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Table Talk


Steaks are always cut and cooked after the order is placed. Photo by Hayley Leatherwood


The Rock HouseTalihina, Oklahoma


Taryn Balzanna serves food with a smile. Photo by Cathey Heddlesten


By Cathey Heddlesten F


or more than 30 years, Kiamichi Electric Cooperative (KEC) mem- bers Sam and Tami Balzanna dreamed of someday owning and operating their own restaurant. After years of planning and hard work, that dream came true in April 2012 with the opening of The


Rock House Ristorante in scenic LeFlore County. Located 4 miles north of Talihina, the restaurant is housed in a remodeled


rock home situated nearly dead center on the Balzannas’ 283-acre rural prop- erty. Patrons seated at nearly every table in The Rock House are rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the Kiamichi Mountain range, the Potato Hills and impressive Buffalo Mountain. The family’s horses graze content- edly on green grass in pastures on all sides of the restaurant. The occasional deer or turkey is regularly spotted by restaurant guests. Natives of Maryland, the couple relocated to southeastern Oklahoma from


Pennsylvania eight years ago while searching for a nice place to raise their fi ve children, who now range in age from 12 to 30. From the beginning, Tami Balzanna says the business has been a family affair with each of their children and other extended family members working to help get the restaurant off the ground. Prior to opening day, the family worked together to restore the 1920s era rock home, converting each of the rooms into private dining areas seating up to 10 or 12. A large, commercial-grade kitchen was built onto the back of the original rock house. Though the couple’s older children have since moved away from home, youngest daughter, Taryn Balzanna, 12, is her mom’s right hand and does a “phenomenal job of everything from cooking to cleaning to waiting tables.” Weekly specials are offered at the restaurant, which is open on Friday and Saturday nights from 6-10 p.m. and on Sundays from 4-8 p.m. Customers


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can also order off the main menu, which includes a variety of salads and appetizers like shrimp cocktail, bruschetta with tomato and basil, loaded hand-cut fries and garlic cheese bread. All desserts are made in-house and range from a delectable chocolate raspberry New York-style cheesecake to chocolate mousse with fresh berries to the reigning house special, carrot cake. The Rock House offers a children’s menu featuring favorites like fi sh sticks


and fries, spaghetti, chicken tenders, ravioli, and the kid-pleasing grilled cheese sandwich. Adult menu entrees include Black Angus rib-eye steak, New York strip steak, boneless pork chops, shrimp and chicken Alfredo, chicken parmesan and spaghetti. Sam Balzanna grills the steaks at The Rock House, a job he takes very seriously.


“I’m passionate about the steaks,” he says with a grin. “No one cooks those but me.” He says the restaurant’s customers will “travel the distance” for The Rock


House’s hand-cut, grilled-to-order rib-eye and New York strip steaks. Another customer favorite is Tami Balzanna’s Maryland crab cakes, a recipe she bor- rowed from Sam Balzanna’s mother and has admittedly “tweaked through the years.” “There’s no fi ller,” Sam Balzanna says. “It’s all crab meat.” The Rock House’s homemade yeast rolls are always a big hit with diners. “Our rolls have a little crust to them,” Tami Balzanna says, “and they are served with honey butter.” The Balzannas say they want their customers to enjoy a true dining experi- ence at their restaurant—not just stop by for a fast meal. “Our food is cooked to order,” Tami Balzanna says. “It’s not fast food. Don’t come here if you’re in a hurry.”


As the restaurant’s reputation has spread, the Balzannas have seen their customer base grow into Arkansas and Texas. The restaurant routinely draws visitors from Mena, Ark., Fayetteville, Ark., and Dallas, as well as repeat customers from neighboring Oklahoma towns like Clayton, Wister, Poteau, and McAlester. “We like getting to know our customers,” Tami Balzanna says, “and we like offering the personal touch.” Dave and Darleen Shaw, owners of Buffalo Creek Guest Ranch—located just down the road near Buffalo Valley—enjoy dining at The Rock House. “We love the environment at the Rock House,” says Dave, a KEC member.


“Not only do we enjoy it ourselves, but many of our guests fi nd it to be the perfect way to spend their evening. We are completely confi dent when rec- ommending The Rock House to our guests.”


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