Cow Palace

Posted February 21, 2007

All this cold weather puts me in a mind for steak. Here in New York, I’m rich in steak house options — perhaps too rich. But what I crave is a T-bone from the Cattlemen’s Steakhouse in Oklahoma City.

I got to dine at Cattlemen’s last summer on a cross-country drive. I rolled into the Sooner State capital late on a Monday night, just in time to attend the weekly Tuesday-morning cattle auctions: Across the dusty way from the famous steak house, Oklahoma City hosts the largest feeder-cattle auction in the world. And it’s quite a sight.

Growing up on the East Coast, I had met only dairy cattle, docile beings that moo and like to be petted. At the auction, in pens stretched as far as the eye could see, wild young steers accustomed to roaming on the range skittered between wooden fences that barely contained them. Cowboys—real cowboys!—yipped and gee’d and cracked, well, not whips but these nifty flags that snapped to keep the cattle alert and organized. Inside the auction, cattlemen in their white straw hats made nearly invisible hand gestures to bid on thousands of dollars worth of beef at a go. I sat stock-still.

Ordinarily, I prefer my beef grass-fed. But the corn-finished, juicy, fatty, iron-tanged steak I had before dawn at Cattlemen’s, alongside soundless cattlemen preparing for their purchases, made me happy. I don’t think I’ll find anything like it in New York.

The Dish
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