The Oklahoma Onion Burger Legacy

Anybody Know Where to Get a Good Onion Burger?

Hamburger toppings come and go, but none have become as ubiquitous and as loved as onions. In Oklahoma, onions aren’t just a topping – they are an integral part of the burger experience and a legacy from bygone days.

“Onion burger” was a lovely sound to my foodie ears, and while I wasn’t quite sure what they were, I knew I wanted one.

Katie Johnstonbaugh, author of Food Lovers’s Guide to Oklahoma, encountered onion burgers when she first moved to Oklahoma. She describes her first  experience — a visit to Bunny’s Onion Burger — in her blog.

Onion burger was a lovely sound to my foodie ears, and while I wasn’t quite sure what they were, I knew I wanted one,” she said in the post.

Bunny's onion Burgers
It’s fun to sit at the bar at Bunny’s and watch the grill man create an onion burger

After trying one? She was hooked — the onions hard-seared into the meat, the stringent oniony perfume… the flavor. Now, Katie gives Best Burger Review readers the low-down on this unique and tasty part of Oklahoma’s food story.

Fried Onion Burgers, The List

Many years ago in Oklahoma, near the Great Depression, restaurants decided to stretch their buck by adding onions to their burgers when they tossed them on the flat grill. The result was that folks LOVED the flavor addition of grilled onions. The onion burger was invented and has stuck with us here ever since. There is even a giant celebration in El Reno, Oklahoma, each year devoted solely to the onion burger where the world’s largest onion burger is created and served to the public.

There are many local places in Oklahoma to get a great onion burger today and the tell-tale smell left on your clothing and hair is a dead giveaway you’ve been to one of them! It’s a small price to pay!

Some of Katie’s favorite places to grab a great onion burger (in addition to Bunny’s) around Oklahoma are:

Tucker’s – Their small but gratifying menu consists of a single or double premium onion burger hand-formed from fresh meat from Creekstone Farms right here in Oklahoma. There is also a turkey burger that is perhaps the best I’ve had at a restaurant. But then, there’s the “Mother Tucker” which is over one pound of fried onion burger goodness (triple beef and onions). (Review)

Tucker's Onion Burger
Tucker’s – Beef Onion Burger (100% All-Natural Creekstone Farms Black Angus Beef)

Claud’s Hamburgers, in Tulsa – If you can locate the small white building located away from main street Peoria Avenue in Tulsa then you’ve found a diamond in the rough my friends. Opened in 1954, Claud’s has been frying up onion burgers for over fifty years the same way. They smash them onto a flat griddle with some chopped onions, top them with American Cheese and serve them with some great hand-cut French fries or homemade cole slaw.

The “El Reno Trinity” – Sid’s Diner, Robert’s Grill and Johnnie’s Grill – Everyone is loyal to one of these three in El Reno, and they will fight you to the death over their opinion. Robert’s, in my opinion has bigger burgers and you get more for your buck, but you won’t go wrong in any of these places.

(Ed. Note: You can find a recipe for Sid’s Onion Burger in Saveur).

(Photos courtesy of Dishin & Dishes)

Katie JohnstonbaughKatie Johnstonbaugh is the creator of the food blog, Dishin & Dishes, a TV food personality for Freedom 43tv, and author of Food Lovers’s Guide to Oklahoma. Find out which burger Katie secretly loves in our Burger People interview.

Katie Johnstonbaugh, Author

Burgers, Beyond the Onions 

Katie Johnstonbaugh is the creator of the food blog, Dishin & Dishes, a Katie JohnstonbaughTV food personality for Freedom 43tv, and author of Food Lovers’s Guide to Oklahoma. She told us about Oklahoma’s fried onion burgers.

BBR: What is your Favorite Burger?
My favorite burger that I make at home would (have) cheese stuffed inside, (aka Juicy Lucy). I make one (called the All-American Stuffed Burger on my blog) that has chopped, cooked bacon and Greek yogurt (to keep it moist) mixed in with the raw hamburger meat before it’s shaped into patties. The cheese I stuff inside is smoked cheddar. While that’s cooking, I caramelize some onions to top it, then add some made-in-Oklahoma BBQ sauce called Head Country. The result is unbelievable!

All American Stuffed Burger
You’ll want to make Katie’s All American – Cheddar, bacon, caramelized onions…

BBR: What is the best burger in your current city?
The best burger in (Oklahoma City) is all about the buns. Republic Gastropub serves up their signature burger, “The Republic Burger,” with some fantastic toppings like caramelized onion, applewood smoked bacon relish, a couple of cheeses like bleu and Gruyere, and then adds some arugula and a perfectly fried egg on top. The meat is a custom blend of Angus beef that is hand-pattied. But the thing that sends it over the top for me are the homemade pretzel buns. They are fantastic!

BBR: What burger is on your bucket list?
The burger that is definitely on my bucket list might be surprising to you after all those horribly unhealthy ingredients I’ve previously listed. It’s the Earth Burger, from Umami Burger, in Los Angeles. The patty is made with mushroom and edamame, and has a white soy aioli, truffled ricotta, cipollini onions, lettuce and slow roasted tomatoes. It comes on a grilled brioche bun.  If you’ve had a brioche bun before you just sighed with me didn’t you?

