It’s smoking: Ribs, chicken, pulled pork and brisket on menu at Oakmont’s Burk’s BBQ
When Kevin Burkardt was 2 years old, he pushed a chair up to the stove in his grandmother’s house in an attempt to make bacon and eggs for breakfast.
When he was in seventh grade, his mother, Meg Burkart, came home from work one day and saw her son and his friends eating eight steaks that he grilled.
“I have always loved to cook,” says Burkardt of Blawnox, who owns the newly-opened Burk’s BBQ in Oakmont. “Barbecue is my favorite. Having my own place is a dream. I have been involved in cooking my entire life”
These days, Burkardt is preparing other meat products.
Patrons can watch him work as he lifts the lid to the smoker behind the barbecue restaurant to check on the ribs, brisket, pulled pork and chicken.
Smoking the meats requires 16-18 hours, some less time and others longer.
On the side
Complementing the meat choices are various house-made sides such as cowboy baked beans – a combination of kidney, pinto and black beans with caramelized onions. You can add crispy bacon crumbles to top them off. The creamy macaroni and cheese, coleslaw, potato salad and collard greens, which are vegan, as well as a baked potato and jalapeno cheddar corn muffins are available.
Welcome to the neighborhood
Burkardt, 34, and head chef Cullen Osterhout of Verona met when the two worked at nearby Oakmont Bakery. Bakery owner Marc Serrao is proud of their evolution.
“He’s all about pleasing his customers with great tasting food,” says Serrao, whose business supplies the buns to Burk’s. “He’s organized and operates his kitchen with skill and precision. I believe he will be successful, and a great addition to the Oakmont dining experience.”
How it came to be
Burkardt’s love of cooking was evident so it’s no surprise he is in the food business. He started cooking barbecue when he worked at Blue North Restaurant in Allison Park. Burkardt, who has a finance degree from Pitt, has also worked at Girasole in Shadyside and Hoffstots Café Monaco in Oakmont.
His barbecue sauce is vinaigrette based with basil, garlic, vinegar, lemon juice, Worcester, red hot, molasses and a little bit of ketchup. There is also a spicy version.
Burkardt also decided to start with a limited menu but plans to add, and possibly change, items, listening to diners’ feedback.
“I love this business, and I really wanted to do this,” said Burkardt. “It’s been quite an undertaking, but also rewarding. We have some really loyal customers and others are finding us for the first time.”
Ginny and Donny Spindler of Monongahela were visiting a friend in Oakmont during the opening of Burk’s in December.
“They were handing out free samples and welcoming everyone, and I tried them all,” Ginny Spindler says.
She says Burk’s is up there with the best barbecue she’s ever eaten.
Rick Kerstetter of DuBois agreed. He discovered Burk’s while in Oakmont for business. He stopped at the Oakmont Bakery because he wanted to buy some cookies after tasting the desserts at a memorial service. And then he “smelled Burk’s.”
“It was winter, and I had the windows rolled up, but it smelled so good,” Kerstetter says. “I love barbecue, and brisket is my favorite. Burk’s is the best brisket I have had in my life.”
A talented team
Burkardt says he couldn’t do any of this without the support of his family and friends. His sister Natalie Burkardt is helping with social media and friend and Pittsburgh-based artist Lizzee Solomon helped design the logo and created the inside décor of the business.
Another friend helped finance the business because he won money on the lottery.
When Osterhout heard about this venture he was the first to team with Burkardt.
“Kevin and I have been friends a long time so when he mentioned this to me I was all for being a part of it,” says Osterhout, who previously was kitchen manager at Freedom Diner. “This is my career, and here I will have the opportunity to create new dishes and we can experiment with sauces. Working with these meats is a cook’s dream.”
Burkardt wanted to call it Burk’s after his grandfather Robert’s nickname.
“My grandparents were definitely an inspiration,” Burkardt says. “My grandma would also let me cook and grandpa would eat what I cooked whether it was good or not. They always encouraged me.”
Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday
Burk’s BBQ is located at the former Phatoros Catering building, 319 Maryland Ave., Oakmont
Details: 412-517-8345 or burksbbq.com
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062, email@example.com or via Twitter @Jharrop_Trib.
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 412-320-7889, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .