Leo’s BBQ: smoky meats, friendly service, and cake

by | August 17, 2010 | 15 Comments

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Leo’s BBQ has two locations. The downtown location at 7 Harrison Avenue (map - 405.236.5367) and the original location at 3631 N. Kelley Avenue (map - 405.424.5367). They are open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday (downtown is not open for dinner Monday through Wednesday). The original location is also open on Sunday from noon to 6pm.

My dad always says that barbeque places are best when they’re located in buildings that are a little rough around the edges. They shouldn’t be too polished, too pristine or, well … too new.

So, he would definitely like the atmosphere at Leo’s, where both locations exhibit the same interior style. The walls contain painted brick, the floors are plain concrete, and everything seems coated in a thick layer of hickory-smoked history.

I tried the downtown location first, which is actually the newer location. Going in, I wasn’t aware of all the history surrounding this place, but I quickly discovered their website (which currently appears to be down), their second location and a video clip from when they were featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives a few years ago. To get the full experience, I tried both locations before writing this review.

The first thing that struck me about Leo’s was the friendliness of everyone who worked there. On my first visit to the downtown location, I was by myself, and I was immediately welcomed by at least three different people who showed me where to sit and answered all of my questions. Iced tea was on my table almost immediately and the refills flowed constantly throughout my visit. I really enjoyed the people at Leo’s.

I also enjoyed the food. I tried the Light Leo’s Special ($11.99 – see a picture) which lets you sample all of their standard meats including their ribs, coarsely-chopped brisket, hot links and thick-cut smoked bologna along with two sides. A full version ($13.99) and a jumbo version ($17.99) are also available to give you even more meat which I suppose you could split with someone if you wanted. I’m a pretty hungry fellow and the light version was plenty for me. They also have smaller plates like sandwiches ($5.75 – $5.95), light dinners ($6.95 – $7.95) and full dinners ($8.95 – $9.95) which let you choose a single meat and one or two sides.

Now, when it comes to barbequed meats, I’m pretty happy if they are tender, moist, and have a pervasive, smoky flavor. I’m even happier if they have some tasty bits of crust on them. So, with that in mind, I thought Leo’s meats were very good. They had such a dense, hickory flavor that they stood well on their own, without any sauce. They were tender, moist and the ribs and brisket pieces even had some bits of crust (though I could have stood more, but that’s just me). I also really enjoyed the fact that they served thick-cut smoked bologna, which isn’t all that common. It was very good as well.

Now, the sauces at Leo’s left me a bit puzzled. They are unlike any sauces I’ve had. The mild sauce is both vinegary and sweet and is pretty thin and runny. The hot sauce, on the other hand, didn’t taste like much other than a whole lotta hot, and it was very thick. I really didn’t care for either of the sauces very much. I was glad that the meats stood so well on their own. That said, the sauces are very unique and worth a try because I think personal preference plays a big part with any BBQ sauce.

Leo’s sides are pretty basic including potato salad, macaroni salad, baked beans, and baked potatoes. The potato salad was standard. The baked beans had a very interesting flavor that I really liked. On the whole, I thought the sides were fine but nothing amazing.

Finally, every meal at Leo’s is topped off with a slice of their own strawberry-banana cake (see a picture). Evidently, it is quite famous, though this was the first time I’d had it. It’s pretty simple. Just a piece of homemade, southern goodness, covered with a light, smooth glaze and topped with some fresh strawberry slices. It’s like something straight out of an old church potluck. The piece I had at the downtown location was the best one. It was very moist, while the one I had at the original location was a little drier. This cake is nothing fancy, but it’s a nice, tasty tradition and a great way to top off a barbeque meal.

So, despite my personal feelings about the sauce, I think there are a lot of great reasons to try Leo’s and even make it a regular stop. It’s a very unique, local place with great history, great meats, and very friendly people. The slice of cake at the end is a nice touch and the atmosphere is rich with character. Just remember, all that hickory smoke can have a lasting impact on your clothes. I ended up smelling like Leo’s the rest of my day but, to be honest, I really didn’t mind that much.

You can view more photos from Leo’s Barbeque on our Facebook photo album.

Leo's Barbeque on Urbanspoon

Leo's Barbeque on Urbanspoon

This article was posted by Tim Wall on Tuesday, August 17th, 2010. It is filed under:

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  • Cult of Nobody says:
    August 18th, 2010 at 7:33 am   

    I agree with your take on their sauce although I don’t fund the hot all that hot. It is a unique flavor profile. I like it but I know people who don’t. Fortunately Leo’s meats don’t really need sauce.

