Published March 20, 2012
The Mahoning Valley Burger Review Board (MVBRB) guys took a nostalgic trip this month to Youngstown’s oldest bar, the Royal Oaks.
There’s a great continuing story about the Oaks, so Casey Malone joined us to feature the MVBRB’s quest for the area’s best burger, and the success of the Royal Oaks. Casey will air the MVBRB’s meeting at the Royal Oaks on The Casey Malone Show, Local Flavor (12 noon Saturdays channel 21, and 7am Sundays on the CW).
The Royal Oaks is owned by Louie and John Kennedy, who will celebrate their 10th year in business in October.
The Oaks was originally built in 1919 as a grocery store with two upstairs apartments where the original owners resided. The building transitioned to The Royal Oaks Bar in 1934 and received Youngstown’s first liquor license after prohibition was repealed. The Kennedy’s are only the bar’s third owners.
Casey is also a part of the Royal Oak’s history, with her being the first female to tend bar in the establishment.
John Kennedy said the place is “like a clubhouse,” where everyone checks their occupations at the door and has a great time. The brothers both say the Royal Oaks is Youngstown’s version of Cheers.
When the MVBRB guys arrived, we were a little skeptical looking at the ivy covering a lot of the building's crumbling facade, and the marquee showing the building’s age. But when we entered the cozy bar and saw all the beer signs on the walls, sports on the televisions, and the regular patrons bantering back and forth with the owners and workers, we knew we were in for a great time.
While Casey asked us all her questions for the show, our waitress, Bergen, patiently took care of us and made sure everything was to our liking.
John Kennedy is the mastermind behind the menu, and classifies himself as a back-yard cook, with no formal training. We were pleased with his burger selection, and the four of us respectively decided on a Cheese Burger, Black & Blue Burger, Cajun Burger and the house favorite -- Oaks Southern Burger, which is enhanced by their own Raspberry BBQ sauce.
The burgers were all seasoned well, with fresh toppings piled high and a very flavorful beef.
JT chose the Oaks Southern Burger and noted how the BBQ sauce highlights the taste of the burger.
Casey tried her go as a burger reviewer with a Black & Blue Burger and said, “It was very, very good.”
The menu also offered some very interesting burgers not for the faint of heart: JJ’s Burger (with seven pieces of fried salami); Double Stack Burger (with two patties, bacon on both layers); Konichiwa Burger (with jalapenos, pepper jack cheese and wasabi mayo); and for the simpler tastes there is a Plain Jane Burger.
The menu offers a 1/3 lb or 1/2 lb for each burger, with prices ranging from $5 to $7.95, and $11 for the Double Stack. The burgers are served with a side of fries, and Scott said “the fries were nice and crispy.”
Louie frequented our table throughout the taping and made our meal very enjoyable, telling us stories of the past ten years as well as some history about the building . He was talking with everybody in the bar and made everyone feel like they were part of the Royal Oaks family.
The Royal Oaks is a must try with a great menu featuring ribs and wings, but you can take some of their excellent barbecue sauce and add it to one of their delicious burgers -- and you never know, you might end up with Louie at your table telling you Royal Oaks stories.
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