Swadley’s Bar-B-Q–Bethany, OK

Swadley’s Bar-B-Q
4000 N. Rockwell Ave.
Bethany, OK
(405) 470-4343
Swadley's BBQ

Swadley’s in Bethany a half block south of Route 66


It seems that there are enough versions of barbecue in Oklahoma that one person can never try all of them, but a few restaurants have become particularly popular such as Swadley’s Bar-B-Q. With the original location in the west Oklahoma City suburb of Bethany, Swadley’s moved from NW 23rd & Council to NW 39th Expressway & Rockwell and has established several branches throughout the metro. It seems that the family’s 80 years of experience in the food industry is paying off (Swadley’s celebrated its 20 year anniversary as a restaurant in 2018).

I really dislike restaurants that answer “everything” when you ask “what is especially good here?” or “what is the restaurant’s specialty?”. The employees at Swadley’s told me “ribs,” and I would agree that this is usually the best item. I have found several varieties of meat that are worthy substitutes, though, and for most occasions I think I actually like them better. In this respect Swadley’s is among a handful of barbecue restaurants in the city that offer such a variety of good choices.

In need to make a couple of comments about Swadley’s at the outset. One is that I have found the quality to be inconsistent over the time I have been coming, and this is undoubtedly what has caused many reviewers and commenters to largely dismiss the barbecue here as not being representative of Oklahoma’s best. I will say that I understand this sentiment, but I have found the quality to be much more consistent in the last couple of years (as of this writing in 2019). Some of my friends and relatives from out of town have come here and found it outstanding, as have I. It still has some weak points, but I have not found inconsistent quality to be one of them on the last several visits.

Another major point is that the side dishes have always been a major factor in my desire to come here versus other choices that might be available. For a while this was inconsistent as well, although the Memorial Road restaurant seemed to keep the consistency while it was lacking at the Bethany location. Now, though, I consider this problem to be “fixed” as well, at least in my experience. No place is perfect, but it is always better to have an upward trajectory, as I believe this one has.

The Barbecue

Rib dinner

Small order of ribs

Swadley’s menu describes the Ribs as “Hand Rubbed Honey Rib Dinners,” and I thought the flavor was one of the best I had tried. Three types of sauce were available, but before applying any of them I tried the “eating the meat plain” test to see if the flavor was worthy of standing on its own, and it passed with flying colors. I thought it had just the right amount of smoke flavor, but it seems that everyone has their own preference, so this is just my opinion. The meat left a smoky aftertaste in my mouth after the meal was finished, but did not overwhelm the other flavors while I was eating the food.

The really important factor of the ribs, though, was the tenderness of the meat (and this is even more of a factor now that my teeth are no longer in the best shape). This is the one thing I most often find lacking in ribs, especially in other parts of the country (but sometimes even in Oklahoma). I would have to judge Swadley’s ribs as being just about perfect in every way, although this does not mean I could not find others (especially in Oklahoma) that are as good or better.

Ribs. sausage, and brisket

Three meat dinner with ribs, sausage, and brisket

Brisket is probably the next most popular item at Swadley’s. This meat is “24 Hour Sugar Cured” and while it is not meat that will fall apart when touched by a fork, it has the kind of barbecue flavor that would be expected in a good Oklahoma “Q” restaurant. The brisket, though, has shown the greatest variability of any item over the times I have tried it, ranging from moist to dry. This, along with the hot links, has been my biggest disappointment at Swadley’s.

One way to try different types of meat at Swadleys’s is by ordering the “2 Meat” or “3 Meat” dinners (as shown in the photo above). One surprise for me was that Swadley’s has excellent Turkey, which I tried on one of the plates. In this case I thought Swadley’s was better than most other BBQ restaurants that serve turkey. When ordering turkey I do not like too much smoky taste, and I thought Swadley’s was just right, as well as having very good meat.

Sausage was one of the choices on the 3 Meat dinner shown in the photo (and is barely visible under the ribs). This choice was not very exciting, not because there was anything wrong with it, but because I prefer the sausage at the German and other specialty restaurants.

Sampler plate

Sampler plate with turkey, sausage, brisket, hot links, ribs, and pulled pork

Take out orders are quite popular at Swadley’s, and one that offers a large variety of meats is the sampler plate with six items (shown in the photo above). The Pulled Pork, which I tried for the first time with this order, was cooked well with burnt ends, and I thought was excellent. The turkey was as good as it had been the first time I tried it. The Hot Links seemed too spicy to me, and I thought were not as enjoyable as the sausage.

