Oklahoma hamburgers rank among top 100

Friday, April 25th 2008, 6:20 pm
By: News 9

By Doug Warner, NEWS 9

When it comes to food, Oklahomans love their steak, catfish or even a side of fried okra.

But there's another local dish which recently caught the eye of a cross-country taste tester, the Oklahoma hamburger.

The book "Hamburger America" counts down our country's best 100 burgers - with seven found in Oklahoma.

NEWS 9's Doug Warner hit the road - for a taste of seven burgers, in only seven hours.

Oklahoma is out-grilled only by the state of Texas which had eight on the top 100 list.

It was pure lunar lunacy that Warner was walking through the doors of Johnnie's in El Reno by the early hour of 6 a.m.

Steve Galway first started at Johnnie's when he was only 12-years-old, nearly 40 years ago.

Onions are caramelized right into the fresh ground meat.

"What I think makes my onion burgers the best, ground chuck instead of hamburger meat," Galway said.

Edward Graham has owned Robert's Grill for two decades, but Warner only had to wait two minutes to taste the burger that's been served up at the grill for more than 80 years.

"I just feel ours is the better burger," Graham said.

And the El Reno visit wasn't complete until a stop and a countertop history lesson at Sid's Diner.

Co-owner Marty Hall once worked at Johnnie's, but later made plans to open his own place - with his dad Sid.

"Dad never saw the place, he died before we could open it, that's why we named it Sid's," Hall said.

For Sid's sake, Warner squeezed in a couple of extra bites, but had to get going south, down U.S. Highway 81 to J&W Grill in downtown Chickasha.

Owner Big Darrin urged Warner to order his famous burger even though it was just 8 a.m.

And technically, Warner barely made a dent in his delicious double before taking a batch of leftovers south, to the foot of the Wichita Mountains - passing where the buffalo roam free, but where a Texas Longhorn makes for a tasty lunch.

Likely the most famous of the burgers on the visit was one offered at the The Meers Store and Restaurant. The one pound Seismic Burger is topped with cheese, onions, lettuce, tomato, relish, pickles, jalapeno slices and bacon.

Even with Owner Joe Maranto's help there was no way Joe, Doug, producer Paula and photographer Travis could knock one out, combined.

The timed burger blitz hit the pits next.

There is no direct route from Meers to the next destination, Ada. It took over two hours, but the trip to Folger's, for their no onion/mayo added special, was certainly worth it.

"Our parents started the business in 1935 and has been going ever since," Folger's Co-owner Jerry Folger said.

With the doggie bags piling up, and time running out, the burger mobile made one final stop at the Hamburger King in Shawnee.

Sadly, these delicious, but filling bites were just for show now. The crew had had enough.

Seven burgers in seven hours turned into a bit less than seven burgers in eight hours and 22 minutes.

The man who compiled Hamburger America's top 100, George Motz, is headed back to Oklahoma.

He's scheduled to visit Burger Day in El Reno on May 2 and 3.