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The Burger Show drops Oklahoma burger episode
Watch what First We Feast had to say about local flavor
Last month I was able to hang out with a production team for First We Feast shooting an episode of The Burger Show, hosted by George Motz and Alvin Caillan. The crew visited The Meers Store, Sid’s Diner and Johnny’s Charcoal Broiler for a series of episodes focused on regional burger customs. The four-episode mini-series ended in Oklahoma where the guys stopped in Meers for the myth, Johnnie’s for the secret sauce, and Sid’s for the real deal fried-onion burgers.
The episode about Oklahoma, which Motz refers to as “the burger buckle” of the burger belt, dropped today.
They began out in Meers, where the story has always been better than the burger for me. And since I never fully believed the story (beef so naturally succulent it needs no salt???), I’ve never hankered to go back. Meers offers an interesting and unique burger detour if you’re bound for western Oklahoma.
Next stop was Johnnie’s, where they talked with Rick Haynes and had a Theta and a Caesar. If you’ve followed my food writing through the years, you know I love the story of the Theta Burger and wrote about it in Historic Restaurants of Oklahoma City. What you might not know is the Caesar was the first local burger I ate after moving here in the late 1980s.
I loved it. Yes, it’s waaaaaay too much dressing. But that’s why it’s so good. Neither George nor Alvin had ever had one and seemed to have a similar reaction. Today, my middle-aged system is better suited for the onion-free Theta. That said, I usually add back the onions the sorority girls excised at the Town Tavern in Norman back in the 1940s. That shredded American cheese shouldn’t and can’t be as good as it is. Alas, it is.
They finished in El Reno, birthplace of the fried-onion burger. Motz has been the kind of advocate for the onion burger Rick Bayless has been for interior Mexican cuisine across the U.S. Since his first book, The Great American Burger Book, Motz has devoted a good portion of his career spreading the gospel of the onion burger and he’s even working on a restaurant in New York built around it.
My favorite part of the episode, aside from watching Marty Hall cook onion burgers, was the animated history of the fried onion burger. It points out it was invented seven years before the Great Depression and any economic downturn that might’ve inspired the Hamburger Inn’s Ross Davis to short the beef and add a couple extra ounces of onions was caused by a railroad strike than the Depression. So, Nic, you can quit calling them Depression Burgers.