Discover Oklahoma: Hometown diners offer break from holiday feast

BY DINO LALLI, For The Oklahoman Published: November 17, 2013
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Thanksgiving is almost upon us. Like many people, I feast on leftovers a few days after Thanksgiving. But in the past several years, by Saturday I've been ready for something with which to cleanse my palette from the turkey and dressing, ham and green bean casserole.

That brings me to this article's subject: restaurants and diners and mom-and-pop venues across our state. A few days after Thanksgiving, I want a meal in one of our state's many places that serve a good, old-fashioned hamburger or maybe chicken-fried steak or tasty barbecue.

Fried, with onions

If you are looking for a fried onion burger, El Reno is your destination. Within a short distance of each other, you'll find Johnnie's Grill, Sid's Diner and Robert's Grill. Robert's Grill has been in business since the late 1920s, Johnnie's since the '40s, and Sid's has been open for 25 years. Those statistics alone should tell you a lot about their quality and service. Besides the burgers, you'll also find great milkshakes at all three locations — a great beverage to help you get over Thanksgiving leftovers.

Another place for onion burgers is Mangum. Around the noon hour, a tantalizing smell drifts along the Greer County courthouse square. The odor would be that of frying onions, and it is indeed an olfactory magnet that can draw a hungry crowd to a building on the corner. Since 1928, The Hamburger Inn has been serving up tasty fried onion burgers. The Hamburger Inn, like so many restaurants and diners, also has a place in the area's history and tradition.

Tradition is king

Tradition continues at other locations across Oklahoma, such as at the Hamburger King in Ada. It has served breakfast and lunch to thousands of people for the past 60 years. When asked why the Hamburger King is still open after all these years, Jayelynn Anderson, the chief cook, narrowed it down to three reasons: “good food, good service and good people.” They have different kinds of burgers, and at the end of the week, you'll find Catfish Fridays on the menu.

In Medford, generation after generation of folks have feasted on the Smrcka Burger at Smrcka's Dairy Snack, along with hot dogs, fries and milkshakes. But owner Alice Smrcka said it's not just a burger place anymore. The menu has expanded over the years, as has the building. It now has a large dining room that is also wheelchair accessible. Smrcka said they can cater to people with special diets, too.

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