It takes a lot to make the best version of a Southern dish. Everyone is willing to fight to the death to preserve the honor of their grandmama's hot water cornbread or collard greens, which means that saying that something like fried okra is better than something your Granny would cook for Sunday supper is a huge statement. Fortunately, the fried okra at Richardson's Ten50 barbecue is up to the challenge.
Fried okra is a surprisingly complicated dish. It has to be extremely fresh when fried, otherwise it turns into a soggy, slimy mass. It must be breaded properly, or the crispy flour coating will fall away before you're even able to dip it into your ranch dressing. At Ten50, they've figured out the perfect flour-based batter that ensures a crisp, light bite of okra every time.
Once you've ordered your smoked meats at the outdoor pits and walked through the line of sides and desserts, it's kind of hard to wait for the fried pickles or fried okra at Ten50. There are at least twelve other tempting dishes, ranging from potato salad to mac and cheese, that could otherwise distract you from the best side dish on the menu there, the fried okra. You'll have to wait a few minutes after coursing through the cafeteria-style line, but you can bet that it will be entirely worth it.
On my visit, the fried okra arrived at the table fresh out of the fryer, still steaming. I was unable to wait for it to cool, and the first three or so pieces that I popped into my mouth probably burned away several taste buds. Nevertheless, I was still able to taste the light blend of spices -- maybe a little Lawry's seasoning salt, that had been mixed into the batter. More than anything else, the okra was perfectly crisp on the outside, and nice and soft on the inside. I'm generally not in the habit of announcing that anything outside of sunny Saturday afternoons in the spring perfect, but the pile of okra that sat next to my brisket and ribs was damn near there.
At $6, fried okra at Ten50 costs as much as a quarter-pound of brisket, which means you'll have to do a little bit of cost-benefit analysis once you get there. Make it happen. Dipped into ranch dressing in true white-trash fashion or drizzled with a little of the restaurant's Carolina barbecue sauce, the okra is exactly what you need to cut the smoky heaviness of Ten50's properly smoked meats.
Sorry, Grandma, but the fried okra at Ten50 is better than the crispy, cornmeal-battered rounds that I happily gobbled up at your table as a kid. If you grew up anywhere in the South and find yourself in dire need of the tastes of home, this snack will cure your homesickness, and you won't even have to see all those weird assholes you went to high school with.