Last week it was announced that the Lot-A-Burger restaurant on 11th Street near Utica Avenue had closed, and would soon be replaced by another business specializing in that staple of roadside eateries everywhere — the hamburger.
Food: 2½ stars ¦ Service: Order at window ¦ Atmosphere: Depends on weather
The news reminded me that, just days earlier, I had chanced by one of the longer-lived Lot-A-Burger locations and noticed that it, too, was sporting a new name: The Food Dude’s Burger Joint.
This is the shop on West 23rd Street, a somewhat ramshackle shack where one orders at one walk-up window and is signaled with a wave from another window when the food is ready. For those wanting to enjoy their meal immediately, a trio of picnic tables rest under a nearby tree.
It also has a drive-through lane that can be a bit tricky to negotiate, especially for those traveling west along 23rd Street.
The menu is straightforward enough: three iterations of burgers; a trio of hot dogs; three kinds of tacos; a quartet of sandwiches; and three sides one would expect to find — namely, fries, tater tots and onion rings.
Burgers come with mustard, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles, with cheese 50 cents extra. Other available extras include chili, bacon and jalapeños.
We kept it simple at our first visit, ordering the Single Dude ($4.75) with cheese, with a side of onion rings ($2.99) and an order of mini-tacos ($3.95). Of the drink options, the most appealing was the “hand-squeezed” lemonade ($3.95 for 32 oz.).
The burger was a fine example of its type: the vegetables were fresh and crisp, the mustard applied with a light touch to augment rather than overwhelm, the thin patty, cooked on a flat-top, had a nice sear. Nothing outstanding, just a good solid burger.
The onion rings were, I’m fairly certain, from a food service rather than made in-house. The onions were tender enough that they did not slide free of their coating at the first bite, and breading itself was not overly greasy. The mini-tacos were disappointing — all eight of them. These tiny corn tortillas wrapped around a scant spoonful of chopped chicken and then deep-fried would have greatly benefited from more seasoning or some kind of dipping sauce.
At a second visit, we tried the chili dog ($3.25, with added cheese for 50 cents extra), the regular dog ($2.75), properly dressed with mustard and relish, and the Southern tomato sandwich ($3.29).
The buns for both hot dogs seemed to have come fresh from the bag, neither toasted nor steamed. The chili was mildly seasoned and had an almost sweet aftertaste.
The sandwich had three thin slices of fresh and flavorful tomatoes and a hefty swath of mayonnaise on grilled bread. “I put extra napkins in for you,” said Gina Devore as she handed the order to me. They proved essential, as the sandwich very quickly became very messy.
We also ordered another lemonade with this meal. It’s not as lemon-forward as I prefer my lemonade to be, in spite of the thick slice of lemon added to the cup, but it’s not overly sweet, either.
Devore worked for the original owners for 36 years; she is one of several employees that new owner Billy Martin kept on when he purchased the restaurant in March.
Martin said this is his first venture in the restaurant business. “I always had a dream of owning a small old-fashioned type of hamburger joint someday,” Martin said.
He considered starting with a food truck, but then learned that several Lot-A-Burger restaurants were up for sale.
“The West 23rd Street location had that old-fashioned burger joint look, so it was a good match for what I was looking for.” he said. “We contacted the realtor and made a deal.”
For Devore, “It’s been a pretty seamless transition. The menu is pretty much the same as it was before, and all of us know what we’re doing, so it’s worked out well.
“Some of our regulars, when they saw the new sign, were a little concerned about it,” she said. “But once they tried it, they realized we’re doing the same sort of food that’s always been here and they’ve kept coming back.”
Martin said that, as he likes to experiment with food on his own, might be adding some new variations on the Food Dude burgers in the future, with new sauces and toppings.
But, as far as some of the die-hard fans are concerned, things are fine just the way they are.
James Walker and Clarence Thomas were finishing up their weekly Friday lunch at one of the picnic tables while we were there. The two men have been having lunch here on a weekly basis for years.
“The people here are great — really friendly, really good about getting your food to you,” Walker said. “I get the burger and the onion rings, and I think they’re the best you’re going to find around town. In fact, I think it’s better now than when it was a Lot-A-Burger.”
The Men Who Would Be Scene: Episode 20
Gallery: Memorabilia bound for Tulsa's OKPOP Museum
Ernie Fields poster
Tom Mix toy horse
Leon Russell case
Jamie Oldaker Eric Clapton tour jacket
Bob Wills statuette
Luke Cage comic
Luke Cage hoodie
Alfre Woodard apparel
Russell Myers Broom Hilda
Jesse Ed Davis guitar
$3 for 3 months