Does Oklahoma City need more hamburger restaurants? I ask because I truly don’t know the answer.
I thought I knew. I thought, had someone asked me, “Hey, Greg, you seem to have opinions on things that no one cares about—does Oklahoma City need more hamburger restaurants?” and I would say something devastatingly clever, like, “Probably not.”
Oh how we’d laugh.
Oklahoma City, and the rest of the state in general, is absolutely flush with burger joints. We don’t have an In-N-Out Burger, but that’s because it’s just more stupid fast food burgers, and we don’t actually need more of those.
But then I think about those places that have made me burgers that fundamentally changed me as a man. Nic's Grill, of course. The Miller Grill. Dear, departed Irma’s Burger Shack. My beloved Lip Smackers.
Add one more to the list. New State Burgers & Spirits makes one of those burgers you will be required to have tried if you want to call yourself a “real Okie.” Why you want to call yourself that is a mystery to me, but I’m not here to judge you. I’m here to judge food. And this burger is guilty...of making me mad.
That’s right. I was eating at the bar with my girlfriend (I wasn’t mad at her) and I tried The Cheeseburger ($9) and Robert Black, who helped launch the concept, was there and he asked me what I thought and I said I was mad.
“I’m mad,” I said. See? Very accurate.
I was mad because I couldn’t figure out how they did it. I couldn’t place the seasoning on the burger patties (there are two) and I couldn’t figure out how they got a char on those thin patties and somehow the middles were still pink and juicy. I couldn’t figure out my the dijonnaise and the roughly chopped pickled and red onions were such a perfect combination, nor how the cheese was present in the flavor of the burger, but seemed to have evaporated when I looked at it after a bite.
I was mad and now I’m sitting here writing this and I’m still mad. I’m mad that it took me this long to eat a burger that Black said he grew up eating in Shattuck, Oklahoma. And I’m a little upset with Shattuck for not telling everybody what they were hiding in one of the town’s diners.
The Cheeseburger is essential. You need to experience this one for yourself. Maybe it won’t live up to the hype for you, but it did a number on me. I’ve eaten at least three meals since I had that burger and I still find myself licking my lips, expecting to taste it.
A restaurant doesn’t live by one menu item alone, though New State probably could, so I ate some more of the things and, as things go, these were very good things.
Gravy Fries ($11) and Hot Hamburger ($11) share more in common with one another than the price. Each of them involves a lot of fries being drenched in gravy. One of them has a pair of fried eggs and crispy fried lardons of bacon. The other is a burger on top of Texas toast, covered in fries and, as we’ve established, drenched in brown gravy.
Which one to get is up to you, but let me toss this out there for you: you’re probably not going to have room for Hot Hamburger and The Cheeseburger in one sitting. But you might have room to share Gravy Fries with your friends and emphatically not share The Cheeseburger with anyone.
Chef Lizzie Jane’s Crispy Chicken Thighs ($9) are unexpected, but not unwelcome. When Robert described them to me, he included the thighs brining in pickle juice and then being braised in pickle juice and I thought, “Huh. That might be too much pickling.”
Extreme Narrator voice: It was not too much pickling.
You will definitely taste a burst of pickle flavor when you take a bite of these thighs, but it isn’t overpowering or long lived. You taste it and it fades and you’re left with gorgeous, juicy chicken under crisp bronze skin and a Thai peanut chili sauce that I may or may not have downed like a shot at closing time.
Oh, and there’s a pile of perfectly pickled pink onions. Eat them alone. Eat them with chicken. Eat them dipped in sauce. Whatever. They were wonderful.
There’s more to this menu and, as happens with all restaurants, still changes to be made. So I will not say good-bye to New State Burgers & Spirits, but au revoir. Until we meet again, New State, for what I’m guessing will be a banger of a review.
(I’m not great at judging cocktails, which is why you’ll soon be seeing cocktail reviews from a new member of the team, Mr. Tracy Hamlin, aka @theokcfoodeater. That said, I did taste a few and New State is well-placed to become another boozy haven in The Plaza District.)