By: N.L. Preston
HOUSTON — ‘Tis the season of giving – all year long – especially when there is a community in need, a family who cares and values of giving back instilled across generations.
The historic Burns Original BBQ in Houston’s Acreage Home (Acres Home) neighborhood was opened in 1973 by the legendary pitmaster, Roy Burns Jr. For nearly 50 years, the restaurant has been having barbecue lovers coming out in droves for what many consider some of the best ribs to ever fall off a bone.
The ingredients of Burns BBQ sauce may be one of the secrets to the restaurant’s success, but there’s no secret about what the restaurant means to the Black community. It’s not about the bragging rights of being named one of Texas’ best BBQ joints (the late, great Anthony Bourdain, host of the world-renowned “Parts Unknown” show, said the eatery had the best East Texas-style BBQ a person could find), it is about the personal touch and love the Burns family has exhibited throughout the decades.
“We wanted to just keep the roots in the Acres Home community because we knew how much it meant to our grandfather,” Cory Crawford, now co-owner, expressed. “If there was no Acres Home, there would be no Burns BBQ. The customers are very loyal to Burns BBQ, so we are very loyal to them.”
Crawford and other family members/co-owners are on a mission to expand that love, and create more economic development for the area.
“We have a great product, so we can build up the community by bringing everyone to Acres Home. We want everyone from all over the city and country to come see how great our neighborhood is,” Crawford said. “We want to keep our ties inside this community by developing other businesses.”
Crawford went on to explain that the family built the community’s first set of three-story townhomes off De Priest Street, in addition to more affordable housing on Conklin Street a few years ago.
“In order to uplift the community, you need low-income homes and middle-class homes as well. The people who left, we want them to come back,” Crawford said. “It’s great prime real estate, 15 minutes from downtown Houston, and we can bring back the people who left. We also have plans to bring Black-owned banks to Acres Home and we actually have plans to open a nice grocery store to the area.”
The Burns family also provides scholarships for high school seniors.
“It’s just our way of giving back to students in the city of Houston. This year we will be giving 10 students $1,000 scholarships,” Crawford shared.
For Thanksgiving, the restaurant provided more than 600 meals to people needing holiday home cooking, and during the government shutdown and Hurricane Harvey, Burns BBQ provided hot meals to those in need.
When it comes to giving back, no project is too large or too small.
“We naturally do it all year round. We’ve even donated food to Mayor Sylvester Turner’s campaign. That’s how big our hearts are,” Crawford said. “We are just piggybacking on the blueprint he (Roy Burns Jr.) started for us. He had nine kids, and the community was always a priority to him. We have just expanded and are now trying to reach the whole city.”
In the end, Crawford said it is all about one word: service.
“We still have that old school family love inside the restaurant. If you are short a few dollars, you don’t have to run back to the car, we’ll take care of you. We have regular customers who have been coming there for years,” he said.
Crawford is 36 years old and a married father of two. He runs the business with his father, Steve Burns; uncle, Gary Burns; brother, Carl Crawford and other family members.
African American News and Issues asked him more about his philosophies on life and business practices.
Advice to young entrepreneurs: “A lot of young people coming up today want success fast and instantaneous. I say keep working at it, stay consistent and it will bloom on the other side.”
Thoughts on the importance of unity in the Black family: “It all boils down to love. I think a lot of people are losing the love that we grew up with in the old days and it separates us when the love is lost. Our restaurant is a family-owned business, and 90 percent of our family are connected to it. We try to keep love and peace inside the building and that’s what keeps us a tight-knit family. We pray for love and peace each morning before we open the doors. That is what is going to keep African American families together.”
A few more reasons we love Burns BBQ:
- On Oct. 24, they launched a catering company
- Recently launched a 10-pound stuffed baked potato
- Burns BBQ Sauce is now in 21 Kroger grocery stores