I hope by now you’ve read the August issue of Slice’s cover story “The Metro’s 10 Most Bodacious Burgers,” as it is not only gorgeously photographed (nice work, Carli Wentworth) but truly, truly inspirational. We weren’t kidding about the incident referred to in the letter from the editor when we were proofreading the final layout and suddenly felt compelled to break for lunch at Tucker’s.
I count myself extremely fortunate to have been among the panelists for the beef gamut, which included regular favorites (I love Nic’s), places I hadn’t been in years (this was my first time in the new O’Connell’s, and I haven’t seen the inside of a Ron’s in forever) and even one genuine revelation: had I not been on this trip, I probably still would never have eaten at a Cow-Calf Hay, nor known how much I was missing by never having eaten at a Cow Calf-Hay. And I say “a” instead of “the” because like two days after we went to Edmond to try them, they opened a second location on Harvey just north of Devon. We conscientiously avoided ranking the finalists for this feature, but dios mio, man. Take this as the entreaty of a friend: get up on a Farm House Burger with onion rings.
For the purposes of the article, we also confined our delicious investigations to the stars of burger joints, rather than trying to sample every metro burger in existence; that is, every place we went (with the possible exception of VZD’s) is a burger place first and foremost. But if you’ve eaten your way through the Top 10 – hopefully not as quickly as we did – and still find yourself in the mood for some extra-credit dining, or if you have a beef hankering but your dining party wants a restaurant with a broader outlook, here are a few of my personal favorites from metro spots that aren’t burger-specific:
Shartel Café – There aren’t any secret ingredients that make their bacon cheeseburger unique among its comrades; it’s just fast, cheap and perfectly executed. And the fries are outstanding. When I need to pick something up and bring it back to the office, this is where I generally go.
Whiskey Cake – I’m not on board with mushrooms, so I eschew the OMG burger, but they’ll throw its preposterously big onion ring onto a standard setup if you ask. That leaves you the diner with the enjoyable challenge of fitting that much battered onion, bacon, cheddar, dense chewy bun and amazingly good beef into your mouth at once. “Boo hoo hoo, this burger is too big and delicious,” said no one ever.
Interurban – Big fan of this place, because they do many things well … especially the honey peppered bacon that pops up here and there on the menu. Slap some on a well-done patty with shredded cheese and mustard, throw in a triple handful of fries and you have me as your acolyte.
It’s truly a shame that Iron Starr took its Iron Burger off the menu (giant hunk of blackened beef topped with cheese, chili and a slab of smoked sausage), and that Tom & Jerry’s with its surprisingly great sliders is gone. I'm occasionally reminded of Garrison Keillor's story, told in his forties, about how his four-year-old self stole a dollar, used it to buy a cheeseburger and was carried home by his father before he got a bite. "No burger since has looked so good to me. I still miss it. Wake up nights hungry and see it." For years, my version of that was a place up by Northpark that I *think* was called the Blue Corn Café – we went once when I was a teenager and I had some wonderful concoction that had been lacquered with a chile paste – and then it closed and I never got to go back. But with a few more years under my belt, I realize that I’ve probably overinflated its deliciousness in my memories, and come to realize that we live in a golden age of burgers; the chiefs among beef are here in the metro, and we are privileged to walk among them.
… Or possibly I’m just hungry.
STEVE GILL is unusually tall, has a B.A. in Letters and a minor in Classics from OU, drinks a great deal of coffee and openly delights in writing, editing and catching the occasional typo for Slice – especially since his dream career (millionaire layabout in a P.G. Wodehouse novel) is notoriously difficult to break into. He's probably trying to think of a joke about pirates right now.