Burgers, cocktails and anarchy erupted in the historic Paseo Arts District this past winter à la 84 Hospitality Group, the company behind OKC’s Empire Slice, Revolućion, Gōrō Ramen and Gun Izakaya. The newest addition, Burger Punk, came about via humble food truck beginnings.
Rachel Cope, the CEO and founder of 84 Hospitality, stared at a fully operational food truck – purchased for a catering kitchen that never manifested – sitting unused in a parking lot. An idea for an experiment started to evolve, shaking up the burger culture in Oklahoma City. But did it meet the company’s criteria?
“Do we have a passion for this food? Is this a good fit for the community? And lastly, is this unique? A resounding yes!” says Cope.
“We sometimes say that out restaurants are like albums,” she continues. “Empire is hip-hop/90s. Revolućion is sunny with upbeat current hits, and Goro and Gun are heavy on the low-end jams.”
Figuring out a role for this food truck, and landing on burgers (a concept the group did not have in their line up), was the first step. How to make this concept into an 84 Hospitality ‘album’ was next.
Knowing that ice cream/soda shop servers are dubbed ‘soda jerks,’ a quick internet search and a viewing of the movie Troopers coined the term ‘burger punk’ for Cope. And thus set the wheels in motion for this food truck – with an electric pink mohawk atop the vehicle – throwing any preconceived ideas about what a burger should be in the mosh pit of OKC dining.
Cope is mindful of utilizing clichés, and doesn’t want to take advantage of the genre. She points to other OKC establishments as the true embodiments of punk.
“One, I am not a hardcore punk rocker or even a soft-core punk rocker,” she admits. “I would definitely look like a poser if I tried to pull off something like the kids at the Hilo, the original Drunkin Fry, or even the Lost Highway bar do effortlessly. They embodied the punk image, and we would be doing them a disservice.”
Like many great restaurants, Burger Punk’s menu is succinct and made well. Highlight burgers are the OG Punk with cheese, dill pickles, lettuce and house sauce; the Clash with cheese, grilled onion and jalapeno, nacho Doritos, mayo, cilantro and lime; and the Velveeta Underground with cheese sauce, sliced habanero and crispy onions.
After a year slinging burgers while cruising the Oklahoma City streets, Burger Punk went brick and mortar after a great space in the Paseo district opened up. The idea of embracing punk culture in ‘feel’ only, but with 84 Hospitality’s unique design, set the small, 900-square-foot establishment up for an opening in February.
… Then came the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Even before the days of COVID, we felt that the key to long-term success was how to run the restaurant with the least amount of staff possible,” Cope explains. This helped pandemic adjustments immensely.
In the early stages of brick and mortar development, Cope explains that some of the best talents from 84 Hospitality’s other restaurants were pulled to Burger Punk, then let loose on playlists, menu items and cocktail lists. Having only been open for four weeks before statewide shutdowns, Cope and crew circled the wagons and combined Burger Punk and Revolućion together for to-go, curbside and third-party delivery service; that’s managed to keep both establishments afloat.
Great things are in the works for Burger Punk post-pandemic regarding operations and space modifications. Be on the lookout for a new outdoor patio and a new mode of service that lessens guest-staff contact.
For ordering, updates and a peek at the punk-licious menu, visit burgerpunkokc.com.