Pulled pork and chicken

Two meat plate with pulled pork and chicken

For a while I had a turkey fixation that seems to have kept me from trying the Chicken, but now the chicken is an almost constant part of any two or three meat dinner because of its excellent flavor.

Pulled Pork has become another one of my “top three” choices (along with chicken and ribs), although unlike the others I think it is really only good with the sauce.

I have not cared for the Sauce as much as at some other restaurants, but there are several varieties so most people can find something to their taste. I think some of the sauces are way too sweet, but the thick and juicy sauce is really pretty good. Best of all, though, is the fact that none of the sauces seem to contain MSG (and I have had enough experience with the sauces that I should know by now if they did).

They provide several types of pickles and other condiments to make sure you have the full Oklahoma barbecue experience.

Side Dishes
Swadley’s serves an array of side dishes which makes it difficult to try them all, and I think this is another of the restaurant’s best features. Baked Beans come in two styles– sweet or hot (I was told the hot one was really hot with jalapenos included, but it was not any spicier than most Mexican food). The sweet baked beans were initially sweet for my taste, but now it has become one of my “go to” side dishes (although I really think the ones at Billy Sims are better).

The Okra was extremely non-greasy compared to most versions, and I think is one of the best choices for a side dish (but it needs to be eaten right away and would not make a good take-home dish).

The Green Beans seemed bland to me at first but now have become a consistent favorite of mine (and bland is good compared to the things some restaurants do to their green beans).

The Potato Salad looks as if it is mostly mayonnaise, but it has a good blend of flavors that makes it better than it looks.

Corn on the Cob was cooked just right, and I thought was very good.

The Cole Slaw either comes with chunky pieces of cabbage and a very good dressing (this is something that I think has become more consistently good over the past ten years or so).

Other Items
The Iced Tea is especially good, with both sweetened and unsweetened available (at one time I saw that they used Luzianne–I do not know the current brand but it is still good).

The restaurant recently switched from Texas toast to a roll on the dinner plates. I liked the Texas toast better, but the current roll is still a good feature to help round out the meal.

Turkey sandwich

Turkey sandwich

The owner pointed out on one visit that sandwiches are popular at lunch, and this may be a way for people with a light appetite to enjoy the food here (the sampler plate and some other combination plates seem clearly designed for families rather than individuals).

Ice cream machine

Free ice cream is available from the machine

A free Ice Cream Cone machine is also available. Even though this type of ice cream from a machine is not the best, I really enjoy it as part of the tradition of eating at Swadley’s. My biggest complaint is that I always have to ask the staff which side of the machine is vanilla and which is chocolate (I like the vanilla).

Chocolate cake

Chocolate cake

Occasionally a person may prefer one of the regular desserts, such as chocolate or strawberry cake. Out of the two I think the chocolate is a little better, although both are good choice.

A Summary
Overall I think I like the meals here better than the individual parts of it, simply because there is so much selection and all of it is good. I don’t have proof of this, but it also seems that the servings are larger here than at other places (for the same amount of money). This is good Oklahoma barbecue, about which I really have no complaints.


RATING: 24

Cuisine: Barbecue
Cost: $$
Hours: Closed Sun.
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: No
Additional Locations: 8317 S. Western Ave. (OKC), 2233 W. Memorial Rd. (OKC), 308 E. Hwy. 152 (Mustang), 1629 E. OK-66 (El Reno)

Most Recent Visit: Jan. 10, 2019
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Ribs, Pulled Pork, Chicken, Okra, Green Beans, Cole Slaw, Potato Salad, Chocolate Cake

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Pork Ribs
star 5 Pulled Pork
star 5 Chicken
star 5 Turkey
star 4 Brisket
star 4 Hot Links
star 4 Sausage
star 5 Potato Salad
star 5 Cole Slaw
star 5 Green Beans
star 5 Okra
star 5 Sweet Beans
star 4 Spicy Beans
star 4 Mac and Cheese
star 5 Chocolate Cake
star 5 Strawberry Cake

Charm Thai–Warr Acres, OK

Charm Thai
5805 N. W. 50th St.
Oklahoma City, OK
(405) 792-2153
Charm Thai

Charm Thai


Charm Thai Cuisine may very well be the best Thai restaurant in the Oklahoma City area. There are certainly some worthy competitors, and other restaurants I have not tried, but I have yet to find anything at Charm Thai that I can really say is disappointing.

