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Photo: Hank's Hamburgers

Greasers: The Hamburger Tour

BY Aaron Miller

The Tulsa burger scene is a no-frills culture. Don’t overthink these places and certainly don’t judge them by their exteriors. The burger is and will always be king at these establishments. You come for one reason and one reason only. My advice before you embark on a tour of Tulsa's Burger Heaven? Come hungry, make no edits to the menu and prepare to enter a comatose state after the feeding frenzy has commenced.

There are many more classic burger joints than what's listed below, and you are encouraged to try them all on your own timeline. But for the sake of one's arteries, feast in moderation.

Linda-Mar Drive-In, 1614 W. 51st St. 

The Andy Griffith Show, in all its 1960s black-and-white TV glory, blares in the small eating area at Linda-Mar Hamburgers on Tulsa’s west side. On repeat. This perfectly encapsulates the Linda-Mar experience. A time capsule with greasy burgers and lunchtime regulars is fittingly located at 51st and Union near the intersection of highways 75 and I-44. Linda-Mar opened in the late ‘60s, named for the proprietor’s daughters Linda and Margaret.

The double cheeseburger towered over a heaping basket of seasoned fries. Muscle memory forces your burger into your mouth because your eyes are transfixed on the charming Opie and Andy. Suddenly, your arteries are jolted back to reality as you take the first bite. A lightly toasted, butter-soaked bun envelopes a hearty double patty with pickles, onions, lettuce, mustard and tomatoes. The subtle crunch of the bun is unexpected and very much welcome. Like any good double burger, the cheese in between the two patties melts over the sides of the bun. The burger is definitely in my top echelon; the fries were nothing to write home about, but you’re not really there for the fries.

Most of the folks in the dining room were sharing the chicken nugget basket, another staple of this west side joint. What Linda-Mar may lack in atmosphere, they make up for in charm and damn good food. Linda-Mar isn’t the idealized version of the 1960’s burger joint with waitresses on roller skates serving malts and onion rings; it’s the real deal: no-fuss authenticity and slovenly delicious.

Weber’s Superior Root Beer Restaurant, 3817 S. Peoria Ave.

Weber's charming roadside burger stand remains a veritable Brookside staple. The family-owned institution opened in 1933, making it the longest-running business on the Brookside stretch of Peoria. Sharing a parking lot with a strip mall, Weber’s is essentially an indoor walk-up window with enough room for about five people to stand in line and less than eight people to eat indoors at the counters.

Served the old fashioned way, the thin bun, thin patty burgers are best with onions, mustard and pickles. Make sure to get a double patty with cheese; the cheese melts between the patties for a greasy and godly culinary experience. You are not allowed to leave Weber's without a refreshing, ice-cold mug of homemade root beer. Don't be bashful—order the 32 ounce. Hell, splurge for the root beer float. 

Don't be shocked if the lunch hour line wraps around the building. My advice? Call in your order and plan to eat outdoors at the picnic tables or bar top. You can watch the cars drive up and down Brookside, returning to a simpler time while grazing on one of the best burgers in the Tulsa area.

Claud’s Hamburgers, 3834 S. Peoria Ave.

The smaller, simpler the building and decor, the bigger and better the burger, right? Claud’s, also on Brookside and across the street from Weber’s, certainly fits this adage. A tiny white building with iconic green signage, Claud’s is a tight space with an open kitchen where you can sit at the counter watching patty-flippers hustle over the hot grill. You don’t go to Claud’s for the atmosphere, but for the old-fashioned burgers they’ve been preparing since 1954.

The double-patty isn’t actually two patties but a heftier single patty. The grilled onions are a 100 percent mandatory upgrade – even for those who don’t normally like onions. The burgers are a handful to chow down. Share fries with your group and order more as needed, because you don’t pay until after you eat your food at Claud’s. 

Like Weber’s, Claud’s is a Brookside institution and a point of pride for many Tulsans. I thought the burger was good, but you be the judge of who serves the better burger on Brookside. Try one and then head across the street for the other – now that makes for a filling Saturday!

Hank’s Hamburgers, 8933 E. Admiral Place

The greasy waft of air that greets you at Hank’s Hamburgers floats heavy with tradition. In the same location since 1955, this Route 66 burger stand is true Americana. Linoleum floors, mustard yellow booths, red and white plaid curtains, Hank’s is no fluff and pure classic. Photos and article clippings detailing the establishment’s history (including a photo of singer-songwriter Waylon Jennings chowing down on the main fare) adorn the walls.

