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Break the Chain: Red Robin

I Ate Oklahoma is brought to you in part by:

Chain restaurants serve a purpose. They provide a standard quality and flavor across states and countries.

If you truly love the food at a chain restaurant, that’s great. Congratulations. More often than not, we dine at chain restaurants because we don’t know a better local place to go. That was before Yelp and, uh, this website. Now you know. Now you can break the chain.

Red Robin

I don’t agree with the decision, but I understand the rationale behind dining at Red Robin.

Red Robin does a pretty decent hamburger in a couple of different varieties. And I’m not talking about different toppings — everyone does that. Red Robin gives you burgers that are thin and burgers that are thick and doubles and triples and the like.

If your group sincerely cannot come together to decide on burger patty thickness for a meal, then Red Robin is an acceptable detente. But let’s be clear: you can do better. You know you can. And when your family comes to town and says, “Red Robin!” or “Fuddruckers!” or “Third Burger Choice Greg Is Too Lazy To Research!” then you should say, “Hmm. Or what about this great local burger you haven’t yet experienced and will be a fun memory of your visit to Oklahoma?”

I mean, this is Oklahoma. Our state bird is a cheeseburger eating a smaller cheeseburger. You don’t need to go to Red Robin. You need to go to these places:

The Cow Calf-Hay

https://thecowcalfhay.com/

There are two locations for The Cow Calf-Hay (formerly The Mad Cow Calf-Hay, until people realized bovine spongiform encephalopathy isn’t a particularly appetizing concept) and the Edmond one is likely the easiest to get to. I am personally devoted to the Juicy Lucy stack of smaller burgers and cheese, but there are plenty of tasty varieties to enjoy in larger sizes. As always, I think simplicity is often best.

The Garage

https://eatatthegarage.com/

The Garage and S&B’s (see below) are the local joints with the most locations, including a few out of state. The Garage is a Hal Smith Restaurant Group concept best known for some pretty crazy burger combinations and a pretty decent beer/bar selection. These patties aren’t thick or thin, but right in the middle. For a really unique states, the Stick Fingers tops a burger with sweet jalapeno relish, cheddar, peanut butter and bacon bits. It sounds weird, but it tastes great.

Geronimo’s

Donut shops tend to do most of their business in the mornings, so to keep the space viable, they often do other foods at lunch and dinner. Geronimo’s makes a mighty fine burger, including one topped with grilled ham and melted cheese. It’s a community hub, which means you’ll often find a few folks just hanging out inside talking, even after they’ve eaten. If you’re not in the mood for a burger, the chili cheese coney is the best around.

Grill on the Hill

http://www.grillonthehillokc.com/

It’s wild to think Grill on the Hill has only been around for a decade. It feels much more ingrained in the community, like it opened the day after statehood. Breakfast is great, but the place is really hopping at lunch, thanks to a variety of diner-style dishes and excellent burgers. A basic cheeseburger will leave you happy, but if you want to get really delirious, try out the Memphis Burger — an open-faced third-pound burger that’s topped with fries, cheddar and then smothered in brown gravy. I mean, who wants to live forever?

Hopscotch

https://www.facebook.com/HopscotchOKC/

My guess is Hopscotch will soon join the ranks of The Garage and S&Bs as a growing chain of burger-centric restaurants as soon as more people discover them. Top-notch beer selection and top-notch burger combinations are a winning combo. Get yourself the Fire Away! if you love spice, or the aptly named Millennial Burger for a pile of avocado, bacon and ranch on your patty.

Chips and onion dip burger at Lip Smackers

Lip Smackers Restaurant

www.lipsmackersokc.com

If you haven’t heard of Lip Smackers, you should probably read the full review here. But! If you’re in a TL;DR mood, Lip Smackers is a little burger joint in an old gas station and it’s amazing. The burgers are made with a half pound of angus beef, seasoned impeccably and grilled perfectly. Jabbar is the owner and he’s maybe the happiest person I’ve ever seen when he’s cooking for a crowd. His flavor combinations are insanely good — get the burger with chips and onion dip on top — and don’t forget to order a side of okra.

The Miller Grill cheeseburger

The Miller Grill

https://www.facebook.com/themillergrill/

Way out in Yukon, The Miller Grill serves up some of the finest burgers around. Owner Jason McCormack loves all kinds of down-home delights (his chicken-fried steaks and Indian tacos are much-loved), but after learning at Irma’s Burger Shack, he knows that the key to an amazing burger is good quality fresh beef. There are no shortcuts here. Check for daily grill specials, too, because they’re always trying to outdo themselves.

