Ty's Hamburgers: Owners celebrate 30 years of success through simplicity
BY SCOTT CHERRY World Restaurant Critic
Thursday, January 24, 2013
3/28/13 at 7:46 AM
Ty's Hamburgers is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, and the red and yellow sign painted on the building's green exterior still reads "over 3 dozen sold," an obvious play on the old McDonald's promotions.
"Joe said he always expected McDonald's to complain about it, but nothing ever happened," said Darlene Cushenberry, whose son, Chris, has owned Ty's for the past 16 years.
When she learned we were going to talk about the history of Ty's, Darlene Cushenberry managed to contact Joe Harris, who, along with wife Jacci, founded Ty's Hamburgers on Fort Gibson Lake in 1982.
They opened the Tulsa restaurant on Harvard Avenue in 1983, Cushenberry said, and at one time they had eight restaurants in the Tulsa area. This all happened during the oil bust.
"Joe said he and Jacci wanted to do something in a down economy, and people had to eat," Cushenberry said.
"He said the other restaurants began to close one by one because the operators started doing things differently, like substituting frozen meat and potatoes for the fresh."
Cushenberry said the Ty's staff - Chris, herself, Lacie Maytubby and head cook Doug Peevy - still prepares food the way the founders did.
"We believe in doing it the old way," Cushenberry said. "We bring in fresh meat every day, and we spin our own potatoes every day to make the curly Q fries. We also use local produce when it is in season."
The menu is one of the shortest in town. You can have a quarter-pound or one-third-pound regular hamburger, cheeseburger, hickory burger and hickory cheeseburger, ranging from $2.55 to $3.05. Bacon is 55 cents extra, and a side of curly Q fries with a burger is $1.30.
Other choices included a hickory chicken filet dinner ($4.75), grilled cheese sandwich, onion rings, chili cheese fries and chili.
Third-pounders were gone when we placed our order, so we had a quarter-pound burger with lettuce, ketchup, mayo, mustard, onion and pickles, and a hickory cheeseburger with the same array of condiments. Both had old-fashioned flavor and went well with the piping hot curly Q fries.
We also shared a side of onion rings ($1.75) and a bowl of chili ($1.99 cup, $2.95 bowl) that hit the spot on a wintry afternoon. The beanless chili was loaded with ground beef and had a mild chili powder flavor.
The onion rings didn't appear to be hand-breaded, but they were tasty for the premade variety.
Since purchasing the restaurant, Chris Cushenberry and a former partner filled the space with an old floral-patterned maroon carpet and antique tables, chairs and wall decorations.
"That one table," Darlene Cushenberry said, pointing to an obviously old small wooden table, "was my mom and dad's for probably 40 years."
The back room holds a pool table that is free to play and is popular with nearby University of Tulsa students. TU students and staff receive a free drink with a meal.
"We've seen generations of families eat here and know many on a first-name basis," Darlene said. "We also love our TU students. Sometimes we bake a cake and have parties for them when they graduate and are about to move away."
1534 S. Harvard Ave.
Service: order at counter
(on a scale of 0 to 4 stars)
11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
all major credit cards.
Original Print Headline: History of simplicity
Scott Cherry 918-581-8463
The third-pound cheeseburger with curly Q fries is the signature dish at Ty's Hamburgers. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World
A sign on the south side of 30-year-old Ty's Hamburgers proclaims "over 3 dozen sold." MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World
The dining room is filled with a variety of antique furniture and advertising signs. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World