Nic’s Grill: possibly the best burger joint in Oklahoma City
I love a good burger, and am actually pretty picky when it comes to burgers. I also like shady, hole-in-the-wall-type places. Nic’s combines the best of both worlds with a fantastic burger prepared in a little building, a shack actually, just off NW 10th on Penn.
I like my burgers thicker than onion burgers, greasy, and full of meaty flavor. The problem with griddle-fried burgers is that often times they are very bland when they are not squashed down to typical onion burger thickness. In fact, I hate watching Oklahoma City’s onion fry chefs (I hear they are better in El Reno, but I don’t know from personal experience) get their big spatulas and then squish every last morsel of juice out of every patty they fry. I also hate watching friends do this when they are grilling burgers at home. My favorite part of a burger is all the flavorful beef juice that explodes into a cholesterol and fat-laden flavor bomb with every bite. Nic has figured out how to serve a big, beefy (dare I say manly?) burger without murdering it while it cooks.
I have actually been meaning to experience a Nic’s burger for myself for a long time now. The problem is that every time I drive by there are people lined out the door and there is no place to park. There are only 15 seats in the entire place — nine at the bar, where you get a front row seat to all the cooking action, and 3 two-seater tables along the back wall. I went at 11:20am and had no trouble claiming 2 bar stools, although Nic did say it was one of his slower days in quite some time. By the time we left, it was standing room only. My advice is get there early, before the big lunch rush. Apparently there is major to-go and call-in business here as well, so you have options.
Before I dive into the burger and fries I experienced, let me go over the menu. Breakfast, burgers, and chicken fried steak. No frilly salads, no fruit cups, no yogurt and raisin parfait, just different slabs and hunks of meat and eggs thrown on a griddle. That’s my kind of place. He does have a daily special of pork chops, meatloaf, or fried chicken, depending on the day. I can’t wait to say that I have tried them all. I love a griddle or pan fried chicken fried steak, so I can’t wait to try Nic’s. He seasons, lightly flours, then throws it on the griddle. Once it’s done it is plated, and then he goes around to a back room where he finds mashed potatoes and white gravy to cover everything in. I have to admit, my eyes started to well with tears of joy when I first saw him do this.
The burgers are thrown on the grill in what appears to be 1/3 to 1/2 pound of meat. I didn’t ask the exact weight as I was feeling a little verklempt after watching the chicken fry and the precision with which Nic fielded orders from patrons in seats, over the phone, and from standing, waiting to-go orders. The burger was covered with cheese, grilled onions, dressed to my specifications, and then piled onto a toasted bun. It was huge, sloppy, and extremely hot.
He also has hand-cut curly fries that are fried to each order. Sure, lots of places serve hand-cut fries, but Nic’s look better. They aren’t mushy and brown like you so often see. They are crispy, golden, and fresh. He doesn’t care about letting them sit and drain. He believes that hotter is better and throws them straight from the grease directly onto your plate. The portion of fries is the size of a small child, and when paired with a burger it is a daunting task just to finish everything.
Nic, always looking to help curb coronary disease, does not serve a double burger.
A few comments I and my lunch companion made really help to sum up the experience. My companion thanked me for making him experience a place like this. He had no idea the treasures you can find if you just take a risk and jump into some of these little dives to experience true Oklahoma City culture. He is obviously not a regular shady companion, but after this experience, he may well be. My reaction to Nic’s was equally sincere. I believe I muttered something about this burger changing my life as I wiped tears from my eyes.
I would call Nic’s shady, but not so shady as to deserve the prestigious designation of “Shady Restaurant of the Month.” To me, it has shady characteristics, but falls more into hole-in-the-wall status. We don’t want to cheapen the title given monthly to those truly shady places, so let’s just call Nic’s a great hole-in-the-wall with fantastic food. Prepare yourself properly before going so you can maximize your experience. Arrive early, skip breakfast, and be prepared to either sneak a nap at work afterwards or to at least have access to a highly caffeinated beverage. I have a feeling you, like me, will agree this is the best burger in town. Let us know what you think in the comments.