- Jacob Threadgill
- Chicken wings with a side of grilled asparagus
The Krow’s Nest BBQ & Catering
1715 NW 16th St.
What works: The smoked burger and pulled pork melt in your mouth.
What needs work: The wings are fried, not smoked.
Tip:Vegetarian options expand on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Saints, 1715 NW 16th St., was on the forefront of 16th Street Plaza District’s resurgence, opening in 2010 before the neighborhood became an Oklahoma City hotspot.
When the pub closed its kitchen last year, pitmaster Krowshin Blest jumped at the opportunity to expand his burgeoning business, The Krow’s Nest BBQ & Catering, in a permanent home.
After a two-week trial period, The Krow’s Nest became Saints’ food purveyor on Halloween 2018.
“I didn’t have any hopes or dreams to own a restaurant,” Blest said. “It kind of fell in my lap.”
Blest started as an amateur meat smoker just a few years ago merely out of a desire to cook for himself. Encouragement from his father and a close friend led him to look for catering clients as a side job while he worked a corporate logistical job with Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
He got a break with a few catering jobs and then got picked up by a local real estate firm that hired him to provide food anytime they held an open house. I’ve heard of using a freshly baked cookie smell to sell a house, but I’d have a hard time resisting starting a mortgage if I smelled and tasted barbecue as good as Blest and his staff are turning out.
As owner-operator at The Krow’s Nest, Blest is more than happy to defer to more experienced cooks in his kitchen for developing menu items, which lean into nontraditional combinations on sandwiches, and pork ribs use both dry rubs and sauces.
“We have a running joke that we have crossroads barbecue,” Blest said. “Crows collect different trinkets and bring it back to their nest, and that’s kind of how we do our barbecue because we’re not Texas, Kansas or Missouri. We’re Oklahoma because no one can tell us no.”
Brisket, pulled pork, chicken and three types of smoked sausage are available by the cut, but sandwiches are piled high with a variety of meats on Farrell Family Bread buns. The Diamond Jack ($15) tops brisket with rib meat, cheddar-jack cheese and apple bourbon sauce. The Slag-A-Thore ($11) tops a hot link with its house sauce and seven-cheese macaroni and cheese. The El Chupa Nibre ($12) is a seven-layer pork bowl with beans, cornbread, mac and cheese, spiced pork, more cheese, house sauce and french fries.
I tried the Frank-n-Bill ($12), which tops a smoked Angus patty with pulled pork or hot links. I went with the pulled pork and was impressed with the quality and texture of the pork. It had crispy edges but melted in my mouth, and it wasn’t smoked and then mixed with an overly sweet sauce. The customer adds sauce to the sandwich as needed.
I have long felt that there is a void of smoked hamburgers in the city. I’m delighted to find one on the menu at The Krow’s Nest. I stumbled on the concoction at home last year, and it felt like discovering a secret. It is now my favorite way to cook a burger, and more barbecue places should have it on their menu. Smoke the beef until the internal temperature hits 155 degrees Fahrenheit and then sear it on a cast-iron skillet for some extra flavor. You can smoke onions or cold-smoke cheese, as well.
The seven-cheese macaroni is very interesting. It might not be for everyone, but it’s creamy and has smoky and spicy notes.
On Wednesdays, The Krow’s Nest offers 12 chicken wings for $10. I tried them with a side of asparagus and maple butter barbecue sauce. I was surprised that the wings are fried, not smoked, but the waitress explained that it’s a logistical concern. The smoked wings take time, which makes sense if you don’t know how many wings you will be selling. The fried variety had a lot of flavor in the breading, and the sauce used the maple to enhance some sweetness.
On the surface, The Krow’s Nest looks to be a restaurant for overindulgent meat eaters, but there is much more nuance. It offers cucumber salad, green beans and grilled asparagus as sides. It smokes tofu and eggplant for sliders and offers cauliflower wings and two vegetarian salads. It has expanded vegan and vegetarian options, which includes a vegan chili that Blest is fond of, on Tuesdays and Thursdays when an additional chef joins the kitchen.
“You shouldn’t have to choose between your place and your friends’ place when you’re trying to sit down to have a meal,” Blest said.
The vegetarian side of the restaurant builds on Blest’s other business, Smokehouse Nutrition, a meal prep service that offers customizable ready-to-eat meals that feature grilled meats and vegetables among other items like cooked poke bowls.
- Jacob Threadgill
- The Frank-N-Bill sandwich with smoked Angus burger topped with pulled pork and a side of seven-cheese mac
“I started looking for vegetarian meal prep services in the city, but all of the reviews said the same thing, that they were bland and boring,” Blest said. “You’re not going to stick with it if that’s the case.”
Smokehouse Nutrition offers discounts on its meals if customers bring in nonperishable “junk” food items that they will donate to a local food pantry or The Homeless Alliance.
“Everyone has the same excuse of, ‘Oh, I’m going to finish these Pop-Tarts or chimichangas and then I’m going to eat well,’” Blest said.
Even with over-the-top food challenges, Blest is focused on helping the less fortunate. The Krow’s Nest offers three challenges: two spicy challenges that cost $45 and $55 and a $65 giant meat sandwich with nine selection of meat and nine cheeses.
“We don’t make anything from the challenges,” Blest said. “If you win, you get the $45, $55 or $65 and then I’ll donate that amount to one of three [food-insecurity] organizations. If you lose, that money goes to the organizations. We’re trying to become a staple in the community because a lot of businesses, in general, only think about what they can do to line their pockets.”
With a blend of indulgent items and thoughtful vegetarian items, The Krow’s Nest is not your typical corporate barbecue environment; it has a lot of soul and feels right at home inside one of the first establishments to usher in the current era of the Plaza District.
“I want people to feel like they’re watching the favorite episode of their favorite show every time you walk into Krow’s Nest because you know what you’re going to get and it’s going to be fucking fantastic. It’s how food should make you feel,” Blest said. “You should come in, leave happy and be ready to take a nap.”