I have to admit that of all the items on my list of Oklahoma Travel Resolutions, eating a Meersburger is the only one I consider mandatory. There could be a certain amount of bias at work here, as I grew up in southwest Oklahoma, not far from the infamous Meers Store.
But what really sealed my opinion on this matter was not proximity, but distance. On several occasions when traveling out of state, I have spoken to non-Okies who asked me about three things: Oklahoma football, Oklahoma! the musical, and the Oklahoma Meersburger. When faced with this situation, surely you don’t want to admit that you live in Oklahoma but have never been to Meers?
There is good reason for Meers’ national notoriety. The restaurant possesses that perfect trifecta of qualities—quirkiness, history, and genuinely good food—sought by all savvy travelers.
In the quirkiness category, I offer up as evidence the restaurant’s possession of an actively-monitored, highly-sensitive seismograph, which is on display for budding geologists to see. The appearance of the entire establishment is also one of its primary assets. After a drive through the pastures and post oaks of the Wichita Mountains, you suddenly come around a bend and see a collection of façades reminiscent of a tiny frontier town. The interior has a similarly ramshackle appearance that conveys the very sense of home and history that chain restaurants have been trying to master for decades.
As far as history goes, the ingredients on that front are appealing as well. The town of Meers got off the ground around 1900, thanks to rumors of gold in the surrounding mountains that turned out to be mostly fabricated. After thriving for a number of years on the fuel of false hope, the community dwindled; but, not before the Lilly family built the original Meers Store, which served various purposes including a grocery, post office and print shop. The building changed hands several times before finding its niche as a hamburger Mecca.
And what about the food? The famous burger in question is so big that it comes served in a pie plate, cut in quarters. The patty is made from grass fed longhorn beef that the owners raise themselves. They do offer smaller burgers and other items worth trying, like barbeque, fried green tomatoes and “Freedom Fries.” But, the Meersburger is the star and the reason the restaurant has been featured nationally—notably, on the Food Network.
Although I believe that the Meers experience alone is worth the drive, there are other excellent attractions in the surrounding area. The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge begins just over a mile south of Meers. To get your bearings, visit the relatively new and well-assembled visitor center at the junction of Highways 115 and 49. Rangers at the center should be able to tell you where the free-roaming herds of buffalo and longhorn will be grazing, and displays and videos will acquaint you with the area’s other wildlife.
The Holy City is another point of interest, especially for kids who might still have Vacation Bible School on the brain. It has often been said that the Refuge area looks a lot like parts of the Middle East, making it a fitting place for a large-scale passion play, which is what the Holy City was originally built to host. Visitors can explore the rock buildings that make up the “set” and see the chapel.
As far as resolutions go, I think we can count ourselves lucky that one of the most important ones is also relatively easy. After all, eating a hamburger is a small price to pay for the right to call yourself a true Oklahoman.
Hours are Sunday-Thursday, 10:30am-8:30pm; Friday-Saturday, 10:30am-9pm; Closed Tuesdays.
Chelsey Simpson is an editor who lives in Edmond with her husband and her miniature schnauzer, Ellie.