As much fun as we had during the drive to Oklahoma, the next morning was the highlight of our entire trip. Today was the culmination of 30+ hours of driving; we had reached our ultimate goal – The Pioneer Woman Mercantile.
When Isabelle first floated the idea of going to Oklahoma to visit the Mercantile, it was just a passing thought. She thought it was a little crazy to travel all the way to Oklahoma just to go visit a store/restaurant. But I kept circling back to it while we debated what to do for our summer holiday. In the end, we ended up basing our vacation around visiting The Pioneer Woman Mercantile. I can speak for both of us to say that by the time the day was done, we did not regret our decision one iota.
After a delicious breakfast at our hotel (with one of the most amazingly friendly servers I have ever had the pleasure of encountering), we drove 30-miles into the town of Pawhuska, OK. Pawhuska is a small town of 3,500 people in northern Oklahoma, but is also the home of the Mercantile.
One of my wife and mine’s favourite cooking shows is The Pioneer Woman. Ree Drummond is a cookbook author, food blogger/photographer and TV personality. She and her family live on a cattle ranch just outside of Pawhuska. A couple of years ago, they purchased an old building in the centre of the town and began remodeling it. In 2016, they opened the doors to the Mercantile – a combination bakery, deli and general store.
Not long before we left on our road trip, we discovered that the Drummond family was opening up their Lodge to tours. The Lodge is where they film the TV series. They had done it for a week or so in July, and were repeating the same activity for a week in August. As luck would have it, our trip coincided with the same days. (click to enlarge)
We arrived at the Merc not long after they opened at 8AM, getting ahead of the potential crowds. We made our way to one of the employees to inquire about the directions to the Lodge. She handed us a folded and sealed sheet of paper and advised us that the Lodge visits would only begin at 9AM, so not to head over too early. We thanked her and headed up to the second floor to partake in some delectable goodies from the bakery. Isabelle got an iced caramel latte, and I got a sweet tea. We shared a couple of delicacies from the bakery as we sat and waited.
Around 8:40 or so, we were feeling antsy to go, so off we went towards the Lodge. Isabelle opened up the sheet of paper we’d received (which were a full page’s worth of directions!) and we were on our way. After driving a good 15-20 minutes, we finally turned a corner and there it was – the Lodge. Just as we’d seen so many times on TV. And now, here we were.
As there were already a fair number of cars when we arrived, we spent a few minutes outside. While we may not have gotten to meet Ree herself, she did have a family member there greeting the guests as they arrived. Meet Walter.
Walter was friendly to all ends, letting everyone give him cuddles and attention. After a few minutes out on the deck soaking in the breathtaking vistas that make up the Drummond ranch, we headed into the Lodge itself. This is where we had to pinch ourselves to say it was real. Suddenly, crossing through a patio door, we were standing in Ree Drummond’s kitchen. This is where all 200+ episodes of her TV series were recorded. We are now standing exactly where we watch Ree stand. It was an amazing feeling.
We spent the next hour and a half walking around the building, which consists of the kitchen, dining room, four bedrooms, each with a full en-suite, a full-sized prep kitchen for catering events, and storage rooms for all of her supplies, equipment and props. We spent the bulk of the time in the kitchen, opening drawers, looking in the fridge, standing at her stove-top…
People came and went, most stayed a good 25-30 minutes. But we were there over an hour and a half. Before leaving, we went back out onto the deck and just sat there, grounding ourselves in this beautiful spot.
(click to enlarge)
As I mentioned, Ree was not there herself. She was down at their home, about a mile down the road. We could just spy the roof over some trees in the distance. But we did get to meet Walter, and saw another celebrity from the show – Cowboy Josh. For those who watch the show, Cowboy Josh is one of the workers/partners on the farm. While we were there, he popped up for a moment to the Lodge to take care of something, and then posed for a few pictures with some of the older ladies present who were practically drooling over meeting Cowboy Josh! We sat on the front porch, in a couple of rocking chairs, just watching the whole thing. I asked Isabelle if she wanted to go say hi and get a picture as well, but, as I expected, she said no. So off Cowboy Josh rode into the wild blue yonder.
With one last look at the entire scene, we hopped back in the car and headed back to the Merc for lunch. When we got there, it was around 11:30, and there was a long line of folks waiting to get in. But we were not to be deterred! We queued up and waited. Knowing that their clients would be standing in very hot Oklahoma summer heats, Ree and Co. thought it through – they had awnings covering the bulk of the queue, along with expensive-looking misting fans all around. Plus, they had staff members handing out mini water bottles to guests in line. Such great hospitality!
After an hour or so in line, we were seated at a table. My meal consisted of a Marlboro Man Sandwich – tender beef cube steak (actually ribeye that they have tenderized as cube steak), sautéed onions on a soft hoagie roll with lots of au jus. So. Good. Isabelle had the P.W. Lasagna (delish!) We both ordered a sweet tea, which came in a giant mason jar. When we got the bill, Isabelle noticed that each of our drinks cost us $0.25. Finally, we got desert. Isabelle went for something she normally wouldn’t, and got the Plum Cake. I opted for the chocolate cake. Both were baked to order, so they came and took our dessert order while we were eating. The chocolate cake was simply one of the most amazing things I have ever eaten in my life. Baked in a cast iron pan, the frosting was added while hot, so it oozed everywhere. The most richly decadent chocolate cake I’ve had the pleasure of eating. Given the option, I would drive back tonight to get another. (click to enlarge)
And thus ended our Pioneer Woman adventure. We shopped a bit and picked up some merchandise in the Merc before heading back to our hotel for the night, resting up for the 33+ hour drive back home. But more on that next time.