What I love most about The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, OK

What I love most about The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, OK

It’s Valentine’s Day and that gets me thinking about all the things I love. My incredible family. Our fantastic church. The privilege of blogging about midlife travel. My electric mattress pad warmer. And yes, Edna Mae’s pancakes at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile.

Edna Mae's Pancakes at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

Edna Mae’s Pancakes at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

I fell in love with them last summer when we visited The Mercantile in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, for the first time. I knew from the start we were destined to have a long-term relationship and it has been true love ever since. The menu says the recipe for the tender and delicious pancakes came from Ladd Drummond’s grandmother, Edna Mae. They are served with a trio of flavored butters as well as signature syrups, including aged vanilla and cinnamon, orange zest and clove, and sea salt caramel. Do you see why I love them so much?

Here are a few more things I just love about The Pioneer Woman Mercantile.

The Bathrooms

The beautiful bathrooms at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

Our moms in the beautiful bathroom at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

The bathrooms at The Mercantile are so beautiful that women actually spend more time taking photographs of the subway tile than they do applying lipstick. And that’s saying something! The bright and roomy restroom has gorgeous tile floors, scented liquid soap, and thick paper towels for drying your hands. There are handy little hooks for hanging your purse while you wash and the bathroom stalls are well stocked with Charmin toilet paper.

The Cowboy Coffee

The Cowboy Coffee at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, Oklahoma

The Cowboy Coffee at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, Oklahoma

I dream about this coffee. I had it the first time we visited The Mercantile and every time we’ve been there, since. There’s just something wonderful about the way the baristas prepare this hot coffee, served “shot in the dark” style, infused with Sarsaparilla and topped with frothed milk and powdered espresso. The coffee is specially roasted for The Mercantile at Topeca Roastery in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and believe me, it is to die for.

The Turquoise-Colored Beads

Turquoise colored beads at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

Turquoise colored beads at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

Displayed throughout the store, these turquoise-colored beads are a Pioneer Woman signature item. This beaded necklace is the #1 seller in The Mercantile and seems to go with just about everything. You’ll see them worn by The Mercantile staff with black shirts and jeans and I think they make a great gift for any PW fan.

The Plastic Wrap Dispensers

Love this plastic wrap dispenser from The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

Love this plastic wrap dispenser from The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

So, plastic wrap might not seem like a big deal to most people. It wasn’t to me, either, until I bought this self-proclaimed “World’s Best” plastic wrap and dispenser at The Mercantile. I am not exaggerating when I say it is life changing. My old beaten up, cardboard Saran Wrap box went right into the trash after I tried this dispenser last summer. For just $12, I completely eliminated the frustration of trying to find the end of the wrap as it clings to the roll or cut off a straight piece across a row of cheaply made metal teeth that slice your hand better than they cut the plastic.

Now, I simply measure out my wrap, gently slide a bar across the sturdy, decorative box and … voila … I am happy as a clam.

The People

Meg Kane visits with guests outside The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

Meg Kane visits with guests outside The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

Everyone we’ve met at The Mercantile (and Pawhuska, for that matter) has demonstrated sincere hospitality like we’ve never seen. On our first visit to The Mercantile last summer, we met Meg Kane who was in charge of keeping people in line outside the restaurant on a hot, summer day. She led trivia contests, passed out bottles of water and umbrellas and was just a delight to visit with. The Mercantile has plenty of staff readily available to answer questions, point you in the right direction, and even make recommendations for the very best dishes on the menu.

The Drummonds go above and beyond to make people feel welcome in their hometown, even hiring staff to open the doors for visitors. We’ve traveled all over the world and can honestly say Pawhuska, Oklahoma, has some of the nicest people we’ve ever met.

The Fried Chicken Sandwich

Fried chicken sandwich at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

Fried chicken sandwich at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

Hands down, this is the best fried chicken sandwich I’ve ever had. It is a crispy fried chicken breast with white cheddar cheese, honey mustard dressing, and creamy coleslaw on a toasted brioche roll. But my favorite part of this sandwich is the house made bread and butter pickles and I always ask for a few extra on the side. The sandwich is large enough for two meals and is served with homemade potato chips, all for $10!

