American barbecue tends to be big food (the they-killed-a-cow-just-for-me kind of big food) and, when I think big food, what comes to mind is me, sitting in a restaurant, shoulders slumped, posture completely destroyed, feeling badly about having actually eaten everything.
This isn't true of the smoked baby back ribs at the Tulsa Rib Company in Orange, that (cliché alert) venerable war horse of an institution. I can finish a plate, feel really uncomfortable but still want more.
There's the unimpressive “fall off the bone' meat that every barbecue place claims to have,” and then there's the “if I don't eat this quickly enough, gravity is going to take the meat off the bones for me” quality that Tulsa just does so well.
Let me order for you: smoked baby back ribs with coleslaw and “Tulsa” potatoes. The corn bread, coleslaw and cream corn are fine but the real stars are the ribs and potatoes.
The Tulsa taters are wonderful: scalloped and fried hard so the outside is nice and crisp, but with an airy and fluffy interior. Brushed with an herb butter, they're perfect to dip in the extra barbecue sauce you get. The ribs? Each rack is the size of my forearms. This is the kind of food civilizations are based on.