IF YOU GO
What: The Royal Oaks
Where: 924 Oak St. Youngstown, Ohio 44506
Hours: Mon - Fri: 11am - 2 am; Sat: noon - 2 am; Sun: closed
Menu: 6 burgers ($5.50 - $11.00)
Grade: 4 stars
By Anthony M. Fuda
There is a rich history in the Royal Oaks’ walls ... and we’re really not sure what you’ll actually find in there.
Maybe gold, or a map to where Jimmy Hoffa is located, or that creepy doll that kept the women’s restroom door closed. But we do know there are plenty of stories to be told. Oh, if those walls could talk.
Originally built as a grocery store in 1919, The Royal Oaks opened its restaurant/bar doors in 1934, and after prohibition was repealed, it received Youngstown’s first liquor license, and from there, it got fun.
The motto at the Oaks is “It’s in the hood, but it’s all good.” All that means is that you will find people from all walks of life pulling up a bar stool and sitting right next to each other, while having a drink and a burger and chatting about daily events. And EVERYONE is always welcome at the Oaks.
The Royal Oaks went through a little renovation a couple of years ago, getting some new beer taps, a new smoker, and some much needed paint – and removing the creepy baby doll hanging from the ceiling – we’re still waiting for her to surface somewhere.
You might remember the Royal Oaks remodel on Bar Rescue when John Taffer and his crew made some changes to one of Youngstown’s favorite hang outs. The changes helped bring the Oaks some new client ®le, but the bar still keeps the same integrity that has ushered in droves of loyal Oaks customers who keep coming back again and again; not just for the food and spirits, but to hear owners Louie and John Kennedy tell stories about the people who have passed through the Oaks’ doors. When you go to enjoy some of the great food, ask for Louie to stop by your table and tell you some vintage Royal Oaks stories,.
The Oaks is known for its homemade BBQ sauce, wings and smoked meats, but we were on a mission to have their burgers with that famous spicy raspberry BBQ sauce. The raspberry BBQ sauce can almost stand on its own, but we are glad it goes exceptionally well with burgers, ribs and wings.
Our server, Kate McCann, guided us on our burger journey and even talked some of the guys into trying the pepper jack ghost pepper cheese, which meant it was time to heat the place up.
We opened the menu and looked over the burger offerings:
Single Stack Burger (lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup, mustard)
Cheese Burger (choice of cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo, ketchup/mustard)
Double Stack Burger (2 patties, bacon on both layers, lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo, cheese)
Black & Blue Burger (Cajun burger topped with blue cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion)
Cajun Burger (lettuce, tomato, onion, Oaks’ famous Cajun seasoning)
Oaks Southern Burger (topped with bacon, cheese and an onion ring smothered in the Oaks’ famous BBQ sauce)
You have your choice of a 1/3 lb or 1/2 lb patty, and it can be topped with: lettuce, tomato, raw onion, grilled onion, mayo, wasabi mayo, BBQ sauce and your choice American, Swiss, hot pepper jack or provolone cheese).
All the burgers are served with a good portion of hand- cut fries.
I had the Cajun burger, this wasn’t the first time and I know it won’t be the last. The Royal Oaks’ Cajun seasoning has a great flavor, and I always add a little bit of the hot raspberry BBQ sauce, which combined with the Cajun seasoning makes this pure burger bliss. The beef is cooked perfectly and the toppings are extremely fresh. Combine all of that into each bite and it’s no wonder you find people from all walks of life sitting at the bar with one of these amazing burgers in their hands. Now I know we can all get along, and all it takes is a burger from the Oaks and a tub of raspberry BBQ sauce.
Eric hasn’t been to the Oaks for a few years, and was excited to try out what they had to offer. Remarking, “After some self-debating on what to order, I settled on the Oaks Southern Burger. I found out I could have it topped with the delicious Royal Oaks Hot Raspberry BBQ sauce and Ghost Pepper cheese, I did not regret this decision. I would swim in that sauce if it was socially acceptable. Plus, the heat that the Ghost Pepper cheese brought paired with the sauce is right up my alley. The beef itself was cooked just as I asked, and the bun didn’t give in to the onslaught of flavor. After I downed my burger, we were treated to a Chorizo Burger. There is no doubt that this culinary masterpiece needs a permanent home on the menu. It was a unique flavor that I could see myself ordering weekly. There is a reason the Royal Oaks has been a Youngstown staple since the 1930s. These burgers make that case even stronger.”
Scott also had the Oaks Southern Burger and agreed that “the sauce made this burger. Combined with the price, which is very affordable and borderline cheap. I don’t think you can find a burger of this quality at this price anywhere!”
JT enjoyed his Oaks Southern Burger, remarking, “Any time you can get a burger that tastes as good as this for a price like this, it’s a win. Enjoying it with good friends and quenching your thirst with an ice cold brew while sitting in the middle of a piece of Youngstown history makes it a mega win! The raspberry barbecue sauce is my all-time favorite. It works on the burgers just as well as it works on their famous ribs. Nice job, Oaks!”
The Royal Oaks’ motto says it all. Whether they are talking about the people, the food, or the area in general, it holds true – “If it’s in the hood, it’s all good,” especially if a burger is involved and some raspberry BBQ sauce is slathered on it.
Keep reading the Valley food section each Wednesday for the best food the Valley has to offer.
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