The Decor

Love this sitting area on the second floor of The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

Love this sitting area on the second floor of The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

I love everything about the decor at The Mercantile. The brick walls, wood floors, and the uncovered mural in the dining room all give this place a historic feel with modern touches. You’ll be awed by casual seating areas, complete with leather couches, southwestern rugs, and unique tables and chairs. We learned that many of the furnishings (including the furniture and rug in this picture) came from LOREC Ranch home furnishings which now has a showroom full of home decor accessories just north of The Mercantile on Kihekah Street. Stop in and tell Gay hello for us, if you go there.

I also love all of the large black and white photographs taken by Ree Drummond of scenes from their family ranch. Seeing pictures of her children when they were little and cattle on the ranch really give the space a personal touch.

The Fruit Flavored Iced Tea

Flavored tea at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

Flavored tea at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

On a hot summer day, nothing quenches your thirst like a tall Mason jar filled with ice cold, fruit-flavored tea. The Mercantile menu includes a variety of fresh fruit purees in sweet and unsweet teas as well as in lemonade. I especially loved the blackberry tea served over pellet ice.

The Vintage Lip Balm

Vintage lip balm at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

Vintage lip balm at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

When I saw this vintage lip licking lip balm in a glass jar at The Merc, it took me back to my childhood! I remember having these lip balms stuffed down into my back pocket in elementary school and collecting all the flavors, including my favorites, bubblegum and root beer. I loved the little metal containers and sliding the top back and forth during class. And for $5.50, I took home a wonderful memory.

The Tiny Bowls

Tiny bowls at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

Tiny bowls at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

Do these make you happy, or what? I love the plethora of tiny, colored bowls at The Mercantile. So many pretties in every color of the rainbow. There are polka dot bowls, mini spout bowls, nut bowls, berry bowls, and so on. I love all of the bright colors with their unique designs and every time we go there, they seem to have a new tiny bowl to tempt me. These bowls are great for entertaining, filling with salt and pepper for easy access near the stove, and for holding jewelry on a dresser.

The Prices

The prices at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile are very reasonable.

The prices at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile are very reasonable.

One thing we really love (and appreciate) about The Pioneer Woman Mercantile is the prices. We know that The Pioneer Woman brand is huge and the Drummonds could charge and arm and a leg for their food and goods but they don’t. At least to us, most things were very reasonably priced.

You can get the Farmer’s Breakfast including eggs, potatoes, ham, bacon, and house made sausage with a fluffy buttermilk biscuit and berry jam for only $10. Salads and sandwiches range from $7-15, while the most expensive dinner entree on the menu is the Cowboy Steak Dinner for just $24. I don’t know any other place you can get as good a 12 oz. USDA Choice ribeye steak with a twice-baked potato and green beans for that kind of money. And that queso dip appetizer for $8? Worth every penny — and every calorie.


Have you been to The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, Oklahoma? What did you love most about it? 

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The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

Talking with Johnny and other things we did in Norfolk and Neligh, Nebraska

Talking with Johnny and other things we did in Norfolk and Neligh, Nebraska

We’d been on the road for several days, now, and while Valentine marked the turn toward home on our Nebraska adventure with my folks, we were far from done with our trip.

We set out from Valentine, our sights set on the Ashfall Fossil Beds, and made it east of town a whole three blocks before I noticed the low tire pressure light was on. So, I pulled a quick U turn while thanking the Lord we were still within three blocks of a town, and drove back into Valentine. We went straight to the Pit Stall tire shop where they could help us right away.

The van was in the shop within seconds of our arrival

The van was in the shop within seconds of our arrival

About 30 minutes later, and after discovering a teeny-tiny little piece of metal in the tire, we drove back out of Valentine headed east, hoping and praying the repair would hold. (Spoiler alert: it did.)

This tiny piece of metal almost ruined our day.

This tiny piece of metal almost ruined our day.

The drive east from Valentine on Highway 20 is just as beautiful as the drive into Valentine we’d enjoyed a couple of days before. Just know that if you drive through this part of the country you won’t be disappointed in the views and vistas you have. I’m honestly surprised more people don’t come this way.

Prairie grass in the Nebraska Sandhills

Prairie grass in the Nebraska Sandhills east of Valentine

The beautiful Nebraska Sandhills near Valentine, Nebraska.

The beautiful Nebraska Sandhills near Valentine, Nebraska.

Cattle grazing in the Sandhills near Valentine, Nebraska.

Cattle grazing in the Sandhills near Valentine, Nebraska.

