- ABOUT US
Two Tulsa entrepreneurs left their day jobs behind to create an unconventional, delicious, and wildly popular barbecue joint.
By Karlie Tipton
Published January/February 2013
Before the sun illuminates the Tulsa hills, early commuters driving down old Route 66 can spot a colossal plume of smoke that seems to rise from out of nowhere.
As the saying goes, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
But this conflagration is no ordinary one. These flames, rising from the alley behind Burn Co. in Tulsa, bring in crowds and produce some of the most flavorful meat in Oklahoma. They were ignited three years ago by childhood friends and Tulsa natives Robby Corcoran and Adam Myers.
“I would occasionally cook or cater for people,” Myers says. “I needed help, and I knew Rob liked to cook. We did one event together, and we haven’t done one apart since.”
The pair wondered if their part-time catering gig might have more potential, but Corcoran decided to test out the food industry before committing fully.
“I took a job running two restaurants that were owned by multinational conglomerates,” Corcoran says. “I hated every second of it. It was the worst job you could possibly imagine.”
Myers, then a sales manager for Tulsa-based Hasty-Bake charcoal ovens, vividly recalls that darkness before the sunrise.
“Rob called me one day and said, ‘I’m miserable. We don’t cook anything here. Everything is in a bag, and you boil it, microwave it, or fry it,’” Myers says. “‘You’re not putting raw ingredients in food and really cooking stuff. Why is this popular?’”
In January 2010, Corcoran and Myers decided it was time to go out on their own, for better or worse.
“We both left real jobs to do this,” Myers says. “We had a lot of hurdles to overcome. Right from the very beginning, there was a big snowstorm. We couldn’t afford to buy a sign, so it just said ‘Deli’ because it used to belong to Ella’s Deli.”
Though the pair quit their jobs, Myers never truly left Hasty-Bake behind; he and Corcoran use eight of the charcoal ovens in the alley behind the restaurant to cook all their meat. Even with a proven cooking method in place, opening a restaurant can be a risky venture. Still, Corcoran and Myers were determined not to cut corners.
“We make everything fresh every single day,” Myers says.
From the time customers walk through the door, they can see Corcoran and Myers’ delicious philosophy in action. While one employee brings in a plate of juicy bone-in chicken fresh off the Hasty-Bakes, another slices a slab of thick-cut bologna for a sandwich. If the ten or more people lined up outside the door when it opens every morning are any indication, Burn Co. patrons are willing to wait awhile for the flavor of this barbecue.
“Their meat tastes so much better than anywhere else,” says Cody Innis of the University of Tulsa security department between bites of his strip tenderloin sandwich.
Burn Co. has kept customers coming back—as many as three or four times a week in Innis’ case—thanks not only to the food’s freshness but to its variety as well.
“I like to get whatever’s on special. The chili verde pork shoulder is good,” Innis says. “I had the tenderloin sandwich, and that was great. Everything I’ve had has been good.”
One particularly popular special is the aptly named Hero.
“We buy shawarma meat, chunk it up, smoke it, make tzatziki sauce from scratch, and build our own version of the gyro,” Myers says.
For customers who can’t decide between the Hero—a sandwich topped with almost a pound of tender pulled pork—or fall-off-the-bone baby-back ribs, Burn Co. offers indecisive diners the Happy Plate.
“A Happy Plate is a little bit of everything, usually more than three pounds of meat,” Myers says. “People ask ‘What’s that?’ And we simply answer, ‘It will make you happy.’”
Since Burn Co. only makes enough food to last the day, some customers go away hungry.
“I’ve been here three or four times, and this is my first time catching the Fatty,” says Tulsan Matt Green after his first, long-awaited taste of Burn Co.’s take on the sausage sandwich.
For the most part, customers know that even if they don’t get to sample their first choice from the menu, Corcoran, Myers, and their team will find something they’ll love. They rope new and reluctant customers in by, as Corcoran says, “throwing the food at them.”
“We give them a bite of brisket or a bite of pork when they walk up to the counter,” Corcoran says. “It creates a really friendly environment.”
Burn Co. has seen its business grow exponentially in the last two years. Though the restaurant now has a total staff of six, as well as a thriving catering operation, the owners still get fired up about doing barbecue right.
“We weren’t out to buck the system; we were out to do something different,” Corcoran says. “We do things the long, hard, stupid way. But it’s the best way.”
Get There: Burn Co. opens at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday and closes each day when the food is gone or by 2 p.m., whichever comes first. 3208 East Eleventh Street in Tulsa. (918) 574-2777.