My wife Kay and I had some time to plan a trip to visit some family members in Northeast Oklahoma. We decided to take Highway 69 to Atoka to check out superstar Reba McEntire’s new restaurant and music venue in downtown Atoka. She partnered with the Choctaw Nation and the City of Atoka to help revitalize downtown and bring new jobs and business to the area where she grew up.
During a tour of the historic three-story brick Masonic Temple on September 14, 2021, Reba and several others were rescued from the building by the local fire and rescue team when a stairwell collapsed. The structure was built in 1915 and was listed on the National register of Historic Places in 1980. The building was reconstructed leaving the integrity of the building intact and exposing the open ceiling, floors and window casements.
The first floor hosts a reception area where you give your phone number and they will call you when a table is ready. We arrived on a weekday thinking there would be smaller crowds. It took forty minutes to be seated and thirty more to be served. The dining area was decorated neatly with county style elements of cowhide and copper panels, lariat rope dividers, rope drop lighting, and wooden doors mounted sideways for partitions of plush cushioned booths with privacy curtains. Open areas were filled with decorated tables surrounding a stage providing live acoustic music from young and up-and-coming artists. Displays of costumes, copies of gold and platinum record, photos, awards displays, and posters from Reba’s career can be seen on all three floors.
The second floor has addition seating and private rooms for parties and meetings and a balcony to watch the show below. The main kitchen is located in the back.
The third floor has of course, a mercantile store with memorabilia and fashions from Reba’s tour collection. A special library full of books from Reba’s mon, Jacki, who was a long-time teacher. It is a place where you can sit down, read a book, or have a drink while waiting to be seated, and have a conversation with other guests. It is said there is a secret door behind a book shelf that opens up to a hidden room.
The menu features items from her life in Oklahoma nd living on the road. Choctaw beef, smoked brisket, chops, Nashville hot chicken, Memphis style bologna and a selection of other sandwiches and burgers. Homemade soups, pot pies, and a variety of salads are also offered. Comfort food favorites are bens and cornbread, chicken, CFS, catfish, grilled salmon, shrimp, and street tacos. there are at least eight side orders to choose from. Jars filled with banana pudding, cobbler, and Reba’s favorite strawberry shortcake are popular deserts. A full bar plus tea and other beverages will wet your whistle, however, they don’t have hot tea which is my wife’s choice. She carries tea bags with her because we have found few places serving it anymore. The waitress graciously went down to the first-floor drink station to get her a cup of hot water for her tea.
Chef Kurtess Mortensen said the collaboration with Reba was smooth and easy on designing the menu. Mortensen previously ran the kitchen at Ree Dummond’s The Pioneeer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska.
This is a destination restaurant ,not a fast food joint. Prices run from moderate to expensive. You can order a $150 tomahawk chop that feeds two or three hungry patrons. I chose the Choctaw Beef Brisket Burnt Ends from the appetizer list at $18. The cubes of smoked meat were drenched in a sauce that the menu described as spicy. I’m from Texas so the sauce surprised me. It was as sweet as cherry cola turning it into meat candy. The cubes of beef were half beef and half fat cap (Hey, it’s brisket). The plate also came with pickled vegetables of cucumbers (pickles), carrots, and okra that helped balance out the sweet sauce. A generous cornbread with cheddar and jalapeno loaf was served split and toasted and complemented the meal. For an appetizer, I found it to be ample enough for a full meal. I would order it again asking to have the sauce on the side to use as a dip for the bread loaf. During our wait servers delivered a basket of assorted breads and muffins that came with bourbon butter with a light dusting of sea salt and lemon butter with a sprinkle of lemon zest. Our water mugs (not glasses), coffee, and hot water for tea were kept filled. My wife enjoyed her Gem Lettuce & Baby Vegetable Salad with grilled chicken.
All in all, if we are ever in the area again, we would stop by to eat another great meal. By then the crowds will be small, but I wouldn’t count on it for the foreseeable future.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could find a celebrity to buy downtown Graford and make it a destination venue on the way to Possum Kingdom?