Ashfall Fossil Beds is one of our favorite Nebraska parks, and a place we try to go every year. We wrote a more detailed post about the park a couple of years ago, and you can read that HERE. We decided to have our picnic lunch at under a shelter overlooking the beautiful Sandhills at Ashfall before taking the short path down to the excavation site.

What a great place for a picnic lunch at Ashfall Fossil Beds near Royal, Nebraska.

One of the things we love most about Ashfall is that we get to talk to the interns who are actively excavating the site and ask them questions.

An archeology student intern brushes away sediment on the floor of the fossil bed at Ashfall near Royal, Nebraska.

An archeology student intern brushes away sediment on the floor of the fossil bed at Ashfall near Royal, Nebraska.

Each of them can explain what is going on across the whole site. More fun, though, is hearing their enthusiasm as they share their current project and talk about the discoveries they’ve made. We also like that we can see the progress on the excavation from year to year. Last year, for instance, we talked at length to a woman who was very excited about the skull she’d discovered. When we returned this year, that skull was now a part of a very complete 3-toed horse that had been completely covered the year before.

For years, Ann and I have talked about stopping to visit the historic mill in Neligh, though we have never been able to fit it into our schedule. This year we really wanted to make it happen, so we made the 30 minute drive over from Ashfall on our way to Norfolk.

The Neligh Flour Mill Museum

The Neligh Flour Mill Museum

The mill in Neligh is definitely worth a stop. For $3 you get a guided tour and see the machinery from the 1880’s that once made this place run. It is so well preserved that you feel like the guide has only to throw a switch and the whole place will rumble to life. We were invited to see the entire mill from the top floor to the basement, learning all about the milling process along the way.

Inside the Neligh Flour Mill

Inside the Neligh Flour Mill

The mill was directly driven by the Elkhorn River for a time, then converted over to run on hydroelectric power. At that point, they sold excess electricity to the residents of Neligh to power their homes. The flour produced in the mill was sold to nearby residents as well as to people far and wide.

A look inside the Neligh Flour Mill

A look inside the Neligh Flour Mill

From Neligh, we drove on into Norfolk, where we enjoyed a wonderful meal at Black Cow, Fat Pig. Our steaks, salads, and ribs were well prepared, the onion rings we had for an appetizer were delicious, and the service was prompt. This seems to be a popular restaurant with locals, so call ahead.

The onion rings at Black Cow Fat Pig in Norfolk, Nebraska.

The onion rings at Black Cow Fat Pig in Norfolk, Nebraska, are as good as they look.

We awoke the next morning and made our way over to the Elkhorn Valley Museum. We love this museum because it is unlike so many of the other small town museums we’ve visited. Sure, it has lots of historical artifacts like a Square Turn tractor and butter churns.

Square turn tractor at Elkhorn Valley Museum

Square turn tractor at Elkhorn Valley Museum

But it also has more modern “artifacts” like typewriters, VHS players, and floppy disks. Finally, there is a desire to include the people of today through projects like having the children of Norfolk write letters to the museum on how their families came to the community. The museum’s curators understand something that so many don’t: that today’s present is tomorrow’s history and it is their job to document it. The Elkhorn Valley Museum isn’t some dusty museum stuck in the past, it is a thriving museum that embraces the future.

A typewriter on display at the Elkhorn Valley Museum in Norfolk, Nebraska

A typewriter on display at the Elkhorn Valley Museum in Norfolk, Nebraska

The museum also offers a wonderful display on local favorite son, Johnny Carson. There is a mock-up of Johnny’s desk, and you can even pretend you’re on his show.

Cue cards from The Tonight Show

At the museum you’ll also find a very comfortable couch where you can sit, don a pair of headphones, and watch clips from across the history of the “Tonight Show.” The video lasts 2 and a half hours (we’re told). No matter how much of it you watch, you’ll find yourself in stitches as you watch some of the greatest televised comedy in history.

Johnny Carson's costumes from The Tonight Show

Johnny Carson’s costumes from The Tonight Show

We pulled out of Norfolk, and headed toward Crete, the terrain again full of the corn and beans of eastern Nebraska. We enjoyed the final few hours in the car, reminiscing over the things we’d seen and the fun we’d had. I always feel a little sad at the end of a trip, and this was no different. We’d had a great time, and it was coming to an end, but I also knew that I’d carry this trip with me forever.