MOB Grill

http://www.mobgrill.com/

This restaurant doesn’t mess around. MOB Grill serves a different type of onion burger, thanks to the their secret onion marinade, which gives the burgers a mix of sweet, savory and tangy flavors atop a quarter-pound burger patty and melted cheese. The MOB Butcher is the same burger, but with a heaping helping of pulled pork on top. Yeah. You know you need that in your life. They still use a truck, but they now operate a brick and mortar restaurant in Bethany.

Nic’s Grill

The consensus “best burger” in Oklahoma City for the last decade is at Nic’s Grill. The teeny-tiny burger joint at NW 10th and Penn has 17 seats, a cash-only policy and a line out the door. This burger is huge and, thanks to Nic’s special blend of beef cuts, stays juicy despite being cooked all the way through. Nic’s usual question to customers is, “Cheese ‘n everything?” which means lettuce, tomato, pickle and a big pile of onions that are slowly melting on the griddle all morning long. Nic’s isn’t open nights or weekends, but it’s worth making a special trip to enjoy this classic.

Patty Wagon

http://www.thepattywagonok.com/

A change in ownership has done nothing to dull the wonderful flavors of this former food truck. One of my favorite combos is the Beanie Burger, topped with cheddar, Fritos, jalapenos, chili and bean dip. It’ll stick to your mouth before it sticks to your ribs.

For an even spicier kick, the Taser can’t be beat. The burger is marinated in a spicy sauce with pepper-jack cheese and spicy mayo. Can I say spicy again? OH WAIT I JUST DID.

RePublic Gastropub

http://www.republicgastropub.com/

Is there really a big difference between RePublic and Tucker’s (see below)? I mean, they’re both A Good Egg Dining restaurants. The answer is a resounding yes, because the concepts are so wildly different. RePublic is your home for the fancy burger with tons of crazy toppings, like the Classen Burger with a porter-infused hickory sauce and white cheddar. If only a few people are crazy for burgers, this is an excellent choice, because the menu runs deep and varies a lot.

Onion burger with cheese at Robert's Grill

Robert’s Grill

There are onion burgers and there are onion burgers and there is Robert’s Grill in El Reno. It’s a drive, no doubt, but for that really real El Reno onion burger flavor, you cannot beat Robert’s. This restaurant is no frills to the extreme. The cinder block building has an L-shaped lunch counter and no other tables. The menu is extremely focused on slaw dogs and onion burgers, both of which they do incredibly well. Please, don’t try to get it without onions. Your taste buds deserve the real thing.

Ron’s Hamburgers and Chili

http://www.ronsburgersandchili.com/

There is one burger at Ron’s that simply cannot be beat: The Ron’s Special. You get a nicely grilled burger patty, a slice of ham, cheese, bacon bits, ranch dressing, lettuce, tomato and onion on a bun that is hopeless outmatched. You will make a mess and you will not even care a little bit about it, because your brain is exploding from all the flavors at play.

S&B’s Burger Joint

http://www.sandbburgers.com/

The variety of burgers at S&B’s is staggering, but the draw isn’t just the on-point flavor combinations, but the variety of sizes. You can get a “fatty” or try a few sliders. My personal favorites are the Fire burger with a fried egg on top or the Colombian, which includes a coffee-and-sea-salt-rubbed burger patty with smoked gouda and avocado. There’s also a new special burger of the month with a dollar of each purchase going to a different charity all year long.

Tucker’s Onion Burgers

http://www.tuckersonionburgers.com/

The opposite of S&B’s in many ways is Tucker’s Onion Burgers, which is dedicated to a thick burger patty topped with deep, dark grilled onions and cheese. You can get pickles. You can put on mustard or grilled fresh jalapenos. There’s even bacon now! But the basics remain the same for a reason — Tucker’s makes a mighty fine burger without all those bells and/or whistles.

Grilled adobo burger

The Winston

https://thewinston.com/the-winston-norman/

This new addition to Norman is an off-shoot of the Pub W brand with a few twists and turns on the menu. The spicy grilled adobo burger is a personal favorite. The bun is brushed with adobo sauce before it’s grilled. The patty is juicy and comes topped with cheddar, sauteed onions and jalapenos for a great burn. But don’t worry about the heat, because it’s balanced with a dollop of sour cream.

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About the Author

Founder and Eater-in-Chief of I Ate Oklahoma, Greg Elwell has been reviewing restaurants and writing about Oklahoma’s food culture for more than a decade. Where a normal person orders one meal, this guy gets three. He is almost certainly going to die young and those who love him most are fairly ambivalent about it. You can email Greg at greg@iateoklahoma.com.

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