I love hamburgers. You love hamburgers. Or maybe you don’t. I just assumed, based on the fact that you’re reading these words right now, that anybody who clicked on a post called “That’s a Great Burger” would be appropriately invested in hamburgers.
Justin Nicholas, the eponymous “Nic” of Nic’s Grill and Nic’s Diner & Lounge, once told me that Oklahoma has the best burgers anywhere in the world. When he travels, the first thing anyone wants to do is take a man known for his burger prowess to try out the best they have locally, and they always come up wanting.
Oklahoma’s focus on burgers might not be healthy—actually, it’s guaranteed unhealthy—but it means that we have some of the very best burgers around. And not just places dedicated solely to burgers, either! There are also a ton of restaurants specializing in different cuisines that absolutely kill it when it comes to their burgers.
Trying to do a round-up of excellent burgers is a fool’s errand (as this fool well knows) because there are always several that get left off. So instead of trying to do everything all at once, I’m going to bring you top-notch burgers as I find them.
Stella Modern Italian Cuisine
1201 N. Walker Ave.
Burger - $14
Available at lunch and brunch, the Burger is a half-pound of ground steak trimmings covered in mushrooms, peppered bacon, and gruyere inside a brioche bun. It has all the buzzwords, but—at least until now—none of the buzz.
Not all upscale restaurants do a great burger, but they should. After all, the restaurant business is all about using your ingredients in a variety of ways, which means that if you’re making a bunch of steaks, you really ought to be using the trimmings for something.
I’m always a bit wary when a restaurant has a mushroom-Swiss burger but mushrooms are nowhere else on the menu. Canned mushrooms don’t belong...anywhere, but definitely not on a burger that is heading toward my mouth. Meanwhile, you have places like Stella where I found mushrooms explicitly listed in several other dishes on the lunch and dinner menus. People who use a lot of mushrooms generally know how to use those mushrooms well.
This burger is big. It’s juicy. The gruyere helps bind it all together, because steak trimmings are super tender and can fall apart (you don’t want to overwork them and get a tough burger, either).
I’m not actually in love with bacon on my burgers in general, but that’s a lot to do with how people cook the bacon. Stella’s kitchen is run by Chef Missy Aust, one of the most thoughtful chefs you’ll find, so when they put bacon on a burger, they make sure it’s thin and crispy, but not burnt, so it snaps off with every bite. No chewy bacon pull, which can make a big mess, or overly done “shard” bacon that stabs you in the gums. This is the mark of a restaurant that pays attention to every dish and really considers the diners. One of many reasons I love Stella.
And that, dear readers, is a great burger.