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TLO Restaurant Review: Cowpokes BBQ

There’s never any barbecue like small-town barbecue. Without any pretension and without any pomposity, they’re usually hidden away, doing their saucy thing without the caustic eyes of city-folk who, many times, often feel like their district-approved rib-joints are tops and will vocally—irritatingly—let them know.

More power to you, I guess.

It’s something I thought about many times and was reiterated to me last weekend when I stopped at Cowpokes BBQ, 1106 W. Main in Prague. With a country-friendly frontage featuring steel-cut cowboys and black metal cowgirls, leaning on and line-dancing all across the roof, welcomes the locals on a regular basis; on this day, I found myself doing the two-step right along with them.

The place was somewhat empty, with only a few patrons arguing about guns at a table in the middle of the restaurant. The server, a young kid that remarkably resembled Marc Almond from Soft Cell, showed my friend and me to our table, handing us two oversized cups of ice water and a laminated menu. To be fair though, I didn’t really need it, as their specialties were written on the windows for all to see: hand-pressed burgers and premises-smoked ribs.

Without looking, I told the server that I’ll take ‘em both.

However, for an appetizer, I decided on the Okie Chips ($6.99), if only for their homegrown name. The server brought them to us quickly, wrapped in a newspaper and ready to eat. Like no chip I’ve ever had, these monsters were sliced fried potatoes with cheddar cheese and bacon bits on them, like something that mom—or, in my case, dad—used to make on the regular.

Each slice was thick and hearty and, if I’m being honest, way too much for my simple city stomach. But that was alright, as I dipped each chip in the fancy ketchup, the melted cheese and the crumbly bacon making it an appetizer that had to be pushed away for the sake of the upcoming meal, the bell from the kitchen alerting the server to come and get them.

My friend had the aforementioned Cheeseburger ($7.59), hand-molded like nobody’s business, sided with a handful of curly fries. With a little mustard on the toasted bun—as well as the usual burger accouterments—I have to admit it had been quite a while since I’ve had one like this and I was more than happy to indulge.

Juices sprayed out with every subsequent bite, the pure beef grilled expertly, the slice of cheese delicately placed square in the middle. It was a real treat to have a sandwich like this, the fries a bonus of sorts. I’ll admit that, beyond my few bites, I could have eaten the whole thing if they were out of ribs which, luckily, they weren’t.

I was more than ready to take in my order, the day’s special: Baby Back Ribs ($8.49), with toast and a fully-loaded baked potato. Dipped in their fiery barbecue sauce—also homemade—these ribs were slide-off-the-bone—and don’t give me that tired warning that they’re not supposed to be—each sliver of meat giving me an “ooh-wee” response, the meat working incredibly well with the sauce.

So into the ribs, I almost forgot about the baked potato, a side item I seem to always miss out on; as I took forkful after forkful, I wondered why, the tuber creating the perfect add-on, along with the toast. Baked potatoes something that I feel never gets enough credit and it was a divine side, eating around half of it and saving the rest for later.

On the window, it said they had homemade pecan pies, by the way, and they meant it. Nothing beats a homemade pecan pie, with syrup drizzled across it, the flaky crust soaked. With every cut from my fork, still covered in potato residue, I beamed a satisfied smile, wholly content that I just had what I consider to be the perfect small-town meal, happy they’ll always exist in ways that the city just can’t beat. Cómpralo ya!


Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.

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