Robert’s Grill

Review by: Michael Stern

Museum-Piece Vintage Diner

Robert’s Grill opened in 1926. That makes it El Reno’s oldest hamburger shop. Starting at six in the morning, regulars occupy the fourteen-stool counter of this museum-piece town cafe. They come for coffee and eggs and home fries. Even at dawn, some come to tuck into Oklahoma’s classic onion-fried burger.

How To Make An Onion-Fried Burger

Onion-fried burgers are the signature dish of El Reno. The town hosts an onion-fried burger festival every May.

The grill man at Robert’s knows how to make them right. He slaps a quarter-pound sphere of beef onto the hot griddle. Next, he piles a double fistful of shaved-thin onions atop the beef. He uses a spatula to flatten the onions and the meat together. This creates a broad circular patty with an uneven edge. The cook presses down three or four times, changing the angle of attack each time, flattening only one-half to two-thirds of the patty with every stroke. Ribbons of onion insinuate themselves deep into the top of the soft raw meat. The meat assumes a craggy surface because of the uneven, overlapping use of the spatula. When the cook flips the burger, air around the grill clouds with the steam of sizzling onions.

Finally, he scoops the hamburger off the grill. Darkened caramelized onions have become one with the beef. The burger goes on a bun, onion side up. Choose lettuce, tomato, mustard, and pickles if you like them. But this simple, savory creation does not require dolling up with condiments. It is juicy and onion-sweet.

Coney Islands In El Reno, Oklahoma

El Reno boasts its own unique version of the Coney Island hot dog. For distinctiveness, it gives the classic onion-fried burger a run for its money. Of course, you expect moderately spicy beef chili on a Coney. And maybe cole slaw. In this case, a great, goopy spill of sweet slaw completely smothers the hot dog, its chili, and even the bun. Robert’s provides a fork with its Coney. You need it.

What To Eat

Onion-Fried Burger

Coney Island Hot Dog


Robert’s Grill Recipes


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