At the beginning of 2013 Charm Thai had a change of ownership, and I think the new owners have made a good restaurant even better. Some of the dishes reviewed here were from the “old” restaurant, and I will make note of this, but my opinion is that there was not a drastic change in the restaurant after the ownership change. I think some of the more Americanized dishes were eliminated in 2013, although for the most part I did not notice much change in the items served or the flavors. Most notably there was a dish called pad preaw wan (sweet and sour) which I can no longer find on the menu that might be called a more Americanized dish (but if it is in fact a Thai dish, it is one which the new owners apparently have chosen not to offer).

Charm Thai's dining room

Charm Thai’s dining room

This is a small restaurant that I have seen crowded but never so full that the tables are completely occupied. I expect occasional waits at “mom and pop” restaurants, though, as the tradeoff for the type of home style food they prepare.

Lunch Specials
Lunch specials on Monday through Friday are a “Lunch Combo Menu” which has the same five choices for an entree selection every day (pad thai, spicy basil, vegetables, cashew, or ginger). The type of curry served with it is different every day, and the choice of dumpling or spring roll also changes. You also get a complementary bowl of soup as an appetizer. I generally think the lunches are a very good deal, although it is not as much a matter of saving much money as it is that you get a variety of different items.

Vegetable soup on the lunch special

Vegetable soup and Thai tea

The Vegetable Soup served with the lunch combos is probably my favorite because of its sour flavor component that makes is somewhat like hot and sour soup but without the “hot” part.

Chicken soup

Chicken soup

Chicken Soup is another of the ones served with the lunch combo. This one was good because of the mushrooms that were included.

Pad thai and yellow curry on lunch special

Lunch special with pad thai and yellow curry

Yellow Curry is probably my favorite of the curries served here, and it is included in the lunch combo on Fridays. Surprisingly the curry was less spicy than the soup served on this day (chicken soup) but none of the food served for lunch is “Thai spicy,” and you do not seem to get a choice about how spicy they prepare the lunches (this would be different if you ordered from the regular menu).

The main item (pad thai) is totally optional, and is one of the five entree selections that are available. In addition you can choose the default chicken or get tofu, beef, or shrimp for an extra charge.

I generally consider that Tana Thai has the best Pad Thai in town, and I made a note that the one at Charm Thai was sweeter and had a more complex flavor. This is both good (the complex flavor) and bad (the sweeter flavor) so I am not sure which one is actually better, but I am sure that I like them both.

Ginger chicken and red curry on lunch special

Lunch special with ginger chicken and red curry

The Ginger Chicken for lunch is much like the ginger stir-fry from the regular menu except that it comes non-spicy by default. Chicken is also the default although you can get it with other meats or no meat (tofu) for an extra charge.

Regular Menu

Ginger stir fry with tofu

Ginger stir fry with tofu

The Ginger Stir Fry (pad khing) is always one of my favorite dishes, and the one here lived up to my expectations. The sauce was flavorful and it had a good balance of flavors. The biggest negative of the dish is the vegetables that are included, although it does have some good mushrooms. I would say go ahead and order it–the tofu or meat that comes with it will make it satisfying.

I also prefer the dinner over the lunch version because I can choose a higher spice level (although the time I ordered it for lunch I did not ask if the spice level can be adjusted).

Pad prik khing

Pad prik khing

To me an even better dish is the Pad Prik Khing, usually my yardstick for measuring the food at Thai restaurants. In this case it was very good, with the green beans being fresh and crunchy (and there were a lot of them). The curry paste (curry without the coconut milk) was very flavorful, and this dish definitely had everything I expected.

Curry delight

Curry delight

Curry Delight was a dish from before 2013 that I enjoyed, but not so much that I was disappointed to see it dropped from the menu. It was high in flavor, but I am not sure what type of curry was used (and the current menu has several types of curry).

Sweet and sour

Pad preaw wan (sweet and sour)

Pad Preaw Wan was a Thai style sweet and sour dish from the old menu, and contained both of these flavors (as opposed to the more common sauces which are just sweet). I am not sure whether or not a similar dish is available at present.

Green tea ice cream

Green tea ice cream

Green Tea Ice Cream makes a good aftercourse to a spicy meal, or just a better than average dish of ice cream.

Some Cons and (Mostly) Pros
The menu at Charm Thai is fairly limited, which would be a negative except for the fact that I can always find something I like. The restaurant is small, but I have never been left to wait for a table to become available. Some dishes have smaller than average portion sizes, but this corrects a major flaw I find at many restaurants where they serve oversized plates (and at Charm Thai you might want to order extra rice if the dinners are not filling enough).

