Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — Cheeky Burger has long been a stipe of the Newkirk business community in Newkirk. Operating out of the former Sonic Drive-In on North Main Street downtown, they offer the community local, custom food options with a warm, friendly environment. They have now received recognition across they state, as they were featured in the January issue of Oklahoma Today magazine.
The Cheeks are thrilled to be featured in front of readers across the state.
“It was really humbling to be noticed,” Karla Cheek said.
Cheeky Burger was featured in the January issue, known as “The Food Issue,’ in a segment titled, “Worth The Drive,” recognizing restaurants across that state that may be a long drive, but are worth the long commute. The segment began in 2014.
“sOur writers love hearing about placed in small towns, and what better reason to travel than to east,” said Oklahoma Today Editor in Chief Nathan Gunter.
It is a chilly January afternoon, and Cheeky Burger employees are busy loading their food trailer, indicating how far their business has come in recent years.
“Food Truck Quote”
It was quite a feat, for a business that happed by accident a number of years ago.
Although members of the Cheek family hail from Newkirk, Terry and Karle did not. Terry Grew up in Ponca City, while Karla I from Kansas, and both ha their own careers before locating to Newkirk. Karla as a nurse, serving patents in a variety health backroads, including hospice service. Terry operated Cowboy Copy in Stillwater . Family brought them to Newkirk, and eventually, a new goal, when they relocated to the community in 2001.
“She’s from Kansa and I’m from Ponca City, but my grandparents were here, so that is why we moved,” Terry said.
The culinary arts were never on the forefronts of their minds, and at the time of their moving to the new home, the facility was still in business as Sonic. Only seeing an empty building after they closed would they think about their own restaurant.
“I never even thought abbot it before,” Terry said. “We drove by here daily, and it was closed about a year. We just saw an opportunity with a vacant business.”
There would be a lot of work to renovate the facility prior to opening.
“We tore out every wall, every ceiling tile, had to run all new water lines, because they let the building go,” Terry said.
Having no restaurant business, they had to start from scratch to create food items that would entice the community. To get there, they turned to their own tastes to create what they felt were viable menu options.
“We started with a really small menu, Terry said. “It’s just kind of what we like when we go someplace.”
Although they would keep the same menu for several months, they knew they had to add to the offerings to keep people coming back. The first menu focused on staples like hamburgers, but they eventually started experimenting to see what new treats may work. That included “The Eagles Nest,” which is French fries with Colby jack cheese, bacon, onions and jalapenos, and “Dirty Okra,” with okra in place of French fries.
“It was just experimenting, on days that were slow, and there were some that turned out well,” Terry said.
What makes Cheeky Burger’s menu so attractive is that it starts each morning, when they slice and dice their tomatoes, onions lettuce and other toppings before they open. They also grind their beef so everything is fresh when lunch patrons pull up the drive. Whatever they grind is what they have for the day.
“If we have any left over, it will go into the taco and meat and the chili the next day,” Terry said.
The flavor of their menu is noticed by their many patrons, who repeat the facility for lunch and dinner..
“there is no doubt they are the best cheeseburger around, but I also like the chicken wrap and Karla always takes time to say hello,” Mary Austin said. “It is not at every facility that we go to where the owner steps out to greet you.”
The recognition is huge, as it gives Cheeky Burger statewide exposure, but I also benefits a small town like Newkirk.
“Anything positive for the community is good for all of us,” Chamber of Commerce President Debbie Leaming said. “We all know how wonderful Cheeky Burger is, and now is the time for the rest of Oklahoma to know. They’ve worked really hard. Terry and Karla put in a lot of hours, just like all our small businesses.”
Newkirk Main Street also recognized them, as they ae in the Main Street Downtown district, naïf are promoted by the organization.
“It’s rely important, because it is a recognition that they are good at what they do, and someone outside of the community recognizes them,” said Newkirk Main Street Director Alyssa McCleery. You hope it draws more traffic to the NMS district.”
NMS have already honored Cheeky Burger by nominating them for several award on the state level, including Businesses of the Year Best New Business and Best Business Branding/Best Building Branding, the last of which they were in the top three in 2017.
NMS is also proud of all the local restaurants in Newkirk, three of which are Downtown, because they draw more people to the community, including Stage coach, Main Street Bakery and Capone’s Hoagies.
“Newkirk is blessed with several locally-owned restaurants. It’s nice to see one of them recognized statewide, and we hope to see others in the future,” McCleery said.
As for the Cheeks, they ae keeping it in stride, and pledge to continue what they aware honored for – serving great food to a great community.
“If you’re new, and you haven’t tried us, come on in,” Terry said.