'mmm...That's Tasty' -- an origin story

·5 min read

Sep. 25—I mark corrections with a Sharpie on page proofs, pick up my office phone on the first ring to tell the caller about a local event, fire off an email reply, then stride across the newsroom to hand the page edits to our page designer before picking up another to edit.

My cell phone dings and I sigh. Another thing to sidetrack me from finishing the story I've been trying to write in between being the editor of a southeast Oklahoma paper.

I pick it up and see a video from Derrick James in a group chat with Derek Hatridge. I click play.

"Welcome to a McAlester News-Capital production where we tell the story of people that own local restaurants," Hatridge says in an orange and blue Hawaiian shirt while walking across Choctaw Avenue in McAlester.

I smile. It's the intro to a project we started working on that grew out of a random conversation one morning in my office months ago.

We laughed about hypothetical themes for a video series before an idea started forming — asking restaurant owners how they got started, their favorite dishes and their most popular items, where the restaurant name originated.

It was a fun idea. One I believed would shine a light on our community's local businesses and provide both news and entertainment value. So we made it happen.

We debuted the series June 6 and featured a different local restaurant each of the next 10 consecutive weeks.

DJ's video and editing skills made each video pop, and Hatridge's on-air personality experience shown throughout the series.

Every video brought a different mix of what our community has to offer.

I hope everyone had as much fun watching our first season of "mmm...That's Tasty" as we did making it.

Check it out for the first time or re-watch episodes on our YouTube channel and our website to find out more about local restaurants that have us saying "mmm...that's tasty."

We also turned it into a podcast available for free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Spreaker.

Each restaurant featured in the video and podcast series is also featured on the front page of the paper with a business spotlight and a feature story — free of charge to the restaurant.

If you haven't seen your favorite restaurant featured — anyone can nominate a restaurant by emailing editor@mcalesternews.com, messaging us on social media, or just leaving a comment on any of the "mmm...That's Tasty" content.

We're gearing up for another season to start in October, so let us know which restaurants you want to see featured.

Until then, thanks for watching and here's a look at the restaurants we had on the show in the first season:

1. J-Beaux's Cajun Fusion

J-Beaux's Cajun Fusion's spin on food trailer in McAlester is all about having fun and making people smile with his Cajun cuisine. Owner Justin Wimsett told about growing up around McAlester, how he went from working in the oilfield to the food industry, the family ties to his food trailer's Cajun flavor, where the J-Beaux name originated and more.

2. Nichols Café

Nichols Café owners Ron and Kathy Nichols said local customer Bill Hensley requested pepper jack cheese and jalapeños on a burger — and it turned out so great that they added the Hensley Burger to the menu. The owners also shared with us how they honor long-time customers who have died among dozens of pictures of family and regulars on a wall.

3. Fat Daddy's BBQ

See how an eight-inch tall burger with brisket, pulled pork, hot links, a hamburger patty, cheese, grilled onions and grilled jalapenos aptly named the Fat Daddy is made. Denny and Brandy Sanders, married co-owners of Fat Daddy's BBQ and Steakhouse in Hartshorne, told us about their smoked BBQ meats and sides in the popular joint.

4. Twins Cafe

Twins Cafe owner Lee Anne Barker said the name just made sense for the comfort food restaurant in Haileyville — known in Pittsburg County as one of two twin cities with neighboring Hartshorne — and some family connections. "I'm a twin, my husband's a twin, and then there's lots of twins in our family," Barker she told us. "It just kind of fit."

5. Compass Cafe

Owner Mat Hutson meets people with a warm smile and the casual familiarity of greeting an old friend at the downtown McAlester pizza joint. Hutson shared with us his journey to the restaurant business, how he hopes to help build the downtown culture, and all about his sandwiches, steak, pastas, salads and more.

6. Sake Japanese Sushi and Hibachi Grill

Sake Japanese Sushi and Hibachi Grill welcomed a long line of customers when it first opened in 2016 and has been a popular McAlester restaurant ever since. Maggie Zhu manages the restaurant for her family and told us about their soup, shrimp, sushi, teriyaki entrees, bento boxes, and other cuisine.

7. Wassup Dawgs

Wassup Dawgs owner James Bish smiles and waves at passing vehicles while doing a jig in a hot dog suit at his hot dog stand because he wants to make it an experience for customers. He told us about his life story and how he prepares his hot dogs — including what gives them an extra kick.

8. Captain John's

Captain John's is a southern Cajun restaurant and bar in McAlester that is increasingly popular. Owner Michael Evans told how he got into southern Cajun food, how he supports the local community, and a little about the restaurant's pirate-looking namesake.

9. BierKraft

What started as a fun idea between two friends is now a McAlester brewery listed on Oklahoma's newly formed Craft Beer Trail. William Shawn Scott and BJ Howell tell us about how they talked at a St. Patrick's Day Party about possibly opening a brewery — and how they later made it a reality with good brews, foods, and music at BierKraft.

10. Red Ramen Bar

Fourteen-year-old Andrew Hutson sometimes laughs when people question why he's working behind a bar at a McAlester restaurant. "I'm like 'no, I really enjoy it, this is like my favorite thing to do,'" the Red Ramen Bar owner told us with a laugh. He shared his passion for food and ramen cuisine menu.

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