My favorite Thai dishes are usually ginger stir-fry and pad prik khing, and at Charm Thai these are both excellent (and perhaps the best in the city).

The restaurant always asks me to choose my own spice level on the dinners. This is probably a positive because the lunches (which have the default level) are mostly not spicy enough for my taste. It is definitely a positive that when I order a certain spice level the food comes out very close to what I had expected.

Of course the main reason to come here is the excellent flavor of the food. I think other Thai restaurants deliver quality food as well, but few are as consistent with all items on the menu as Charm Thai.

The food here is also free from MSG, which contradicts the notion that it should be added as a flavor enhancer (I do not know how the food could be much more flavorful than it is at Charm Thai).


RATING: 25

Cuisine: Thai
Cost: $$
Hours: Closed Sun.
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking

Most Recent Visit: Sep. 19, 2018
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Pad Prik Khing, Ginger Stir Fry, Yellow Curry, Thai Tea

 

Asian Food Details

Tea: Thai Tea
MSG: No
Buffet: No

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Pad Prik Khing
star 5 Ginger Stir Fry
star 5 Pad Thai
star 5 Yellow Curry
star 5 Red Curry
star 5 Vegetable Soup (on the lunch combo)
star 5 Chicken Soup (on the lunch combo)
star 5 Green Tea Ice Cream
star 5 Thai Tea

 

Menu (Sep. 2018):

Hideaway Pizza (Memorial Rd.)–Oklahoma City, OK

Hideaway Pizza
5950 W. Memorial Rd.
Oklahoma City, OK
(405) 470-4777
Hideaway on Memorial

Hideaway on Memorial Rd.


Hideaway Pizza is continually adding locations throughout Oklahoma, and it is hard to keep up with how many there are. I think there is good reason for its popularity, especially because of its famous “Hideaway Red” sauce, a sauce that no other pizza chain seems to be able to match. I was wondering why the original location in Stillwater was not listed, and I learned that they sold the franchise to the company that operates the other restaurants, which are collectively known as “Hideaway Number 2.”

“Hideaway No. 2” seems to fit firmly into the category of “chaindom” with its ever-growing number of locations. I think this sometimes involves some negatives, such as the way they changed the menu in 2015, deleting a number of items. This was probably done for efficiency in operating all of their restaurants, but it has had a negative effect on my experience here. For instance, I did not realize the menu had been changed and I accidentally ordered the wrong margherita pizza, not knowing that the one I usually ordered (the “Old World”) had been deleted from the menu.

They told me after the fact that if you want to order one of the “old” pizzas you can do so, but this requires knowing what they are. It turns out, though, that this only applies to the toppings. The margherita does not have the same kind of cheese as before, and ordering the old version only means that it will have red sauce (although admittedly this is not an insignificant point).

The menu still has a good variety of pizzas, including “Build Your Own.” They also have sandwiches and pasta dishes. Some of the salads are good, and this is another reason I like the restaurant overall. For me it is only lacking the one pizza I came to enjoy the most.

Salads

Just-A-Beginner

Just-A-Beginner salad

Surprisingly, I have found that the salad is one reason I like to come back despite the menu change. The Just-A-Beginner Salad is simple but quite fresh and enjoyable. I had gone to Ingrid’s one time where the meal came with a salad that I thought was much better than Hideaway’s, and it made me wonder why I thought the one here was so good. At numerous other restaurants, though, I keep thinking of Hideaway as having a better salad than the one they serve, and I still think of Hideaway’s as being quite good in the larger scheme of things.

Greek salad

Greek salad

I will have to say that in contrast, though, the Greek Salad was disappointing to me with a dressing that was very tart, and a salad that seemed to be a little skimpy for the money you pay.

Veggie Pizza

Margherita

Margherita

I do not think Hideaway is known for its vegetarian pizzas, and there is not a large selection, but the one I almost always crave is the Margherita Pizza. Like all the pizzas here, you get a choice of the size and crust you want, but otherwise it is very straightforward. The twist, though, is that they used to have two versions of the margherita, and one was taken off the menu while the other was modified. The new version has an olive oil and garlic glaze, but I ask for one with red sauce instead. What I many times forget (and forgot when I ordered the one pictured) is that you can also ask for sun dried tomatoes instead of the Roma tomatoes which are normally included with the pizza. All of the versions I have tried have included fresh basil.

