September 28th, 2011 by Brian Schwartz – Comments (5)
I used to walk four miles to go to Ron’s. Back then, Ron’s was located in what looked like, and probably at one time was, a little country shack out near Harvard. There was a long counter with about 12 stools. No tables. The place was always packed and there’d be a line of people waiting behind each stool. Slick downtown lawyers rubbing shoulders with construction workers on lunch break all waiting for a chance to eat one of Ron’s burgers.
Ron Baber manned the griddle in those days and he was the best burger cook I’ve ever encountered. He put each burger through about ten steps. Meat was pounded flat, seasoned with salt and spices, coated with lard using a paintbrush, cooked on a superhot grill (500 degrees), steamed under a dome. I like my burgers extra rare and this is much harder to do, so Ron took it as a challenge and he gave me the best burgers I have ever tasted. Now Ron’s style of burger is flat and very thin (about a third of an inch thick) and as big as an old 45 RPM record. The meat is succulent and juicy and melts in with the cheese. The best chef in New York could not make a better burger. “When I was young, when other guys were buying “Playboy,’ I was buying “Gourmet’ magazine,” Ron once told a reporter. That’s no surprise to me.
Then Ron retired and the place just wasn’t the same. In fact it closed a few years later. But Ron’s Hamburgers thrived. It used to be that Ron would set up a branch only when he had a son to run it. Now most branches are independently owned and there are quite a few of them. Twenty-one at last count. I quit going about the time that Ron quit cooking. But a few days ago, a nice sunny morning, a friend took me to the branch at 49th and Peoria. Not quite a country shack, and it even had tables and waitress service, but it had a homey atmosphere that reminded me of the original Ron’s.
The people who worked there were as friendly as can be. Oooooo what a lovely baby, they gushed. That’s one of the advantages of dining with a girl who has brought her baby. And I have to admit that this baby was as cute as can be. I’d include photos of him but he’d steal the show. Enough of baby, let’s get to the food.
We started with a small bowl of chili ($3). Ron’s chili is the only thing that might be as good (almost) as his burgers. It’s sooo rich and creamy. He puts everything in — beer, cheese, spices — except beans. (Beans are available on request.) Just could be the best chili in Tulsa, and the bowl we got was as good as ever. And then came the burger. I didn’t order the cheeseburger. Just for variety, I ordered what they call a Buster ($6.75).
That’s a patty that’s made of ground beef mixed with ground sausage, and it’s topped with cheese, Cure 81 ham and bacon bits. The patty itself tasted like a big patty sausage, and though I liked it I definitely prefer the regular burger. But it melded with the cheese and the ham and everything else to create slick, greasy perfection. Such a joy to eat. In short it was very well made indeed and I think it would meet with Ron Baber’s approval.
Who would go to Ron’s and not order burgers? Well my friend did. She got “boneless bite size chicken”, which is fried chicken nuggets, and an order of cheese fries.
I’ll have to admit they were very good indeed.
4909 S Peoria Av
Open 11 AM to 8 PM every day except closed Sunday
and 20 other locations
Brian Schwartz: Author
Born in NYC, age 0, on my birthday. College in Oxford at age 16. Law School in New Haven, Conn. 6 years travel in Africa and Asia. Haven’t done much lately. Still, I’m the only Tulsa member of the little-known Omega Society. www.theomegasociety.com
I speak enough Chinese to order food not on any English menu. Spanish French Italian too (not fluently but food-ently) My favorite restaurant is Jean-Georges in New York. But those NYC chefs would sell their soul to get the produce available from the farms around Inola.
“A writer writes alone. His words tumble forth from a magical inner void that is mysterious even to himself, and that no one else can enter.” And yet, the most important thing to me the writer is YOU. Without you to hear them, my words are worth less than silence.