STILLWATER — Football season means Pistol Pete will be in the spotlight. But when it comes to eating out, the biggest mascot in town is Eskimo Joe.
Eskimo Joe's, 501 W Elm, will be bulging with fans on game days, so while it will be one of the first places fans will look for a burger, there are plenty of other excellent options.
The lark of childhood friends Steve File and Stan Clark, Eskimo Joe's started as a bar with a funky mascot. Joe and his trusty dog, Buffy, were created by Bill Thompson for $35 in 1975. Thirteen years later, Clark took out a classified ad in Rolling Stone magazine for "Stillwater's Jumpin' Little Juke Joint," and suddenly people around the globe were sporting Eskimo Joe and Buffy.
More than two decades later, Eskimo Joe's has a clothing empire and two other restaurant concepts: Mexico Joe's and Joeseppi's.
Two decades before Eskimo Joe's, folks were visiting a hole in the wall called The Hideaway that specialized in a then-unique dish: pizza pie. While there are now 10 Hideaway locations in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas, the original Hideaway still operates independently at 230 S Knoblock in Stillwater, serving a myriad of pies but none more popular than the Special, which offers different toppings on each slice.
For Mexican food, The Oklahoman's sports staff swears by the food at El Vaquero, 5020 W Sixth Ave. Also, El Tapatio, 1711 N Boomer Road, has a loyal following. Bad Brad's Barbecue, 3317 E Sixth Ave., and Coney Island, 223 S Washington, also draw good crowds. But my two favorite spots are about as diametrically opposed as you could imagine.
The Ranchers Club, under the direction of chef Marc Dunham, is a beautiful Oklahoma restaurant that boasts locally raised, grass-fed beef. As steakcentric as the Ranchers Club is, what makes it unusual is the pasta. Chef Chris Becker came to Stillwater after manning the pasta operation at Mario Batali's Del Posto in New York City. Becker now makes a variety of pastas in-house daily. If you want to know what al dente is, visit the Ranchers Club. If you want to know how sauce and pasta are to be integrated, go to the Ranchers Club. If you want to be served by a kitchen that served dinner at the James Beard House in New York in July, go to the Ranchers Club. Chef Dunham has spent his three years building the restaurant inside Oklahoma State University's Atherton Hotel into one of the state's best restaurants, which is worth a trip to Stillwater whether or not the Cowboys win.
Like the pasta at Ranchers Club, the shabu-shabu dining at Tokyo Pot, 108 W 10, is unlike anything you're likely to find elsewhere in Oklahoma. Owner David Tjie and manager Dean Chen offer as much fun as flavor. Concrete tables are custom-formed to accommodate boiling pots of broth that diners use to shabu shabu (swish swish) wafer-thin raw meat slices through with chopsticks. It can be an intimate dining experience or a rowdy production — all at the diner's pace. Rice and vegetables round out your meal.