I wrote this review last year after a trip to the Pioneer Woman’s Mercantile on the Merc’s Facebook page. The nice lady, Morgan, who manages her facebook page seemed to really like it. She said “Jon—this may be the greatest thing I’ve ever read. Your review of The Merc is honest, detailed, and of course positive (yay!). I emailed this to Ree. I want to make sure she and Ladd both read this.”
I may have read too much into that but I assumed it meant I was the godfather of their children. At the very least I thought there’d be a lunch on the ranch in it for me. Alas, a year has passed and I’m still hungry (although, full disclosure, I just polished off a biscuit, chicken, and 2 orders of eggs at Chick Fil A.) But you know what they say, “If you believe in yourself, and want something bad enough, it will happen.” However, “They” are idiots. I’ll never play goalie for the Preds, become a taster for Chick Fil A, or be a designer for Nerf and I have wanted that stuff like crazy!.
But Ree, Pioneer Lady, Wife of Ladd, for all the dreamers out there, let’s make this happen. I’ll keep my elbows off the table. I’ll rustle cattle. Although I’ll have to do it on foot. I don’t think you have a horse up for that challenge.
Wow! Reading back over this I come across a little, no, a lot needy. Nevermind. I can’t show my face at your house now. Let’s compromise with an autograph. Can I have it in gravy on one of those fried pork chops please?
Let’s get something straight. I’m a man’s man. I think I rank around number 7 on the list of all-time manliest men in the world. I’m right behind John Wayne and Chuck Norris and just in front of Clint Eastwood and Rocky. You’ve never heard of the top 4 men because they live alone on top of various mountains and refuse to bathe. It’s important for us to establish my masculinity for you to truly appreciate this trip. I took a little ribbing when I planned what has been lovingly called a “Ladycation.” It was a trip to a couple of destinations that are owned by women with shows on cable channels. But I love my wife so I figured just this one time, I could handle a trip whose destination wasn’t a knife store, beef jerky proprietor, or restaurant that gives you your meal for free if you finish the 14 pound steak they lay out for you.
Our second stop on the Petticoat Parkway was Ree Drummond’s Mercantile. We have been fans of the Pioneer Woman for years. She cooks delicious food that is fairly easy to recreate at home. It’s not fussy. It’s not diet. It doesn’t even consist of expensive ingredients. The beauty of her show is the little hints she gives you that make huge differences. Such as, “Get the skillet really hot before you throw in the two sticks of butter to cook your steak.” Those quotation marks don’t really mean she actually said that, but that woman ain’t afraid of a stick of butter. She has that unique ability to make you think you are her best friend, although her actual best friend is way cooler than you. (Her best friend is Hyacinth by the way. And now as I think about it, knowing that little tidbit probably doesn’t reinforce my manly factor.)
I had a feeling “the Merc” as she calls it, was going to be an estrogen filled tourist trap of Gilmore Girl proportions. The drive to Pawhuska from Tulsa where we were staying is awesome. It’s impossible not to feel like you’re an early settler who could be attacked by bandits at any moment as you make the drive through the rugged hills.…in a good way. We arrived at about 9 on a Tuesday and I was shocked to see that Ree and Ladd (her husband and probably my future best friend) had apparently purchased land all around the downtown area to offer FREE parking. Everyone knows the first rule of running a good tourist trap is to hit people with 8 bucks for parking. The beauty of charging huge parking costs is that no-one needs to know you own the parking lot. You can just pretend like someone else is gouging them. Not the Drummonds.
