all we put on our brisket—kind of a Texas thing.
What do you feel is the best part of your restaurant?
We are a small restaurant, and we love what we do. We are always trying to come up with something new. We love our people. Our pit master, Kenny Talley, has been with us for seven years, and he loves what he does. We have passion and it shows in our food.
Thanks for making our city more delicious, Kathryn!