The smell of smoked meats wafts out into the parking lot as people open the door to Leo’s BBQ. An old gas station converted into a restaurant, Leo’s is as classic as it gets in Oklahoma. Started in 1974 by Leo Smith, the legacy continues today with Leo’s son, Charles Smith, who remembers helping out in the kitchen at age ten.
“My dad taught me to be consistent,” says Smith, chef at Leo’s BBQ. “What you do right, do it the same way,” he explains. “Never settle for less.”
A slow cooker of pinto beans and a dish of cucumber relish stand by to serve as appetizers for hungry guests as they wait on ribs, brisket, hot links, smoked chicken, and smoked bologna.
“The cucumber relish is my grandmother’s recipe,” Smith explains. “It’s refreshing. I like to have something ready right away, for hungry people. ‘Treat people like I want to be treated’ is what my dad taught me.”
Meat, served with a side of sweet baked beans or fried okra and a slice of white bread, makes for a delicious and filling lunch. Spare ribs at Leo’s BBQ have a special seasoning rubbed in before being smoked in hickory until they’re so tender the meat falls off the bone.
Made with a variety of hot peppers, Leo’s extra special recipe for their homemade hot barbecue sauce delivers an eye-opening, flavorful combination.
After finishing their plates of tender, delicious, juicy goodness, diners enjoy a slice of yellow cake, topped with fresh chunks of strawberry and banana. This sugary pleasure also comes with a center of warm banana, a light icing around the edges, and a drizzle of sugar icing on top, a comforting and smile-inducing ending to an authentic Oklahoma barbecue experience.
“It’s definitely a learned skill,” says Smith, “and I’m grateful I had the opportunity to keep the tradition alive. I’m glad to learn what I learned from my father and to have Leo’s BBQ around for others to continue to visit.”
Every customer leaves trailed by that fresh smoked meat smell at no extra charge.
> Leo’s BBQ, 3631 North Kelley Ave, OKC