There’s no diviner diner — return to Grill on the Hill

There’s no diviner diner — return to Grill on the Hill

OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — Within the vast, spectacular realm of possibilities for restaurant dining, there’s a specially-exalted space reserved for the places that do diner-style breakfast.

Can I fry an egg at home? Yes. Is it worth it to wake up, get cleaned up, and go settle in front of a lot of plates filled with steaming hot carbs and proteins while someone pours black coffee? Absolutely yes.

And while I’m particularly fond of Edmond’s Rocky Mountain Grill and Juan del Fuego when I’m down in Norman, there might be no place in Oklahoma City proper that tops Grill on the Hill, at 324 SW 25th in Capitol Hill.

I’m not sure I ever qualified as a regular per se, but there was a time when I stopped in for breakfast about once a month. There’s a sign on the east wall that says “Enter as strangers, leave as friends.”

While that’s obviously a cliché that you could find anywhere, Grill on the Hill has done more to actualize it than most places I know. Let me put it this way: I’ve eaten in a lot of restaurants; I don’t remember being given a Christmas card by anyplace else.

But, I moved to the other side of the metro and stopped making detours to Capitol Hill. Then last March happened, and I basically quit going anywhere.

Here in the last quarter of 2021, it feels like I basically need to rediscover the entire dining landscape. So, I jumped at the chance to revisit an old favorite, hoping to feel some spark of familiarity after at least two years and crossing my fingers that it would still be open.

And once I got inside, not only did it seem like nothing had changed — stacks of local yearbooks from decades past, KOMA playing in the background, lingering smells of bacon and coffee — but my waitress and I recognized each other immediately; Melinda beamed and said, “We’re still here.”

Plus, the food is still excellent.

Anytime the menu makes special mention of a particular dish or ingredient, I consider it a strong hint, and the house-made chorizo has its own hype box: “We use only pork shoulder for the ground sausage, then season it with a blend of chipotle peppers, fresh garlic, cayenne pepper, and other spices. The result is a fantastic taste with a little heat.”

It pops up multiple places on the menu: tacos and nachos for lunch, in a burrito, or on a biscuit sandwich with a fried egg for breakfast.

Grill on the Hill
Steve’s plate the morning he went back to Grill on the Hill. (STEPHEN GILL/Okla City Free Press)

But, my fervent recommendation is the omelet, with sauteed jalapenos, onions, and tomatoes and covered with Colby and Monterey Jack. Add some well-done hash browns (the haystack variety is deep-fried for extra texture, but they’re a trifle dry for my taste) and toast and perhaps a dab of habanero salsa to give your palate some extra tingle and you have a basically perfect start to the day.

Well, almost. The bite-size fritters, which resemble hush puppies dipped in powdered sugar and come in cinnamon apple, strawberry pineapple, or blueberry lime varieties, are only a dollar a pair, which constitutes a ridiculously good deal.

If you’re in for lunch, the meatloaf and catfish and fried chicken with gravy all have dedicated adherents, and the only real mistake would be not starting with an order of chili-doused Atomic Tots.

One of the primary pleasures of diner-style food is its fresh-off-the-grill immediacy, the downside of which is that it suffers as takeout; pancakes tend to lose appeal after 20 minutes in styrofoam.

But since Grill on the Hill’s outdoor seating consists of one single four-top, I suggest aiming if you can for the midmorning when they’re not crowded if you’re concerned about COVID.

The disease remains a serious threat to restaurants. Regulars started to come back in over the last few months, but the delta variant has hurt momentum.

When I asked, owner Norma Ericson admitted that “The last two weeks have been rough.” Please get vaccinated if you haven’t, and remember to support the local establishments that give OKC so much culinary character. I know I’m planning on a far shorter hiatus than two more years before returning to Grill on the Hill.

Last Updated September 7, 2021, 11:57 AM by Brett Dickerson – Editor

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