I’ve never met anyone who hates second place as much as Jason McCormack. In every job in which I’ve known him, he’s been obsessed with being the best. First as chef at Irma’s Burger Shack, then at Smashburger and now as the chef and owner of Yukon’s beloved The Miller Grill. It’s not that Jason thinks his restaurant is the best; it’s that he KNOWS it’s the best. At least it is to him, which isn’t nothing. He’s the kind of guy who is constantly pushing himself and his staff to improve. Your tastes may differ from his, but he’s doing the absolute best version of the food he loves. The menu at The Miller Grill is not fancy, nor does it strive to be. The main goal of this hidden culinary oasis is to give diners over-the-top portions of dishes so delicious that they’re forced to ask themselves a vital question: Should I stop eating because I’m full or make myself ill because this food is so good? It is with a head hung low that I admit that even when I choose the latter, I end up doing the former. Yes, that is how big the portions at The Miller Grill are. When you’re reviewing a restaurant where the goal is to drown the guests in calories, you bring backup. So I grabbed a (pre-vegan) Kasey Boes, Kandyce Mitchell and Scott Mitchell and headed to Yukon to eat, record a podcast and taste some food.
It’s shocking how accustomed to mediocrity we become after having the same drab food shoved at us over and over again. A youth craving and then being disappointed by fried mozzarella sticks had me seriously questioning Kandyce’s feverish devotion to The Miller Griller’s homemade fried cheese sticks (five for $6.49).
They are not mozzarella, McCormack was happy to offer up, but Great Value cheese sticks from Walmart. He tried every other kind of filling for these, but nothing compared to the stringy, American cheese-y flavor of the Walmart brand. Hand-breaded and fried, these cheese sticks have a glorious crust. Each one is bumpy and lumpy and completely original, but when you break one open and pull it apart, the cheese stretches and sags just the same. I eat enough fried food that I tend to stray from fried appetizers, but these renewed my faith in what had become a lackluster TGIFriday’s staple. It took a lot of willpower not to nosh on the entire plate, but there was so much more coming. McCormack takes a lot of pride in doing it himself. As much as possible (and a lot is possible), The Miller Grill makes everything from scratch, fresh and to order. Case in point: the Indian taco ($7.99 small/$11.99 large). Using a family recipe, McCormack makes luscious, buttery fry bread that is both supple to the tooth and sturdy enough to survive a mountain of toppings. There is no holding back here. Diners are going to get a lot of food, no matter which size they order. Choose between ground beef or shredded chicken (the beef is more traditional) and then the staff piles on ranch beans, lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, salsa and sour cream. This is what a taco salad wishes it could be. The fry bread is a masterpiece and the toppings are each prepared with loving care. Take a few bites and marvel at the way the individual flavors stand out and how well they work in concert.
Anyone who has been with me for a minute knows my deep and abiding love for chicken-fried steak. It’s as Oklahoma as a dish can be, and while I have my issues with this state, I am never upset by a great chicken-fried steak. At $12.99 The Miller Grill’s CFS might seem expensive, but look at what you’re getting before you do the math. This monster starts with a half-pound of cubed, Oklahoma-raised steak. That’s a lot of meat right off the bat and it also ensure that guests who order it won’t be disappointed with bite after bite of steak-less CFS. It doesn’t need gravy. Not really. The breading is seasoned masterfully, giving each bite a rich melange of flavors before you sink your teeth into tender, savory beef. That said, the gravy is no powdered mix. It’s the real stuff. The good stuff. And to fully enjoy the meal, you need to pour it over the top and let it flow and pool where it wants. As a child, I used to beg my mom for mashed potatoes. My brother and I loved them so we didn’t care if they came from potato flakes or if they were lumpy. We just craved that sweet, sweet starchy goodness. When you get mashed potatoes at a restaurant, they are almost always from flakes. That’s fine. But that’s not how The Miller Grill does it. They peel, boil and mash real potatoes for a gorgeous, buttery blast of carbs. Get a bite with potatoes, CFS and gravy and hold on for a trip through time to your childhood. It’s food that tastes like a memory. You can’t beat that. Given his experience, there’s no way Jason McCormack owns a restaurant that serves anything less than a killer burger. While the rest of us were drooling over enormous chicken-fried steaks and Indian tacos, Scott Mitchell ordered himself The Classic with cheese ($5).
Why do restaurant burgers taste so much better than the ones we cook at home? Unless you’re a butcher and a grill master, there’s almost no way to make a burger that matches up to what is served by your local diner. It’s part meat and part technique. Nic’s Grill knows this. So does Irma’s Burger Shack. And you can be damn sure The Miller Grill knows it, too. The meat is solid but not tough. Overworking the meat when forming it into a patty warms up the proteins and lets them bind together, creating a beef hockey puck we’ve all had the misfortune of eating. I’m not sure if the chefs at The Miller Grill have the world’s lightest touch or they’ve mastered telekinesis, but that burger was pure magic. It held together beautifully, but it had a honeycomb like texture with pockets of beefy juice and melted cheese. Every burger needs one or two perfect bites. There was nothing but perfect bites on this burger. Each time your lips shut over the bun, you were treated to a wondrous mix of meat, cheese, onions, bread and toppings. The Miller Grill has put its name in the running for Oklahoma City’s best burgers. The true torture of the meal was when McCormack brought out an off-menu dessert. We were full. Almost so full we couldn’t walk. And then he dropped a plate of Cody’s Love Balls on the table and we were helpless to resist. Chef Cody cut up the restaurant’s proprietary fry bread into bite-size chunks, fried them and covered them with honey and powdered sugar. It’s like generations of sopapillas began breeding with each other until only one remained. Each bite was buttery, airy and oh-so-sweet. I never before understood the sentiment in “Brokeback Mountain” when Jack told Ennis, “I wish I knew how to quit you.” But with my belt struggling to maintain control, I finally got it. Cody’s Love Balls, I wish I knew how to quit you. I haven’t been in for breakfast yet, but it’s on my list. The scuttlebutt is that you have to arrive early for The Miller Grill on Saturday and Sunday to get a seat, because they pack them in every weekend.
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326 Elm Ave., Yukon | 405-265-2775
Tues.-Fri. 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Sat.-Sun. 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
All of it. Seriously. Fried cheese sticks - $6.49 Indian taco - $7.99 small/ $11.99 large Chicken-fried steak - $12.99 The Classic with cheese - $5 Cody’s Love Balls - I have absolutely no idea