There’s something uniquely indulgent for me about American BBQ. It is one of those things that seems almost impossible for restaurants to execute away from the United States. It might be that the ribs are too tough, the wings not tasting quite right, or that the brisket just isn’t smoked the same. If not the food, then the atmosphere is almost impossible to capture with everywhere seeming either tacky or sterile. Burnout BBQ in Summertown, though, is one of the only places I have been in the UK that finds solutions to all those problems. The décor is typically ridiculous, the dishes are meticulously authentic, and the atmosphere is buzzing. This isn’t haute cuisine, it’s over-the-top indulgence and it’s a bloody fun place to spend an evening.
Chatting to the co-founders and owners, Thomas and Malcolm, the key philosophy here is to offer everything American that you could ever dream of in an atmosphere to fit. Things started off during the COVID-19 pandemic as a street food business. The pair took the crazy decision to saw a hot rod in half and serve brisket burgers and other BBQ dishes out of the back. The result was more successful than they ever could have expected and when a chance to buy a permanent site came up, they didn’t hesitate for a second.
The result is an interior that at first glance you might want to discard as tacky and classless. Look closer though, and every last detail is thought out. That car that makes up the bar? 100% real with the seats serving as chairs at one of the booths to prove it. This place is perfectly set up to create a fun and relaxed atmosphere.
That fun and relaxed atmosphere fits the food on offer perfectly. Although the menu is extensive with offerings of everything from burgers to hot dogs and loaded fries, the full experience is only got from the barbecue trays. Available after 5 PM, the sharing tray is £45 for two people and comes with everything you could possibly want.
The brisket is smoked in-house for nine hours and you can really tell the difference from what you normally get in the UK. Pulled pork is maple smoked and melts in the mouth just as you would want and ribs are appropriately sticky.
Burnt ends are there too and soaked to kingdom come in barbecue sauce. Corn, slaw, and beans bring an attempt at healthiness with the strong taste and greasiness that is only really acceptable somewhere like this. Normally, I’d tear it apart along with the onion rings that are far more batter than onion. Really though, you don’t come to Burnout for light dishes and calorie counting.
Wings are the next highlight and there are three different varieties. The honey seasoning was probably the best and there is a good variety in spice across the board. More than enough sauces are on hand at all times too to change things to your liking.
Chilli Cheese fries are quite the dish and were our choice of the loaded options. The house chilli itself is good and the fresh jalapenos balance the creaminess of the melted cheese well. For me though, these were let down by the counterintuitive inevitability of loaded fries in general: they were just too soggy. I passionately believe that the best bit about a fry is just how thin and crispy it is and when doused in meat, cheese, and sauces, that is inevitably lost.
Desserts are just as ridiculous as the rest of the menu. The brownie sundae is loaded with brownie pieces, ice cream, cream, Oreos, and all manner of sauces. I don’t ever want to know how many calories are in this but as a sharer, you can’t go far wrong.
There are big plans going forward for Burnout — listen to the podcast for talk of a new, larger site. Already here, with no more than 30 covers, this is destination dining for people across Oxfordshire and beyond. Going forward though, Thomas and Malcom are thinking bigger. For now, this is undoubtedly the place to go in Oxford for an authentically fun evening of American food. Just be sure not to park too far away — you might not make it back to the car!