She’s country

Libby’s Cafe is a steak-and-catfish restaurant named for co-owner Libby Adkins. It’s just south of Interstate 35’s Goldsby exit on State Highway 74.

The evening we bopped down, a middle-aged group of obviously affluent riders on enormous motorcycles had just arrived. That cemented the notion that it’s a destination restaurant for the greater metro area. It’s just far enough to be away from bright city lights, but not too long a drive to be tedious. Adkins and her husband, Scott, also farm a nearby 5,000 acres.

Libby’s Cafe is country, y’all.

There’s no pretension. A loveseat was for sale in the waiting area with the owner’s telephone number on a card attached to its back.

Grandma’s house bric-a-brac is the decorating theme. On a midweek early evening, there was no waiting for a table in either of the two distinctly different dining rooms. Up two flights of stairs is a full-service bar.

Country singer Jason Aldean was on the sound system, crooning about a gal with a big Southern drawl, cowboy boots and down-home roots. Downstairs was a family-atmosphere dining room with kids chattering and no music at all.

There’s an enormous white-tailed deer trophy on one shiny, corrugated-steel wall, along with many genuine Oklahoma artifacts. One is a Great Depression-era group photo with the handwritten caption, “Goldsby farmers gathering to help their neighbor in a time of sorrow.”

Our server, Diana Estrada, was all business. The menu is large with a lot of appetizers, sandwiches and burgers. Libby’s destination status comes from a deserved reputation for superb fried catfish and expertly grilled steaks at reasonable prices.

All entrees include a choice of two side dishes, one option being the salad bar. That buffet of greens, pasta and creamy concoctions is a natural pick. It’s a temptation not to pile your small plate full of fresh sliced tomatoes, creamy macaroni
salad and a delectable cold dill and sour cream potato mash. But Libby’s
is all about generously satisfying large appetites, so restraint gets
forgotten.

That
little salad plate must have weighed a pound. It was comforting to sit
in a booth with completely broken-down seat cushions, knowing thousands
of other big eaters had been there before.

Estrada
patiently played along with the silly game when asked what a vegan
could get. She replied that a vegetable plate was available. Armed with
that interesting but immediately superfluous knowledge, I ordered
chicken-fried steak ($9.50), a 6-oz. rib-eye steak ($9.50) and fried
catfish ($9.95).

Our wait for entrees was short.

Chicken-fried steak is an art form in Oklahoma, and this one was a Frederic Remington, the famous Old  American
West painter. Fork-tender chicken fry left just enough room on the
platter for mashed potatoes. True to traditional form, both meat and
taters were smothered in rich pepper-cream gravy.

It’s
difficult to fry beef and not leave it tough, but someone in that
kitchen knew the trick. Any kind of rib-eye steak dinner for under $10
is phenomenal in itself, but this one drew rave reviews from my spouse.

In Chicago, it would be quadruple the price.

The
rib-eye was just the right size and was grilled to juicy magnificence.
The catfish was the real deal, and it’s no surprise that it’s at the top
of the menu.

The
fillets deserve first billing for firm texture, mild taste and
piping-hot presentation. Libby’s old-school, hand-cut french fries begged
the question why so many places serve the frozen factory variety.
There’s no comparison.

Homemade peach and blackberry cobbler ($3) was ordered but had to be carried home in a bag.

Doug Hill

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