After 18 selfies of us in front of the cool corner sign on the Merc to make our friends ultra jealous, we made our way in this neat building. Granted I’m a sucker for old multistory downtown buildings, but this place is really, really cool. Inside there was tons of kitchen stuff, jewelry, and all the little accoutrements that you would expect at the Pioneer Woman’s place. And let me take this opportunity to apologize for correctly using the word “accoutrements.” One section had these shirts that Ree always wears. I saw those shirts and began to notice EVERY CUSTOMER IN THE STORE WAS WEARING THESE THINGS. The next thing I noticed was EVERY CUSTOMER IN THE STORE BESIDES ME WAS A 40 YEAR OLD WOMAN. That’s an exaggeration. Some of the women were older. But just as I began to feel a little awkward I found the man section. Ree had a case (I wish there were a better word) of Case knives. She also had these really cool leather cased journals that look like you would carry them in your saddle bag on the side of your horse named “Hammer.” She also had a really cool toy section.
But let’s get to the food.
They were serving breakfast in the dining part, but we wanted lunch so we walked upstairs to the bakery, and now that I type that, it sounds odd to say “We didn’t want to eat so we just got a Danish and waited for lunch.” Holy mackerel it was cool. I had the best Danish I’ve ever had. You can walk around to a window and watch about 4 people making the stuff in the back. Ree, I apologize for the nose mark I left on your glass, but that girl started rolling up those cinnamon rolls and I was in a trance. There are two crazy things in this area. One is they don’t sell you water. They just have beautiful jugs full of it with cups there for you to serve yourself. It’s full of this crushed ice they have which makes it almost frozen. And it’s FREE! It’s right beside this metallic looking plastic silverware they give you for your danish that is higher quality than the best stuff we have at my house! They also sell candy in the bakery. It looks like the counter where Laura Ingalls used to buy a peppermint stick for nickel. AND THE PRICES HAVEN’T CHANGED MUCH AT THE MERC! I bought this little awesome bag of watermelon Jelly Belly jellybeans and it cost 2 bucks. Seriously? That’s cheaper than I can get them in bulk. I could’ve brought them home and sold them and made money! We enjoyed our breakfast on the huge leather comfy couches that litter the room with their delightful smell and rugged feel.
Okay, skip this paragraph if you are not prepared to get nitty gritty with me. In a tourist trap the bathrooms are literally port-a-potties, with rolls of toilet paper the size of bus tires that, coincidentally have the softness and absorbance of bus tires as well. I entered the bathroom in the bakery and was greeted by the warmth and love of the most delicious candle that has ever been dipped. The bathroom stalls are private and spacious. Now to the grit, I don’t pay top dollar for everything but I refuse to skimp on two things: salsa and toilet paper (which may be related in some horrible way.) I often wonder if Donald Trump has access to better toilet paper than I. I considered running for president just to find out if there is something better out there. But I’m saying, I buy the good stuff! Listen to me as I tell you this: Ree Drummond buys MY paper for her customers! Ree, why? I’m not trying to be crass. I’m telling you this little detail is a snapshot of what is going on here. I think Ree is really wanting you to enjoy your time with her more than she wants your money. It’s incredibly refreshing. And honestly, I’m not even sure if I’m talking about Ree’s attitude or the toilet paper now. They’re interchangeable…in a good way.
We got in line at 10 for lunch. They start serving at 10:30. But can I tell you something crazy? Waiting in that line was probably our favorite thing! Janet Lightfoot is the line tender. She is awesome. She knows waaaaay too much about Pawhuska. And by “too much” I mean exactly enough. She was hoot. And then we got lunch. We started with nachos. It’s like this. Chips. Delicious chili. Chips. Delicious chili. Chips. Delicious chili. Delicious chili. All the cheese in Oklahoma. Chili. Good stuff. More good stuff. Sour cream. Crazy Good. Then we had the pork chops and chicken fried steak. I don’t have time to tell you how incredibly delicious this was. And it was cheaper than a restaurant half as good with half the portions.
So listen, if this trip cost me my man-card so be it. I got a manly journal book and gained the greatest 5 pounds of my life and most of all got a text from my wife yesterday saying I am the best husband ever. So keep polishing those man cards, dudes. I’m busy planning our next trip. Thanks Ree Drummond. By the way do those cool shirts you wear come in men’s?