“Burgers and fries and cherry pies,
It was simple and good back then …”
– Charley Pride
By The Taste Buds
Ah, the simplicity of summer eating – ice cream, watermelon, backyard cookouts … So what if our chef’s apron is a little singed and our toque caught fire when we bent over the grill … maybe we’re not cut out for this particular brand of summertime culinary activity.
Here’s a peek under the bib of your Taste Buds – as August approached, we racked our collective brains and appetites to offer the perfect summer meal. What better than burgers and fries and cherry pies, we thought? Isn’t that the perfect meal for our “Summer 101” class? At first, it was our scheme to bring three restaurants together to create an opus covering the delicate topics of the great American hamburger, the great French fries and the great girth-widening desserts. However, after an afternoon spent at S&B’s Burger Joint, we found all our goals met, all our appetites sated and all our belts loosened. Here we happily remained.
Located in the Best Buy parking lot at 59th and May, in the ground floor of the golden windowed office building, S&B’s Burger Joint is the outgrowth of a swinging shingle that hung in the same location for some nine years – the Electro Lounge. Even us squares spent more than one evening paying rent on a barstool or two during those carefree nights.
Co-owner Bryan Neel said the bar itself opened in 2001 and almost immediately catered to an eclectic crowd of central Oklahoma hipsters.
“I had spent time working at both Garfield’s and Henry Hudson’s to get my feet wet in the business,” he said. “But, deep down, I always knew I wanted to own a bar, one where I could earn a living doing something that I loved.”
Some say Neel’s Electro Lounge was well ahead of its time.
“Our regular customers loved what we did here,” he said. “We had a very diverse clientele and were actually well ahead of what became a huge market for the bar business in Oklahoma City.
According to Neel, almost two years ago, this led to some rethinking of the space he had been operating for the previous nine years.
“I had always thought we could start adding food to our menu and again set some standards,” he said. “After some deep thought, my partner, Shannon Roper, and I decided to try to bring a different kind of burger to our customers.”
Soon, Shannon and Bryan (S&B) turned into Taste Buds themselves, sampling burgers from hither and yon. What they found was that, while each burger carried its own particular charm, very few were 100 percent, without-a-doubt fresh.
“We discovered that some places would have fresh meat, but not fresh buns, or stale condiments or whatever,” Neel said. “And that allowed us to develop a concept – that S&B would serve unique burger creations while also making everything right here – from our fresh ground meat to our fresh baked buns, our homemade sauces and other creations.”
Living by the moniker of “Burger Artist,” Roper went to work combining elements that would both appease traditional burger enthusiasts while also daring the more adventurous diners, of which we Taste Buds certainly qualify, to indulge in a wildly creative menu that both mystifies and fulfills.
“Our first ‘signature’ burger is one we call ‘The Fire,’ Neel said. “We combine roasted green chilies with sharp Cheddar, fried onions and a spicy Ranch dressing.”
As the Taste Buds collectively ran to the water trough, we nodded approval.
After the smoke had cleared, we dared jump into the fray of some of the other offerings at S&B. We sampled The Frenchman (mushrooms, Swiss cheese, fried onions and French onion sauce) and The Theta (which, of course, has mayo, a smoked pecan theta sauce, pickles and sharp Cheddar). Upon our first taste of The Theta, we Taste Buds, former students at the University of Oklahoma, were instantly reminded of the self-same burger that was served at the original Boomerang, long since gone. Another favorite was The Smokin’ Okie, with grilled jalapenos, smoked Cheddar, bacon, mayo and BBQ sauce. Talk about tasty!
Your Taste Buds were shocked – shocked, we say – to find such divergent flavors between the buns of what can be a boring, everyday staple. Wait, there’s more?
host politely points to another signature item, the Elvis burger, which carries with it – what else – peanut butter, bacon, lettuce, tomato and red onion. Upon our first bite, we felt a hunka hunka burnin’ love and politely said to our chef, with top lip curled, “Thank ya, thank ya very much.”
Here are some other burger opportunities and their tasty toppings:
- The Fatty (American cheese, grilled onions and pickles)
- The Skinny (homemade vegetarian patty with lettuce, tomato and red onion)
- The Lava (Cincinnati chili, sharp Cheddar and chopped onions)
- The Porker (American cheese, bacon, lettuce, pickles and red onion)
- The Blue (stuffed with blue cheese and topped with grilled red onions)
- The Caesar (Parmesan, lettuce, tomato and homemade Caesar dressing)
- The Mexican (jalapenos, avocado, red onion, lettuce and salsa)
- The Columbian (gourmet sea salt and coffee crust, with smoked Cheddar, lettuce, red onion, avocado and cilantro lime salsa)
- The Asian (gingered onions, lettuce, tomato, soy glaze and wasabi mayo)
- The Black and Blue (which comes blackened, with lettuce, tomato, red onion, avocado and blue cheese)
- The Chili Lime (which boasts chili paste, Cheddar crisp, avocado cream and a cilantro lime coleslaw)
Call the undertaker!
