We know. It’s hot. It’s summer in Oklahoma. Cool down by sampling cocktails that local bars and restaurants have concocted just for you. Find a nice, air conditioned space or a shaded patio and while away the hours drinking the flavors of summer. You might decide it’s not that bad after all.
— by Devon Green, photos by Mark Hancock, Shannon Cornman and Lauren Hamilton
There are a wealth of new local eateries cropping up in the metro and even more coming. If they’re not on your radar, they should be. From the comfy atmosphere at The Barrel on Western Avenue to the laid-back vibe at the Plaza District’s coffee shop, you might find a new regular hangout.
— by Devon Green, photos by Mark Hancock and Shannon Cornman
1201 N. Pennsylvania
What works: The food. Seriously. It’s uniformly good.
What needs work: Specials ought to last a little longer than just before noon.
Tips: Nic’s is cash only. If you go without cash, don't go without cash.
There are two problems with the burgers at Nic’s Grill.
1. The line out the door before you can squeeze inside the 17-seat restaurant just to order.
2. Finding the bottom of the thing to pick it up.
Fans of reading comprehension will note that I didn’t say the burger isn’t worth the wait or the gooey dig to the bottom of the basket required before you lay hands on the bottom bun. That is because Nic’s Grill serves one of the best burgers in Oklahoma City.
Let’s not pretend that crowd of people milling outside this seemingly innocuous diner isn’t a bit of a culinary aphrodisiac. When you hear other people ooh-ing and aah-ing over the food, you might say, “No burger is worth all that trouble.”
But inside, deep down, you wonder if they’re right.
Nic’s is tiny. His “expansion” added two seats. People are grateful for them, because it is a dance to get inside and then a power yoga course trying to navigate where you’ll be seated.
Bringing a group of four or more?
Don’t! Seriously! You will not all sit together or at the same time, and you will incur a wrath so virulent and powerful that even Khan Noonien Singh himself would be dumbstruck by it.
Now that you’ve pared your group down to one or two, let’s get to ordering.
You can go for breakfast. Nic’s is less crowded then, but the food is just as good. George (the owner and operator) is behind the counter, making omelets, pancakes, French toast, chicken-fried steaks, potatoes, bacon, etc. It is not fancy, this food. But it is extremely good.
The sausage and mushroom omelet ($6.25) is wonderful. You will not finish it in one sitting. Deal with it.
The pancakes ($2.50-$3.50, depending on how many you get) are as thick as cakes. One is probably enough, but you do what you must.
George is very proud of his French toast ($3.50). I generally don’t like French toast, but if you do, his will delight you to no end.
You can go for lunch. I also recommend this, but I recommend you get there by 11 or even earlier — I’m not kidding about the line. Do I look like I kid around about burgers?
On Tuesdays, Nic’s serves pork chops ($7.25). On Thursdays, fried chicken ($7.25). On Fridays, meatloaf ($7.10). These are all very good. If you’re going back to Nic’s for your third or fourth time, try one. (But get there before 11:30, or it will be gone.)
If it is your first time, you will get the burger ($4.75 hamburger, $4.95 cheeseburger). You will not get a double cheeseburger. You will certainly not get a triple cheeseburger. You are not able to handle it.
You will get the burger, and you can get bacon or jalapeños if you like. For your first time, however, you should get the burger with cheese.
George will ask you if you want “cheese ’n’ everything.” That means lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and the onions he’s been grilling on the flat top all morning. You will answer, “Yes.”
Mustard or mayo? Or both? Your call. (But let’s not pretend that mayo is the right answer.)
You will get the fries ($2.15 for fries; $8.08 for fries, cheeseburger and drink). If there are two of you, share. It’s a lot of fries.
Why are Nic’s burgers so good? The meat. It has its own blend of beef, and I’d gauge the fat content to be about 25 percent. He doesn’t ask you how you want it cooked, because he cooks it all the way through. The fat keeps it moist and flavorful.
It’s actually a pretty simple burger; it’s just made with good beef and cooked right by a really nice guy who likes serving people. I like to think that the same burger cooked at a big restaurant would taste just as good, but I have to think there’s something about crowding into that tiny sliver of a dining room and anticipating and then finally taking that first bite that adds to it all. You made it! You stood in line and you sat on a stool next to some construction workers and you got one of these mythical burgers.
And they are, honestly, very good burgers. You should wait in line and get one sometime.