Hugo's Family Restaurant is off the beaten path. All the way up in Claremore, it's a little difficult to find due to the railroad tracks and the way Route 66 lies.
That doesn't stop people coming from as far away as Muskogee to try Hugo's breakfasts and lunches. According to Delores Els, who owns Hugo's with her husband, Jim, word-of-mouth has driven business since its beginnings in Pryor more than 20 years ago.
Well, that and the enormous portions.
With four-egg omelets and fried potatoes that nearly spill off the plate, it's impossible to leave Hugo's hungry.
"That's just how his dad started it," Delores said, referring to Jim's father, Hugo, the restaurant's founder. Using "his recipes," the Els family has made huge portions into a family tradition.
The fact that the food is good makes Hugo's a fun place to eat. The staff's friendliness and overall warm atmosphere will make it worth going back to.
I ordered a Denver omelet and a coffee. I'm a man of few needs. Before I went to Hugo's, I had heard that the portions were big, but I didn't realize just how large a four-egg omelet can be.
The fried potatoes that came with the omelet could have fed a family for a week.
But more to the point, the food was good. The omelet was fluffy and easy to eat. I couldn't quite finish the potatoes. They were well-seasoned and delicious, but there were just so many.
When the waitress brought me my food, she advised, "You ought to order bacon ... That's what he [Jim] is known for."
I ordered a side of bacon. Usually a side means four or five slices. I figured since Hugo's serves so much food I would get maybe seven or eight.
No. The waitress brought me a freaking pound of bacon. A full rasher. The table next to mine laughed at the look on my face. That's just the way it is at Hugo's, they said.
The bacon wasn't quite crisp enough for me, but it was tasty. It was almost a full meal in itself and I had plenty left over for lunch the next day.
I couldn't finish my breakfast. It was just too much. When I asked for a doggie bag, my waitress smiled.
"I hear that all day long," she said.
Hugo's tries to work with people who have food allergies. The bacon is grilled in its own fat so there is no need to worry about soy or other additives. For other food, they will make reasonable accommodations. Delores mentioned a regular who brings his own olive oil so his eggs aren't cooked in vegetable oil he may be allergic to.
All About the Bacon. Jim Els (front) owner of Hugo’s Family Restaurant, takes a good look at the rasher of bacon he’s about to put on the grill.
I thought at first the restaurant was a bit pricey, but considering all the food you get it's quite reasonable. My side of bacon was $3.99, for example. That's not bad for a rasher!
Due to the portions, Hugo's has no problem if you want to share food, but will charge a dollar for an extra plate.
Like many diners, Hugo's is a slice of Americana. The benches outside are old church pews. License plates from several states decorate the walls. Elvis memorabilia can be seen, as can Laurel and Hardy hangings. Art by Bill Walker, a Claremore scroll saw artist, hung over my booth.
It was a real, local place.
Hugo's was packed on a Friday at 10am. Many of the patrons were regulars, greeting each other and stopping for brief conversations.
Delores said one of the things she likes best about Hugo's is the community it creates. "Some people become really good friends ... and meet regularly," she said.
She told a story about a man who had come in that morning. Earlier that day the man had helped with a male birthing and was eager to share the story. At a place like Hugo's, people are willing to listen. "He ended up talking to all these people," she said. "Regulars ... talk to other people."
The service was friendly. I've already mentioned my helpful waitress -- who certainly did her part in upping my cholesterol intake.
Now in its third generation -- Jim's son works there as well -- Hugo's has mastered customer service. Jim manages the back of the house while Delores is in the front.
One way to judge the service of a diner is how easily you can get a to-go cup of coffee. As I was leaving Hugo's, I asked for one. Mere seconds later, it was in my hand.
It should be noted that Hugo's doesn't accept credit or debit cards. Cash or check only here.
When I arrived, I was surprised by how much room there was between my table and my booth. I soon found out why. Someone who goes to Hugo's too often may find themselves loosening their belts on a regular basis.
Still, I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. And I'm glad that my children, who have food allergies (and who love bacon), have one more place they can eat.
If you're in Claremore, Hugo's is the place to be. Even if you're not, it's definitely worth the drive from Tulsa or Broken Arrow ... or even from Muskogee.
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