Republic Burger
The Republic Burger –  Bleu and Gruyere, bacon-caramelized onion jam …

BBR: What burger do you love but are embarrassed to admit?
Oh my. The Whopper. I worked at Burger King in high school and still love the taste of one. Memories? Reflections? High school era nostalgia? Either way I do grab one once in a blue moon. Shhh, please don’t tell anyone!?

(Photos courtesy of Dishin & Dishes)

Best Burgers Jacksonville, FL

Burger Picks from Jacksonville Local, EatDrinkJax

If you are looking for a city with burger diversity and scads of excellent hamburger choices, Jacksonville, FL  might be your town. Below are a few best burger picks from our friends at EatDrinkJax. Although they don’t rate burgers, EatDrinkJax editor, Gerry Glynn, puts all these burgers in the “great” category.

 Jacksonville is about burger diversity — freshly ground, meaty and honest …  topped with Spam, collard greens or foie gras…

“They’re all so good,” said Glynn. “We probably eat at Mojo the most because it’s close to where we live and its wide variety of Southern awesomeness provides a perfect sampler for visitors to Jacksonville. Happy hour at The Blind Rabbit is where we go when we’re hanging out and want to enjoy a craft beer and a great burger. We love Two Dudes and send visitors to the Beach there all the time to experience what locals know. If only Pinegrove Market and Black Sheep were closer we’d eat there a lot more.”

Jacksonville Burger Recommendations 

The Blind Rabbit (review) is a Jacksonville Beach hot spot, featuring a huge selection of whiskeys, along with craft beer and gourmet burgers. The Southern Burger is topped with arugula, a fried green tomato, okra and pimento cheese. The Blind Rabbit is the second restaurant for chefs and brothers, John and Jeff Stanford. Both restaurants were preceded by the popular Salty Fig food truck. (More about The Blind Rabbit on Best Burger Review).

Southern Burger
Southern Style at The Blind Rabbitt

Black Sheep (interview) is hip and cool and their rooftop patio provides a great way to see the city. The restaurant is fine dining but prices at lunch are what you’d expect at an upscale burger joint. The burgers at Black Sheep are made with grass feed beef from a local farm. The burgers are delicious and rate among our favorites. There’s only one problem: the Duck Banh Mi Sandwich is so darn good that it’s hard to order the burger if you have to choose. Our solution was to order one of each, then split.

Orsay (interview) is sister restaurant to Black Sheep. It offers a foie gras topped burger that one Jacksonville food critic calls a BARGAIN (caps are hers) at $30. Inspired by renowned chef Daniel Boulud, the Orsay Burger is made from grass-fed beef, and comes in a homemade bun with home made fries, aioli and pickles.

Epik Burger (interview) is for the person who isn’t satisfied with just a burger. Epik Burger offers over 30 styles of burger including a Hawaiian Local Burger (topped with Spam and an egg), Deep South Burger (topped with collard greens cooked in bacon fat) and a Maguro Bocho Burger, featuring sushi-inspired toppings such as wasabi mayonnaise, pickled ginger, soy sauce and sesame seeds.

Epik Hawaiian Burger
Epik’s Hawaiian Local – Yep, with Spam

Mojo (interview) has 5 locations around Jacksonville and St. Augustine. There’s so much great barbecue at Mojo that their burger can sometimes fly under the radar. But the burger is amazing, especially with thick cut, crispy bacon. The burger comes with a side, and the sweet potato mash is out of this world. If you can convince someone to split dinners with you, the Kansas City Burnt Ends are tasty, tender pieces of brisket heaven.

M Shack (interview) is the creation of local fine-dining chefs Matthew and David Medure who wanted to bring out a better burger. M Shack has proven so successful that a second location has already been opened. M Shack features grass-fed burgers and truffle fries, along with handspun milkshakes, including “adult” versions with a little kick.

M Shack
M Burger – ground fresh daily

Pinegrove Market
(interview) started as a high end butcher shop in 1968 before adding a deli. Their burgers are made daily from the dry aged beef sold in their butcher shop. The owners work in the shop, greeting customers and carving great steaks. The burgers are meaty and honest. Nothing fancy but the taste. A free selection of sides is available to first time visitors, so be sure to ask.

Two Dudes Market (review) is a mile west of the beach on Atlantic Blvd. Located in a non-descript strip plaza oh-so-close and yet oh-so-far from the busiest restaurant area in Atlantic Beach means that Two Dudes must rely primarily on local traffic. Good thing that Two Dudes is a local favorite. The Jax Beach Burger is topped with fried oysters and wasabi cream sauce, and is paired with a side of mango-wasabi cole slaw. The burgers are huge, and so are the desserts. Decisions, decisions.

EatDrinkJax is a Jacksonville website dedicated to talking to local chefs and restaurateurs. Through one-on-one interviews, they go behind the scenes to hear from the food purveyors themselves about what makes their restaurants and their food special — the best menu items and the hidden gems that don’t get the attention they deserve.

For more on the Jacksonville Burger scene, read our interview with EatDrinkJax editor, Gerry Glynn.

(Photos courtesy EatDrinkJax)