Hank’s perfectly sized burger comes on a crunchy, toasted bun. Cheese melts between the patties and the combination of grilled and raw onions is perfect. This burger comes standard: lettuce, tomato, pickles and mustard, on top of the onions and cheese, and is surprisingly less greasy than expected. When you press the bun together, your hands will be free from the river of artery-clogging lipids that normally ooze out of these classic burgers. I’m sure there’s plenty of grease inside, but it’s nice not to have it all over your hands. I was pleased to see they serve fried okra, a veggie favorite of Oklahomans.

Hank’s holds a supreme place in Tulsa Burger Heaven and is a must-stop on your classic burger tour.

Harden’s Hamburgers, 432 S. Sheridan Road

Harden’s burger joint is a bright, busy and more family-friendly spot to enjoy some greasy grub and milkshakes. Although it was founded in 1939, Harden’s has adapted with the times and put quite a bit of work into its Route 66-inspired dining area. With Americana accouterments scattered about and a large flat screen TV providing the soundtrack to your meal, both seating and visual stimulation is plentiful. A covered outdoor patio is also available.

Order the Men’s Double Cheeseburger, served the same as it’s always been with mustard, pickle, raw onions and special Harden’s seasoning. This burger is open to people of any gender, but this is an old school burger joint and sometimes you pay homage to a less nuanced generation. (A Girls Quarter Pounder is also available.)

This compact burger melds all the ingredients together beautifully, sealed by the grease and locking in flavor. But the meat is the shining star, as it should be. The server told me that the meat arrives fresh daily, never frozen. The onion rings are fried in batter from Tulsa’s famed White River Fish Market.

Harden’s brings the comforts of the 21st century to the dining room, while not compromising on the recipes created in 1939. The dining experience is charming, with the good ol’ fashioned burgers starring as the main attraction. 

Bill’s Jumbo Burgers, 2002 E. Admiral Blvd.

Bill’s Jumbo Burgers sits nestled along I-244 a few blocks off on the old Route 33 in Tulsa’s Kendall Whittier neighborhood. If Harden’s is the place to take the kids, Bill’s is the place to take your dad or favorite uncle. This place is as authentic as it gets – no frills, fuss or polish – so don’t judge Bill’s from the gravel parking lot. Step inside and you’ll quickly discover what the beef is all about.

Other than a few coats of primary-colored paint during the years, the small hut that houses Bill’s hasn’t seem many updates since opening in 1960. But a loyal customer base and a strong family heritage in the burger world keep the fryers and grills bubbling. Namesake Bill was a restaurant partner with Hank from Hank’s Hamburgers before splitting off to open Bill’s Jumbo Burgers.

From your stool at the five-seat counter you can watch the cooks grill enormous patties while you devour some soft, fresh cut fries. Bonus points to Bill’s for the best fries on my tour. The burger is huge (not surprising considering the establishment’s name). It’s one of the more charred burgers on the tour, which gives it really great flavor. Adorned with tomatoes, pickles, onions, mustard and cheese, this burger keeps your focus on the food in front of you during the entire dining experience.

Arnold’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers, 1722 W. 51st St. 

One word: jukebox. You don’t find many classic Wurlitzers around anymore and Arnold’s plays the classics. This West Tulsa hotspot opened around 1990 but recreated a great 1950’s vibe for weary roadtrippers and locals alike. The classic diner setup with blue booths and neon lights make it easy to settle in at Arnold’s. The proprietor, reading the Holy Bible while meticulously cleaning up after customers, thanked each and every customer on their way out.

Speaking of holy, that is the only way to describe the onion rings at Arnold’s. Golden, crispy, rich and flaky, these onion rings are perfect. The burger is marvelous too – lettuce, onions, tomatoes, pickles and mustard – classic Tulsa-style. Greasy in a good way and wrapped neatly in quaint yellow paper, the sandwich is a big one but worth the conquest.  I recommend splurging for a vanilla milkshake.

Arnold’s may be the newer kid on the block, but they’ve created something special with their recreated 1950’s charm, really good burger and the best onion rings in town.

ALSO WORTH A TRIP... 

Brownie’s Hamburger Stand, 2130 S. Harvard Ave. 

Fat Guy’s Burgers, several Tulsa locations 

Freddie’s Hamburgers, 802 S. Lewis Ave. 

Goldie’s Patio Grill, several Tulsa locations 

Ron’s Hamburgers and Chili, several Tulsa locations 

Ted’s Hamburgers, 2906 W. Edison St. 

Ty’s Hamburgers, 1534 S. Harvard