Extra-large burgers find a home on the range
Size matters in Oklahoma diner
MEERS, Okla. — Most childhood memories have a way of shifting with age, seeming much smaller when revisited as an adult. The Meersburger is not one of these. Piled high and served in a pie tin, this hamburger is a creation that memory need not embellish. It’s a giant of a thing, large enough to serve a family of four.
The burger helped put Meers, in the southwestern part of the state, on the map. The town, once part of the Gold Rush and bustling with mine workers, is now a popular spot for hikers and prairie-dog gazers from the nearby Wichita Mountains. One of the focal points of Meers is the eponymous burger joint, a dilapidated shack of mismatched wood and metal patched together with faded billboards. The original building, designated a national historic site, dates to 1901.
At Meers, the burgers aren’t just extra large — 7 inches in diameter — they’re made from longhorn meat, which lends them a unique taste and texture. Longhorn, lean and grass-fed, is touted for its health benefits. A sign hanging in front of the restaurant advertises the beef as “the genetic gold mine.’’ The Meers herd is raised locally on land not far from the eatery.
Longhorn burgers aren’t the only unique feature of Meers. Though tornadoes are a far more likely natural disaster than earthquakes in this part of the country, the town is situated on a fault line. The Oklahoma Geological Survey installed a seismograph in the restaurant in 1985 and has recorded earthquakes in the Indian Ocean, nuclear tests in Russia, a mine collapse in Michigan, and a gas explosion in Texas.
The restaurant takes a stand on politics, and it comes through loud and clear. This is a place that serves freedom fries rather than french fries, and burgers come with a strong suggestion to eat them “cowboy style’’ with mustard. As the restaurant website says: “Some folks like mayo on their burgers instead of mustard but call burgers with this a SISSY BURGER! Other folks like ketchup on their burgers instead of mustard. We call burgers with this a YANKEE BURGER!’’
According to restaurant lore, the first Meersburger was invented in the ’70s, when cowboys would have to order two or three normal-size burgers before they were full. Out of practicality, the Meersburger was born. Easier to fix, easier to eat. Meers offered the supersize concept before fast-food chains even heard of it. The menu also features chicken-fried steak and homemade barbecue, as well as fried okra, onion rings, and fried green tomatoes. Ketchup is an acceptable accompaniment for the sides, but the local favorite is ranch dressing. For less voracious appetites, the restaurant does offer a lighter lunch menu, but even this is enough to make any nutritionist gasp: brisket, ribs, chicken, or sausage served with potato salad and coleslaw. There is a small salad bar for truly feeble appetites.
No matter how full diners are at the end of the meal, most order dessert. Homemade peach or cherry cobbler is served warm and sloppy, topped with copious scoops of vanilla ice cream, which melts into the confection.
Meers also serves its own brew, a wheat beer made by the Krebs Brewing Co., based on a recipe from the Choctaw Nation. Like the burgers, the beers are extra-large, served in 22-ounce bottles.
A trip to Meers is like stepping back in time. It’s proudly rustic, rambling, full of cowboys, and lots of beef. Here, bigger has always been better.
Meers Store & Restaurant, Northwest Comanche, Highway 115, Meers, Okla., 580-429-8051, www.meersstore.com
Marie Doezema can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.