Pie Junkie’s Cheat Day is brought to you by...Pie Junkie! Once a month this summer, Pie Junkie owners Leslie Coale-Mossman and Darcy Schein join me for a cheat day meal in the metro. If you’re looking for a great cheat day treat, check out Pie Junkie in the Plaza District.
“And now, the end is near/
And so I face the final curtain”
Folks, the close of summer draws ever closer, which means Darcy and Leslie have to get back to making pies in the busy months ahead. Sadly, that means this will be the last #PieJunkiesCheatDay for the year. But! Look for a return in early 2019, as plans are already afoot for the next run of fun overindulgence.
For the summer finale, we decided to go big and then go home, because when you eat at Nic’s Grill, you’re definitely going to need a nap.
That’s right, burger fans, we tackled the consensus Best Burger in Oklahoma City at the original Nic’s and we didn’t skip a single part of the experience.
Despite varying reports online and even on the signs at the restaurant, Nic’s Grill opens at 11 a.m., which means you should definitely show up at 10:30 a.m. A line quickly formed around the corner and by the time the doors finally opened, it was packed full with a few folks still waiting for seats.
Nic’s Grill has been mentioned on TV, in magazines and in hushed tones all over the metro, but it’s still the same old tiny restaurant with one long counter, one short counter and two tiny tables in the corner.
Breakfast is no longer on the menu, which is a shame, but the burgers are just as good as ever. It was the first time for Darcy and Leslie and it was a thrill to see them drink in the experience. Waiting outside, we could smell the pile of onions slowly melting on the hot griddle. When we grabbed our seats, the young man working the griddle asked if we were having burgers (of course) and if we wanted “cheese n’ everything,” just as George “Nic” Nicholas has for years.
There are a few alterations you can make on a Nic’s burger. The usual way to eat one is with cheese n’ everything — mustard, mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickles and grilled onions — but you can also opt for bacon, mushrooms and grilled fresh jalapenos.
We all chose to get ours done the recommended route, save for Darcy, who omitted mayonnaise because of her virulent anti-mayo agenda. The jalapenos were tempting, but it’s good to get a baseline idea of a Nic’s burger before you go gussying it up.
A regular burger will run you $7.45 and a cheeseburger is $7.95. But I’d recommend you get the combo with fries and a drink for $11.42 and $11.92, respectively. And, while we're talking about money, you need to know that Nic's is CASH ONLY. They do not take credit cards, checks, ApplePay, Venmo or love letters. Bring money.
How to describe a Nic’s burger? Well, it’s huge. The griddle man cuts them down the middle with a chef’s knife to check for doneness. And that’s another thing: despite being thicker than an extra in a Sir Mix-a-Lot video, these burgers are cooked all the way through.
“Wouldn’t that make them really dry?”
It would, if these were just ground hamburger or sirloin. Nic has a proprietary blend of beef muscles he uses for optimal flavor, texture and fat content. I’d wager these start off at about 25 percent fat, so even when they’re cooked all the way through, they’re still juicy.
The magic isn’t just in the meat, though. A lot of credit goes to that pile of melting onions. Toward the bottom, they’re black and deeply caramelized, and each time the cook pulls a wad of onions out to top a burger, new onions fall into those juices, replenishing the pile. It’s the circle of life, but better.
Those super-tender onions are topped with cheese and the bun, which melts them all together while steaming the bread to delicate perfection. This system is a masterclass in grill work and I’ve got to hand it to Nic: he’s trained his young protege well.
Darcy’s assessment: “It lives up to the hype.”
Leslie’s assessment: “You can’t print what I’m thinking.”
Yeah. I mean, they’re right on.
Now, if you get the fries, get ready for some fresh cut spiral curly fries that are fresh from the fryer. I mean, that thing was a few feet from us and it was spluttering and sizzling as batch after batch of just-peeled potatoes was lowered to their doom. There’s cajun seasoning on the table. Use it.
On Mondays, Nic’s also serves a chicken-fried steak ($11.92) with mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, toast and a drink. It’s the deal of a lifetime.
Look, I know you’re going to Nic’s for the burger. We all know. And most of the people in there are ordering the burger, with good reason. But this chicken-fried steak is something to behold.
The tenderized beef isn’t dredged in flour or pounded out super thin. It’s seasoned, dusted with flour and left to sit, sizzling along, on the griddle with the rest of the meat.
What you receive won’t look like the ultra-crispy breaded chicken-fried steaks at other restaurants. Instead, this is more like a hamburger steak in texture, but incredibly beefy on the palate.
The gravy over the top is a wonder. I’m guessing he uses the burger grease to make it, but however it comes together, it’s excellent. Tons of flavor. Creamy as all get out.
The mashed potatoes are made from fresh potatoes — not exactly a shock, considering how the fries are made — and the flat green beans are rich with bacon flavor. Between these and the ones the Pie Junkies and I had at Cajun King, it’s hard to name a favorite. Better eat both just to be sure.
I could have eaten another several piles of those mashed potatoes. Seriously some of the best I’ve had in a long time.
It can be hard on a restaurant like Nic’s Grill (or even Pie Junkie) to live up to the hype in the community and online. So let’s be clear: If you go to Nic’s searching for a religious experience, you’re probably going to be disappointed. But if you’re looking for a great burger, probably one of the best you’ve ever had, you’ll find it here.
(Same goes for Pie Junkie, by the way. I know they’re a sponsor, but if you read the review I link to below, you’ll see that I was tooting their horn well before #PieJunkiesCheatDay was even a twinkle in our eyes. These people do WORK and the results are outstanding.)
That wraps up Pie Junkie’s Cheat Day for 2018! We’ll be back next year with new Cheat Day reviews, but don’t wait until then to stop in for your own cheat day at Pie Junkie, 1711 NW 16th St. And if you’re not sure what to order, I just so happen to have a review you might enjoy...