I am disappointed that the pizza no longer has fresh mozzarella as it did on the old menu, but it still has several good features. The basil and red sauce are very enjoyable, and when I can remember to order the sun-dried tomatoes I like these as well. The cheese is good (but not as good as before). The crust is average (but is the same as on all the other pizzas).

Specialty Pizzas

The ATW

The ATW

Most of the “Specialty Pizzas” differ only in the toppings they include, although a few have a sauce other than the red sauce. The ATW (which stands for Around the World) is probably appropriately named because it is mostly people in other parts of the world that eat as many vegetables as are included here. In addition to this it has pepperoni and sausage (two of my favorite meat toppings), and all around I think this is a good choice.

The Capone

The Capone

The Capone is a meat pizza that has enough vegetables (mainly black olives) to give it an interesting flavor. This is a meat lover’s pie, though, with Italian sausage, pepperoni, Genoa salami, and smoked bacon. The pizza pictured here was rather skimpy with the red sauce, but they gave me some extra sauce on the side which I think made it better (not that it really needed a lot of improvement).

Maui Magic

Maui Magic

The Maui Magic includes red sauce, Canadian bacon, pineapple, and Mandarin orange slices. I would say the best part of this is the bacon (and of course the red sauce). The rest of it is really too non-traditional for my taste in pizzas.

Sicilian

Sicilian

The Sicilian was lacking any vegetables, but I thought the meats were very good (sausage, Italian sausage, pepperoni, and Genoa salami.

The Boz

The Boz

The Boz” is a good example of how satisfying the meat pizzas can be at Hideaway. Named for University of Oklahoma football star Brian Bosworth, I suppose it is natural for this pizza to be loaded with different types of meat. The amount of bacon, pepperoni, and sausage they pile on this pizza may in fact have led to a pork shortage contributing to Divine Swine’s going out of business (OK, I admit this may be a stretch, but this pizza does have a lot of meat!). I liked it quite a bit, and I also liked the fact that the flavor of the red sauce came through to supply a contrast to the meat. I made a note that some thought had gone into the flavor combination of this pizza because it seemed to be one that worked very well. The one I tried was without the jalapeno (I think I was the only one at the table who would have wanted to include it). Even without this additional flavor, though, it was still good.

Hideaway Special

Hideaway Special

The Hideaway Special gives you eight pizzas in one, with each slice being a different flavor (I think you get ten if you order the large pizza). The problem, though, is that most of the slices had a plain and one-dimensional flavor to me, and I think most of them come from the “Build Your Own” section of the menu where you just get cheese, sauce, and whatever topping you choose. I would definitely suggest getting a “Specialty Pizza” instead, where the combination of ingredients have been thoroughly taste tested.

More About the Pizza
There is a choice of crust with all pizzas–hand tossed (thick), thin crust, or cracker crust. I thnk the thin crust best, but none of them are a standout in my opinion. A waitress told me that the thin crust has more sugar than the hand tossed (I think so it will cook better). The cracker crust is the original one used in the Stillwater restaurant, but for me it just does not add to the taste of the pizza (plus it is gluten free and they charge extra for it).

I have enjoyed some of the pizzas that did not have red sauce, but my favorite pizzas are all ones that have the sauce. Most of the time it is the sauce, more than the toppings, crust, or cheese, that make this a place I want to come when I just want to have a good tasting meal regardless of the nutritional value or the calories.

Other Comments
One of the down sides of the menu is that I find a lot of combinations that I just do not want to order. For instance, the Sicilian would probably be better with vegetables. Many other pizzas have three or four good meat toppings but one or two I either do not like or do not want on a pizza. When you “build your own” the pizza ends up costing more than if you get the same toppings on a combination pizza. I do like some of the specialty pizzas, but there is not much flexibility in building your own.

With so many locations, there are bound to be some differences at the different restaurants. I know they all have the same menu, but I have kept returning to the Memorial Road location because they have helped me find the combinations I like and make modifications where possible. The seating is more comfortable that at the Northwest Expressway location where I originally had been going, and all around I have thought that the Memorial Road restaurant is a good location.


RATING: 22

Cuisine: Pizza
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Beer

Most Recent Visit: Nov. 1, 2018
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Margherita, ATW, Sicilian, The Boz, Just-A-Beginner Salad

Special Ratings
star 5 Margherita Pizza
star 5 ATW
star 5 Sicilian
star 5 The Boz
star 4 The Capone
star 4 Maui Magic
star 4 Hideaway Special
star 4 Da Bomb
star 5 Just-A-Beginner Salad
star 4 Greek Salad

 

Menu (Nov. 2018):