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Van's Pig Stand

717 East Highland, Shawnee, OK - (405) 273-8704
Posted By Michael Stern on 12/24/2012 6:09:00 AM
Opened in 1928 in Wewoka, Van's now has four locations in Oklahoma, including one in Norman, one in Moore, and another in Shawnee; this particular place on East Highland has been a Pig Stand since 1935 and is the oldest family-owned barbecue in Oklahoma.

It is said that the secret of any great barbecue is time – time the meat spends on the pit – but here is a case where greatness is also owed to the long time that Van's has had to perfect the menu, the side dishes, the whole operation. We love the place itself, a rustic, wood-paneled eatery with reams of graffiti on the wooden booth backs (and a warning to customers not to inscribe any on the tabletops!). Each table is outfitted with a roll of paper towels and plenty of toothpicks – both essential for happy barbecue eating. And of course, the aroma in and around the old building is the irresistible perfume of sweet pork smoking.

We have not eaten our way through the menu, and some day we will try the smoked turkey breast, the hot links, the Polish sausage, the brisket, the chicken dinners available only on Sunday, and maybe even the double-meat hamburger. But for now, let us salute the two essential items made here: pork ribs that are muscular and yet velvet-tender, crusty with glaze, and packed with flavor; and the pig sandwich, which is vividly-sauced hacked hunks of pork in a bun with Van's own zesty relish. These are two of the best barbecue dishes anywhere. Superb sides include "Curlie Q fries," which are a variegated tangle of honeytone twigs, and a bacon-flavored, twice-baked potato invented by the current Van's grandma and listed as 'Vanized' in the menu.

If you like barbecue, you need to eat at Van's.

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Scorecard

5 - Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Big Rib Dinner
Fried Okra
Pig Sandwich (large)
Vanized Baked Potato
Curlie Q Fries
Meringue Pie
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A close view of Van's ribs gives a good sense of their textural delight. The big rib dinner is one full pound -- 5 to 9 ribs. The regular dinner is 3/4 pound and the junior dinner is 1/2 pound -- 2 to 4 ribs. With the meat you get two side dishes and a slab of Texas toast.
"A close view of Van's ribs gives a good sense of their textural delight. The big rib dinner is one full pound -- 5 to 9 ribs. The regular dinner is 3/4 pound and the junior dinner is 1/2 pound -- 2 to 4 ribs. With the meat you get two side dishes and a slab of Texas toast."
Michael Stern





Van's has been serving pig sandwiches for more than three-quarters of a century. It remains one of the essential barbecue parlors between Memphis and Oklahoma City.
"Van's has been serving pig sandwiches for more than three-quarters of a century. It remains one of the essential barbecue parlors between Memphis and Oklahoma City."
Michael Stern


The name
"The name "pig sandwich" has been trademarked by Van's. This close-up shows how chunky the pork is. You can also see hints of the excellent relish the kitchen adds to the formula."
Michael Stern


Curlie Q fries are available as one of the two side dishes you get with dinner, or as a large order unto themselves, for $1.95. These are some grand potatoes!
"Curlie Q fries are available as one of the two side dishes you get with dinner, or as a large order unto themselves, for $1.95. These are some grand potatoes!"
Michael Stern


Old-fashioned graffiti covers the wood backs of Van's booths.
"Old-fashioned graffiti covers the wood backs of Van's booths."
Michael Stern


It is said that the Vanized potato was invented when grandma Vandergrif decided she didn't want to waste baked potatoes that went unordered at dinner time. This twice-baked beauty is mixed with little bits of bacon.
"It is said that the Vanized potato was invented when grandma Vandergrif decided she didn't want to waste baked potatoes that went unordered at dinner time. This twice-baked beauty is mixed with little bits of bacon."
Michael Stern


Here is the oldest barbecue in Oklahoma. That sign next to the pig for the
"Here is the oldest barbecue in Oklahoma. That sign next to the pig for the "Charcoal Room" refers to a somewhat more refined dining area ... but where the menu is pure Van's."
Michael Stern



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