Something should probably be said here about one of the restaurant’s most singular ingredients – its homemade Cincinnati chili.
“When I was a young man growing up in Tulsa, I frequented the world famous Coney Islander hot dog stands,” Neel said. “When we were originally planning S&B, I wanted to try to replicate as close as possible the sweeter, duskier flavored chili that is part of their legend.”
S&B’s Chili Dog translates perfectly from those Tulsa days, while implementing a Nathan’s Famous hot dog. Also tempting was a Frito Chili Pie, with added roasted green chilies for a departure from the usual. If you just can’t decide, try a Slider, about half the size of the larger burgers, enabling you to order two … or three. Incidentally, all of the burger creations are available with a hot dog, chicken breast or veggie patty in place of the beef. Don’t see exactly what you want? You can “Build Your Own Burger” by choosing from their extensive list of meats, cheeses, sauces and veggies.
Remember the rest of this picture? The fries? Check this out – choose from regular or sweet potato, or from their selection of “Smothered Fries.”
“I guess our most popular fries are the P.B. & Fry, which are sweet potato fries with peanut butter and honey peppercorn bacon,” Neel said.
Yeah, we thought the same thing; but we can attest that these are delicious – even the most skeptical Taste Bud was licking fingers after this delicacy.
Fries you want, fries you got. There’s the Fire Fry (smothered with diced green chilies, sharp cheddar, fried onions and chipotle ranch sauce), Chili Fry (Cincinnati chili, smoked cheddar and diced red onion), Southwestern Fry (diced grilled ham, Swiss cheese, cordon sauce and tangy horseradish sauce), Thanksgiving Fry (sweet potato fries with marshmallow cream, dried cranberries and chopped pecans) and the Caesar Fry (Parmesan cheese, sundried tomatoes and Caesar dressing.) We have since returned again and again to sample more of these fries, and wholeheartedly recommend the Caesar Fry, with its delicious, garlicky homemade Caesar dressing, and the Southwestern Fry with that tangy horseradish sauce. However, the Thanksgiving Fry could rival any dessert, they are that good.
Speaking of dessert, get to S&B early. They have homemade pies, made fresh and delivered daily by “Out of the Box.” Just the kinds you like … Key Lime Pie, S’Mores, Peanut Butter Chocolate Mousse, Coconut Cream and more. After all the burgers and fries, it’s tough to save room for dessert, but try!
“Maybe our pies are the most popular things here,” Neel said.
Oh yes, fair diners, S&B also offers other sandwiches, like The Hawaiian (grilled chicken breast, ham, lettuce, teriyaki sauce and pineapple cranberry chutney), The Pulled Pork (BBQ, smoked Cheddar and coleslaw), The Ham and Swiss (grilled ham, Swiss, lettuce, tomato and balsamic vinaigrette), The Cordon Bleu (chicken breast, grilled ham, lettuce, tomato and cordon sauce), The Philly (grilled rib eye, grilled onions, bell pepper and American cheese), The Blue Philly (grilled rib eye, red onions, garlic and blue cheese) and the Chicken Philly (grilled chicken breast, mushrooms and Swiss).
Thirsty, you say? Well, remember, S&B started life as a bar … “We didn’t know what it was like here in the daytime,” Neel says.
Most of your favorite cocktails are available, along with a wine list of distinction; but, for something a tad special, try the program lovingly referred to as the “Build Your Own Bloody,” where one picks a vodka (or does the vodka pick them?) then picks a mix (Zing Zang, V8 Juice or S&B Smokehouse Bloody Mary Mix) then a hot sauce and add-ins (which can be everything from Hawaiian sea salt to crushed cherry peppers.) But don’t pass up the opportunity to try some of their special concoctions – like The Bloody Jerk (with house-made jalapeno and bacon-infused vodka) and The Tiger Blood – Duh, Winner! (house-made ginger-infused vodka and Tiger Sauce). Other house-infused vodkas include cucumber, beef jerky and house-smoked anchovy.
OK, we’ve been saving this one. At S&B you can enjoy – get this – a beer float. And with flavors like Abita Strawberry Harvest and Sam Adams Blackberry Witbier, this is a no-brainer.
When first The Taste Buds were contemplating the summer special of burgers and such, little did we know we would fall, butt first, into nirvana, where our collective dreams of beef and bun were both stimulated and enhanced. No more grilling in the heat for us, no more lighter fuel explosions or smoldering chef’s hats.
But, we must take time to mention this – the owners of S&B have hearts as big as their burger-tronic masterpieces – each Tuesday is a “Pay it Forward” day, where the eatery donates 10 percent of its take on all food and drink to a non-profit, with beneficiaries changing each week.
See you at S&B’s Burger Joint, a painless (unless you have The Fire) experience for both foodies and squares of all shapes and sizes. It’s a small joint (seating about 55), so arrive early or late to avoid the lunch rush. They’re open every day at 11 a.m. for lunch and dinner, closing at 8 p.m. on Sunday and 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Friday and Saturday they remain open until midnight, when you can still enjoy the music of the Electro Lounge with your burger and fries.