Charcoal Oven
A crane helps disassemble the iconic Charcoal Oven sign Tuesday along Northwest Expressway in Oklahoma City. (William W. Savage III)

OKC lost a nostalgic link to a bygone past with the recent closing of Charcoal Oven. Motorists can kiss goodbye the kitschy neon sign that brightened up (literally) an otherwise dull commercial corridor on Northwest Expressway.

Beyond waning nostalgia, however, all Charcoal Oven’s closure represents to me is the fact that OKC features several more reasonably priced burger specials that also offer the option to sit in climate-controlled comfort. I mean, how can a place justify starting their burger combos at $9.99 when they don’t even have the overhead costs associated with maintaining an indoor dining area?

Charcoal Oven
Burger combos at the now-closed Charcoal Oven started at $9.99.
Full disclosure: I never ate at Charcoal Oven. Just a couple months before it closed on Sunday, I did pull up to the kiosk-menu, starving and in the mood for a greasy combo of comfort food, but, after glancing at the prices, I quickly decided to drive right on through without ordering at all.

Judging by the bulk of the comments from Yelp, I wasn’t missing out on much: After 47 reviews of the place, Charcoal Oven exhibited a tepid 2.5 stars out of five as of Wednesday afternoon. High prices feature prominently as a common complaint.

While I remain a penniless miser, I still seek burger satisfaction from time to time. That’s why I’d like to share with you three weekly burger specials that represent a far-superior value to Charcoal Oven’s moribund offerings. Note that this is NOT a list of what I think are “the best” burgers in town; rather, these are just a few weekly specials that highlight burger affordability as compared to the now-defunct Charcoal Oven.

Monday burger special at Red Rooster

Possibly the only redeeming quality of any given Monday is that Red Rooster Bar & Grill offers an all-day/all-night burger-and-pint special. For the very nostalgic price of only $5, patrons receive a cheeseburger with fixins made to order, a generous portion of seasoned fries and one domestic draft pint. That’s $5 including tax, folks, so with a $2 tip you’re in and out for $7 total. The burgers may be a little on the small side compared to the other options listed here, but $5 for a combo meal that includes 16 ounces of beer is less than one could pay at some local bars for one beer alone. Tobacco-free patrons might choose to dine al fresco, because otherwise this burger special comes with a complimentary side of second-hand smoke. (Yelp rating: 4 stars; 16 reviews)

Wednesday burger night at McNellie’s

If inclement weather keeps you from the Red Rooster’s patio on Mondays, there’s still a chance to get in on the Wednesday burger special at James E. McNellie’s Public House. From 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. every Wednesday, sate your burger lust with a half-pound charburger and choose from several sides for only $3.99. Cheese and beverages are extra, as are tax and gratuity, but it’s still possible to have a satisfying combo (and a pint of domestic, if you like) for under $10, all said and done. (Yelp rating: 4 stars; 152 reviews)

Monday burger special at VZD’s

Are you ready for some football? Are you hungry for a burger? Well, you’re in luck, because VZD’s offers both every Monday from 5 p.m. to close. I haven’t actually tried this $5 special; Red Rooster loyalty and overarching frugality prevent it. According to staff, cheese is an extra dollar and chips are the default side. Tax and gratuity not included, either, but: again: in and out for under $10 is perfectly reasonable. (Yelp rating: 3.5 stars; 34 reviews)

Honorable mention: BOGO Tuesdays at Braum’s

For those times near the end of the month where I’m having to decide between buying gas for my car or fuel for my body, good ol’ Braum’s is there. Every Tuesday from 5 p.m. to close the Tuttle, Oklahoma-based chain rolls out the red-meat carpet by offering buy-one get-one specials. Previously, this deal was for the bacon-cheeseburger combo, but it looks like it now applies to the California combo, which basically adds guacamole to their third-pound cheeseburger. Take a friend, split the cost and you’re both set to go for under $5. (Because the chain has so many franchises, Yelp reviews vary depending on location. For example, if you visit the store at 6200 N. May Ave., you’re likely to be in hamburger heaven, with 4.5 stars across seven reviews. Meanwhile, if you’re at the South Sunnylane Road location in Del City, with 2 stars after five reviews, it could be more like straight-up hell.)

To reiterate: I’m an independent journalist. I’m broke af. Even if Charcoal Oven’s combo meals had satisfied me in a way usually associated with dubious massage parlors, I can’t afford to spend $10 and up on a burger combo, nostalgia be damned.

Obviously, this humble list is not a comprehensive overview of OKC’s burger bargains. Do you have a favorite? Please tell us about it in the comments.


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