Tulsa: Claud's Hamburgers
3834 S Peoria Ave, Tulsa OK 74105 (map); 918-742-8332
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: A mom-and-pop diner that hasn't changed in 50 years serves the juiciest burger in Tulsa
Want Fries with That? They're good enough for the hungry diner to consider.
Price: 9-oz cheeseburger, $5.75
Notes: Lunch only, except open late Thu and Fri. Closed Sun and Mon.
The big, flat kind of burger you used to see a lot of in Tulsa can be a work of art. Go back 20 years or so when two rival burger joints were top of the heap: Claud's and Ron's. Ron's looked like a cowshed, but it'd be jammed with all kinds of people waiting for a seat—rich lawyers sitting next to construction workers on lunch break. I remember watching Ron Baber himself cook my burger with the grace of a ballerina: Meat was pounded flat, seasoned with salt and spices, coated with lard using a paintbrush, cooked on a super hot grill (500 degrees), and steamed under a dome. He took my request for "extra rare" as a challenge and in return gave me the best burgers I've ever tasted. The style of burger was flat, thin (about a third of an inch thick), and as big as an old 45 RPM record, but the meat was succulent and juicy and melted in with the cheese. The best chef in New York couldn't make a better burger. Then Ron retired.
While Ron's is certainly thriving, the burgers, though quite good, just aren't the same. Thankfully, the crown has been passed to Claud's. Drive down Peoria past the glitzy part to a neighborhood of cleaners and tire repair shops and you'll see a small white building just like the mom and pop roadside diners described 70 years ago in chapter 15 of Grapes of Wrath. Inside, little has changed since the day it opened. There are only five or six seats, so if you don't go at an off-hour you will stand. It's as popular as Ron's used to be, with the same sort of crowd.
It's easy to learn the menu. Your choices: burgers and burgers (you can also get french fries or cole slaw). Order the biggest size they have, and if you're like me, order it extra rare. Thin, juicy, flavorful, big as the plate...a burger to be admired. —Brian Schwartz
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