In many respects, Norman is known for its sophistication and artistic urbanity. Hasslers Restaurant does not contribute to that aura.
Nearby is the kind of independent home appliance and TV store that once could be found in most small American towns coast to coast. Stepping into Hasslers is like leaving a city in the states largest metropolitan area and being instantly transported to Checotah or Henryetta.
The decor is a combination of faux house plants, craft fair-style shadow boxes and one wall with an enormous stylized rendering of Oklahoma Universitys Owen Field. The place is spic-and-span. It doesnt accept credit or debit cards. Hasslers opens at sunrise and closes at 2 p.m.
On a recent weekday at noon, the clientele was mostly guys wearing ball caps on break from painting drywall and framing houses. Nobody was looking at a phone they were talking to each other.
An experienced all-female wait staff knew many patrons by their first names. Matter-of-fact chat among chums overheard at one nearby table included, I was going to have my wife cut my hair last night, but shed had too many beers by the time I got home.
There was a board by the door with daily specials that listed California omelette ($6), catfish with two sides ($7.25) and Indian tacos ($6.99). The menu is a lot to read through.
The catfish special arrived at the table hot out of the fryer with hot sauce and ketchup alongside. Crowding the platter were fries, okra and a couple of round hush puppies. It came with a generous serving of house-made tartar sauce. It was the kind of meal stout enough to fuel a long afternoon of fracturing shale or baling alfalfa. The catfish was delicious, and the sides were OK.
Mamas Special ($4.99) and Papas Special ($5.25) were distinguished by two eggs instead of one on Papas, along with two pancakes, two strips of bacon and two sausage links. Heavenly Hashbrowns ($5.25) were celestial with eggs any style, cheese, peppers and grilled onions served right on top of the fried potatoes. It wouldnt be Oklahoma without biscuits and gravy (large $2.99).
The restaurant begins slinging lunch around 10:30 a.m. Green salads top the list, and choices get heavier under those. An 8 oz. rib-eye steak with two sides and a dinner roll ($9.49) is as high dollar as it gets at Hasslers. Sides include cheese fries or gravy fries ($2.49) and okra ($2.25). For goody two-shoes, theres cottage cheese ($1.75) and the vegetable side ($1.75).
Dessert indulgence comes only in the form of various flavors of cream pie ($3.25). Coconut was a good choice.