Irma's Burger Shack Among the City's Best
As part of National Burger Month, I’ll be blogging about Oklahoma Burger Joints. By the end of the month, perhaps we can build a Top 10 Places to Get a Burger List together. For my first stop, I chose Irma’s Burger Shack, which has locations at 1035 NW 63 St. and 1120 Classen Dr.
Irma’s is the last vestige of the powerhouse partnership between Chris Lower and The Big Kahuna, Kurt Fleischfresser. Though they are only two in a group of partners, their names exact a certain expectation as they are the men behind two of Oklahoma City’s finest restaurants both current and past: The Metro Wine Bar and Bistro, and The Coach House.
Irma’s began on NW 63rd St. in 2003, replacing a Rib Crib location, which had replaced Paul Seikel’s Doc’s Burgers in the mid-1990s. The building has a long and infamous past, including a domestic dispute that ended in murder. Irma’s has succeeded where others couldn’t. So successful has it been, a second location opened in 2007 in Midtown’s Plaza Court. Call it Irma La Deuce.
The first thing you need to know about Irma’s Burger Shack is that it opened out of necessity for the Kahuna to get No-Name beef from Bruce Buechner’s No-Name Ranch in Wynnewood. Buechner told me last year that he and Kahuna negotiated No-Name’s current status as chief beef supplier for The Coach House for some time.
“But he kept telling me he didn’t have any use for ground beef,” Buechner said. “So, I told him he needed to open a burger joint.”
Whether the rancher was the impetus behind it or not, Irma’s opened shortly thereafter. The menu is simple: a handful of appetizers, salads and sandwiches with the emphasis on burgers. Irma’s offers the obligatory Theta (hickory sauce and mayo), fried-onion burger and Mushroom Swiss. As is customary, they also offer an incindiery burger, there’s called the Fire Starter, combining peppper Jack and green chiles.
What they offer that few do offer is fresh, local beef. And, yes, there is a difference. Just try it. The No-Name burger does cost $7 compared to $4.95 for the Irma burger, but it’s well-worth it. And No-Name can be substituted on any of the signature burgers or it can be the foundation for one you build yourself: bacon, avocado and green chiles anyone? That said, the No-Name Burger is one of those very rare birds that can fly light. I haven’t recommended a burger featuring nothing more than meat and bread since I was four-years-old and am not about to start now. But a smear of mustard, and some red onion is plenty to prop up this local favorite. Cheese it if you must, preferably blue — but then switch the mustard to Chipotle Ranch.
The only beef I have with Irma’s are the fries. One of the many advantages to Food Dudedom is learning a few nuggets of trivia about some of the city’s best restaurants. I know for a fact, with apologies to The Drunken Fry, the best french fries in this city reside at The Metro Wine Bar and Bistro — a restaurant Lower still owns and that Kahuna helped open. These roasted garlic fries were inspired by a trip to Napa Valley that these two venerable restarauteurs took together. So my question is, much as I love The Metro, why on Earth are these same fries not available at either Irma’s Burger Shack location?
That’s not so much a knock on the fries Irma’s makes, but a yearning to have these delectable fries available for a wider audience. These fries shouldn’t be tucked away in a lovely bistro alone. No, these fries should be the signature of Irma’s Burger Shack. There, I got that off my chest. I’m sure that there’s probably some proprietary issue that blocks this simple dream of mine, but I felt like it had to be said. Every time I put an Irma’s French fry in my mouth, I can only wonder what could’ve (or should’ve) been.
You may also order No-Name beef in chopped steak form. Irma’s also features chicken-fried steak, chicken sandwiches and a smothered chicken entree. And, yes, there is a veggie burger on the menu.
The north location, just off the Western Corridor, is a little cozier locale — though it does have a large deck area. The Midtown space is more open, has plenty of patio seating and is a major bidder for both the urban sophisticate crowd and their perceived opposite the indie-philosophers. (Truth is, those crowds sprang from the same litter but chased different gravy trains as pups.)
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