MANY MAKING PILGRIMMAGE TO PAWHUSKA 8

to Visit The Pioneer Woman Mercantile


Since the Oct. 31, 2016, opening of the Pioneer Woman Mercantile: bakery, deli restaurant and general store, 900,000 people from 50 states and 20 countries have found their way to the tiny town of Pawhuska.

The crowds are coming for Ree Drummond’s delicious food and downhome atmosphere, and they don’t mind waiting to get in the door.

Her fans feel like they know Ree, her handsome rancher husband, Ladd, their four children, and basset hound, from her popular Food Network show, cookbooks and blog. Her 2011 memoir, Black Heels to Tractor Wheels–A Love Story, became a best-seller and further endeared the red-haired native Oklahoman to her followers.

Strangers get acquainted as they wait for two or more hours on the sidewalk outside the renovated 1903 mercantile building for some of the best food in Oklahoma.

Michelle Walker, Norman, and her sister, Melinda Capriotti, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, made the 163-mile drive from Norman to Pawhuska the day after Easter.

As the long line for lunch inched along, they took turns (you don’t want to lose your place in line) visiting the bakery for Ree’s homemade cinnamon rolls and fruit croissants.

Cups of Spicy Cowgirl, a Pioneer Woman signature espresso, with chocolate, cayenne and sweet vanilla cream over ice, or Cowboy Coffee, a “Shot in the dark” style infused with sarsaparilla topped with frothed milk, help to ease the wait.

It’s Ree’s first spring in the Mercantile, where 6,000 meals a day are served with generous doses of warm hospitality. It starts at 7 a.m. with The Farmer’s Breakfast, or Edna Mae’s Pancakes, biscuits and gravy, and much more. The feast ends at 7 p.m. as plates of P.W. Lasagna, “sought after near and far,” or chicken-fried steak, the cowboy dish Ree aimed to make perfect by using beef ribeye, are delivered.

Fifteen to 20 cooks are in the kitchen at a time turning out plates of Ree’s best recipes. The bakers are busy, too, and never afraid of butter. The Mercantile uses 1 ton of butter each week; that’s why their apricot twists and other pastries are divine.

The bright, spacious mercantile has two floors. Dining is on the first floor, along with a coffee shop, grab-and-go counter and general store stocked with items Ree designed, loves and uses. The bakery, a second coffee shop and a candy counter are on the second floor, where there’s a comfortable open area for visitors to relax and thumb through cookbooks.

Janet, one of the Pioneer Woman’s sidewalk ambassadors, tells the story of a Texas man at the back of the line who offered $75 to the woman in front to trade places. She said she would, for $225, the amount she spent in the gift shop. The Texan stayed where he was.

“The food is delicious,” Michelle Walker said. “It’s worth the drive and the wait in line.” She said Janet told interesting facts about the history of the property, and made suggestions on how to pass the time as everyone inched toward the door.

Kadie Waddle, hospitality manager at The Mercantile, said Ree’s sons Bryce and Todd sometimes entertain the crowd with trivia questions and jokes.

Martha Griffith, Longfellow Middle School music teacher, waited over four hours in line on a cold day during spring break, and said she’d do it again.

“It’s a fun ladies’ day out,” Melinda Capriotti said. The food is the quality you would expect from Ree, and the prices are reasonable.” She has all of Ree’s cookbooks and uses many of the recipes.

Lisa Standridge, Norman, said bubbles and sidewalk chalk kept her three children entertained while she waited in line with her mother, Nancy Jones. “We came to celebrate my mom’s birthday,” Standridge said. We had a great time with wonderful food and shopping.”

And sometimes there are surprises. Jones had her photo taken with Ree’s husband, Ladd, The Marlboro Man (who doesn’t smoke).

There really is something special about “the merc” experience that makes people smile and make plans to come back.

The Osage County town of 3,500 people is gearing up for summer, said Joni Nash, executive director, Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce.

“Everyone in town benefits from The Pioneer Woman’s Mercantile, and I think it’s the biggest thing for Oklahoma since Thunder basketball,” Nash said with a laugh. “Our focus now is getting a hotel here in town.”