    One thing I have found about Leo’s over the years is that they are consistent. A lot of other BBQ joints I frequent can be hit or miss.

    BBQ in and of itself has to be one of, if not the most, difficult types of restaurants to run. Good BBQ is done when it’s done and getting it done takes long amounts of time. So you have to make large enough quantities to feed your customers but at the same time you don’t want that BBQ sitting around being held at a safe temperature for to long because then the quality starts to fade.

  • Mark Bledsoe says:
    August 18th, 2010 at 10:26 am   

    Leo’s is great BBQ, I mix the two sauces together, which seems to balance the hot and vinegar. They are consistently very good BBQ, and seem so pleased you stopped by. And you get to smell like hickory for the rest of the day.

  • Jennifer says:
    August 18th, 2010 at 1:19 pm   

    Leo’s has the best cake on earth. I could eat just that for the rest of my life and be happy.

  • Rich says:
    August 18th, 2010 at 2:49 pm   

    Leo’s is a very interesting experience that I think everyone should try. Leo’s is different than most other Oklahoma BBQ joints and most of that difference has to do with the sauce. Leo’s sauce is molasses based as opposed to the tomato based sauce that is used by most BBQ places in Oklahoma. I really enjoy the sauce because it is so different and I think it’s worth a visit just to try it. Having said that, when I am craving BBQ, this isn’t really the style of BBQ that I prefer. Whenever I ask someone if they’ve been to Leo’s, if they’ve been they always say,” oh yes, the cake is great!” That always seems like a weird thing to say about a BBQ place, but if it’s what you’re looking for, enjoy.

  • Pat says:
    August 19th, 2010 at 2:34 pm   

    I went to Leo’s for lunch today.
    Very friendly service.
    Great atmosphere (very simple BBQ joint)
    Slightly dissapointing food. (i thought the smoked bologna could’ve been smokier)
    I agree with Mark tho, combining the two sauces together makes a really great unique tasting sauce.
    Portions and price are perfect.

  • Tim says:
    August 23rd, 2010 at 8:37 am   

    I saw a sign on Leo’s building the other day that said slice of cake and iced tea are included with every meal. I knew about the cake, but didn’t know the iced tea was included. Not sure if that’s a new thing or if it’s always been like that. Either way, that’s an even better value.

  • Kevin Pate says:
    September 1st, 2010 at 11:01 pm   

    Leo’s is an institution. Fortunately, it has the necessary arrumph to not simply be a name.

    And Tim, your dad is a smart fella. There are precious few places that can both serve good Q and also be nice facilities.

  • Elizabeth Newton says:
    September 3rd, 2010 at 7:26 pm   

    Tried leos today and I loved the brisket and of course the cake! Thanks eat around OKC for the review before we went!!!

  • Jesus says:
    September 26th, 2010 at 9:13 am   

    Do you have a mitting room we have six couples and we have couples mittings every month.

  • Jesus says:
    September 26th, 2010 at 9:17 am   

    I need a place to have couples meetings every month please give me suggestions

  • Michael says:
    October 8th, 2010 at 11:56 am   

    I don’t eat a lot of sweets but their cake is pretty delicious. A friend of mine even had one of their signature cakes as her wedding cake.

  • Kevin says:
    December 8th, 2010 at 12:42 pm   

    Sadly, Leo’s has been required to close, at least for the time being. There was a news report this week about financial issues with the state.

    Hopefully it will be resolved and they can return to making solid Q and happy tummys

  • Tim says:
    December 8th, 2010 at 1:01 pm   

    Kevin, thanks for that information. I was starting to hear rumors about that so it’s good to have the confirmation. I do hope they’ll be back soon.

  • Kevin says:
    December 25th, 2010 at 6:54 am   

    Leo’s issues which caused the closure appear to be resolved. Both locations were again open as of Dec. 23

  • bill brack says:
    April 19th, 2012 at 3:42 pm   

    4/19/12…had lunch at Leo’s on 36th St.
    it was Ok, and don’t know if it was good enough to go back. Ribs are Big spare ribs and not a lot of meat and fell off bone. Brisket was disapointing / was copped and sometimes bit into really hard pieces. But the cake was Great…ha

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Thank you for sharing about this gem. I would have never known!

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