Lots of good people have come from Oklahoma. Baseball players Johnny Bench and Mickey Mantle. Actor and director Ron Howard. Olympic gymnast Shannon Miller. Actor Brad Pitt. Basketball player Blake Griffin. Actor Chuck Norris. Singer and performer Kristin Chenoweth. Astronaut Shannon Lucid, and Humorist Will Rogers. Not to mention Reba, Carrie, Garth, Vince, Toby, & Blake! But in the world of the internet, perhaps there's no bigger jewel in Oklahoma's crown than Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman!
The Pioneer Woman was the very first blog I started reading about 8 years ago. Our local paper did a story on her when she was coming out with her first cookbook, and after checking out her blog, just like many other people, I was quickly hooked. Reading about a ranch family's life in the (familiar) country is fascinating, not to mention my appreciation of Ree's sense of humor, devotion to her friends and family, stunning photography, and the mouth-watering recipes that she shares.
The Pioneer Woman Mercantile (The Merc as Ree calls it) is in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, about two hours northeast of Oklahoma City, or one hour northwest of Tulsa.
It is a combination restaurant, deli, bakery, and retail store. It opened a few months ago, around the first of November. With the busy-ness of the holidays approaching, then the kids being out of school, then missing two Fridays once they were back due to bad weather, last Friday (Ray's day off) was our first chance to take a little road trip while they were at school and head up to check it out. I took LOTS of pictures so you can take in every detail, so get ready for a photo heavy post!
Ree's family purchased the historic, over 100 year old building that is now The Mercantile 5 years ago (read her post about it and see all of the "before" photos here), and has worked to restore it and bring it back to it's original beauty.
We started in the restaurant for lunch, and came off of our low carb diet for the day, so everything we ate was brown. And it was totally ooey gooey scrumptious and worth it!! We shared the spinach dip, I ordered the grilled cheese and Ray ordered the fried chicken sandwich. Everything was very tasty, and we brought a good amount of the homemade potato chips home with us... they are super crunchy, perfectly salted, and totally addictive!
MAJOR heart eyes for that original painting on the brick wall, the engraved wood wall, the green counter, and the handsome guy!
The patriarch of the family, Chuck (in the denim shirt below), stopped in just as we were getting to the front of the restaurant line for lunch. Ray spotted him as he visited with one of the hosts, laid his jacket and hat across a stool at a high-top table, then sat down and ate his order of chicken strips. :) I REALLY wanted Ray to say hi to him so I could get a pic of them together and visit for a moment, but he kindly restrained himself and let the man be. I can only imagine what he thinks about the hysteria that The Merc has brought to his home town! (I'm sure they're all good thoughts, the Pawhuska economy probably doesn't know what hit it!)
The dishes and serving ware are to die for!
The gift wrap counter with the sweetest wrapping paper choices-
An example of Ree's sense of humor... Marie Antoinette salt and pepper shakers. Off with her head! The two pieces are magnetic, the head holds salt and the body holds pepper.
One thing that stood out to me on our visit was the details. It was apparent that every little thing was well thought out at the Merc. This place was ripped down to the bare bones, except for leaving some of the early original features like the brick walls, tin ceilings, and wood floors, and completely rebuilt. The "doggie bag" containers aren't just a styrofoam box, they're cute little cardboard boxes and tin trays with a lid. The employees are separated and identified by color coded shirts- black and white gingham for the host/hostesses, red gingham for the restaurant servers, denim for the cooks/baristas, and black for the retail shop workers. And it might sound silly, but I was even impressed that there were candles lit on the bathroom counter and normal tp holders with real toilet paper (instead of the industrial size dispensers and tissue thin rolls). With the amount of people that visit the Merc each day, they must go through A LOT of toilet paper rolls! And HOW CUTE IS THIS BATHROOM???
Here are a few things to consider if you'd like to visit the Merc some day:
*The Mercantile is THE destination for the day! Don't be in a hurry and don't expect to walk right in and be served. If you do eat in the restaurant, it's easy to spend 3-4 hours by the time you wait, eat, then shop and take in the rest of the building.
*I heard it through the grapevine that parking isn't really an issue, there's plenty around the Merc in the surrounding downtown area, but DON'T SPEED while you're in town! The police officers have an eagle eye out on the speed limits!
*Weekends, work holidays, and days around the holidays are definitely busier than normal weekdays. However, even at that, expect for there still to be a crowd any time you come. We arrived on a Friday morning about 10:45, got in line for the restaurant right away, and waited about an hour until we were seated for lunch. Larger groups may have a longer wait time, and wait times on the weekends are closer to 2 hours. The earlier in the day you can arrive, the better. The wait will be much shorter for breakfast.
*Speaking of waiting, our hostess encouraged me to let you all know that you WILL be standing in lines for long periods of time, outside, so dress accordingly. Be prepared for the cold and the wind, and although you might be tempted to wear cute (uncomfortable) heels/shoes for that photo you're hoping to get with Ree, that's probably not the best choice for all of the standing and walking you'll be doing around the Merc.
*There is a deli/take out counter and bakery with counter service if you want to sample some things without waiting for and being seated at a table, but even those lines can get backed up at peak times.
*One last bit of advice, don't expect to see Ree. I have several friends who have visited and happened to catch her there when they went, but in reality she is not there very often (and she's definitely not back in the kitchen cooking for everyone, as our hostess laughed and told us that's what a few people expected... ha!). It might not be too uncommon to catch other members of the Drummond family there who stop in fairly often. They generally are happy to visit with and take pictures with visitors.
If you visit The Merc and have some extra time around town, be sure to check out the list of nearby attractions while you're in the area. I snapped this photo just as we were leaving town. Even with the dead winter grasses, the land is stunning!
If you're not familiar with Ree's books, they're great! I have several of her cookbooks and it's always fun to try a new recipe from them.
So.... do you read The Pioneer Woman? Do you have one of her cookbooks? What's your favorite PW recipe (mine is the cinnamon rolls!)? Come see us in Oklahoma sometime and visit The Merc! And, check out some of my other favorite spots to visit in Oklahoma here.