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Sid's Diner

Marty Hall is passionate about making customers feel at home with his specialty onion burgers. 

Sid's Diner

Owner Marty Hall is passionate about making customers feel at home. Photo by Hayley Leatherwood

Dishes, the ‘Depression burger’ and a diner; these are the three ‘Ds’ Sid’s Diner owner Marty Hall has known well for 48 years in the fried onion burger business. An El Reno, Okla., native and enthusiast, Marty entered the restaurant world washing dishes at Johnnie’s Grill, which eventually led to him continuing the El Reno fried onion burger legacy.

Furthering the burger fame wasn’t always a dream of Marty’s; he originally wanted to be a lawyer. 

“When I was a boy growing up at the hamburger place, I didn’t want to wash dishes and I didn’t want to flip hamburgers,” Marty said. “The more I stayed in it, the more I got to choose who I wanted to work with and that was how it began.”

In 1938, Sid and Juanita Hall, Marty’s parents, cosigned a note for their son to co-own the hamburger drive-in, Dairy Hut. While the Hall family members enjoyed their work with Dairy Hut, Sid and Marty had bigger plans.

“After my dad’s retirement from highway patrol, we were excited about our plans to build a diner together and work together,” Marty said.

Plans tragically changed after Sid suffered a fatal heart attack before they could finish their joint dream. Marty still built the diner and with his mother’s permission, he named the place after the man who raised him.

“He was my best friend,” Marty said. “I wanted to do something to remember him.”

In Sid’s name, the diner has made great strides in keeping the fried onion burger tradition alive. Marty said he won’t take credit for the burger invention; Ross Davis is the original fried onion burger creator.

The burger has been sizzling since the 1920s. Onions were cheap and meat was expensive but Davis smashed shredded onion on a meat patty, making the burger look bigger and more flavorful during economic hardship, thus coining the name, the ‘Depression burger.’

Marty’s son, Adam Hill, said the tradition and quality of Sid’s Diner is the reason old and new customers agree Sid’s is a good place to eat.

“We do everything the old school way; nothing has changed,” Adam said. “I think our success has to do with using fresh products and having a good, seasoned grill.”

Embracing the burger’s unique qualities, Marty said he’s made minor changes to enhance the fried onion burger experience, like steaming the bread on the meat and toasting the bun directly on the grill.  

Marty also uses a unique spatula to cook the burger: a brick trowel. He cuts the end off to put a knife edge on the spatula, which helps smash the onions into the meat, flip burgers and scrape off leftovers on the grill.

“I’ve gotten lots of calls from people asking me specifically to make them one,” Marty said. “We have a wood burning tool to burn “Sid’s Diner” into the spatula handle for people who want to give them as gifts.”

He is passionate about the burger’s special qualities as well as the environment in the diner. The vision for the diner experience came straight from the man after whom it was named.

“My dad said, ‘You ought to have a place where they feel like they are coming to your house,’” Marty said. “That’s what the diner is like; El Reno is my family.”

One diner wall is dedicated to his family, one wall is dedicated to El Reno veterans, another wall is decorated with El Reno artifacts and another displays awards and recognitions. In addition to the burgers, customers can order classic Coneys, fries and thick milkshakes. 

“I like to promote Oklahoma since it’s the place I know and love,” Marty said. 

When Marty first opened Sid’s in 1989, he said he never imagined the diner receiving the attention it has.   “I have a good shepherd and he has taken care of me,” Marty said. “I am humbled and believe this is what I was meant to do.” OKL Article End

Taryn Sanderson