It’s going to be hard to keep a low profile when the centerpiece of your dive bar has been dubbed “the best double cheeseburger in America” by a celebrity chef.
But that’s the plan for Flycatcher Club, a “high dive” that will open late April.
The concept was designed by co-owners Riley Marshall and Dustin Lancaster, who opened Bar Arbolada at the intersection of Main Street and N Lee Avenue four years ago. Marshall and Lancaster met while both were living and working in Los Angeles.
- Berlin Green
- The smashburger developed at Bar Arbolada will be the centerpiece of the Flycatcher Club menu.
“We kind of met by happenstance,” Marshall said. “He was bartending and I was sitting at the bar and struck up a conversation. It turned out he’s from Oklahoma and I’m from Oklahoma and then continued talking. We lived on the same street in LA, which was Arbolada. That’s where the name came from … He was already in the works on opening his first concept in LA, which was Bar Covell, named after Covell Road in Edmond.”
In quick succession, Lancaster opened several more bar/restaurants in Los Angeles. When Marshall moved back to Oklahoma City, he broached the topic again and the planning stages began.
“The concept was a bar that felt like it could and would exist in any other big city, whether it be Los Angeles or New York City or wherever. We kind of felt that, at the time, Oklahoma City didn’t really have much that felt like a big city concept,” he said.
They teamed with Tehra Thorp to offer a small plate menu for the bar.
“[She] was from Oklahoma and lived out in LA. She did a lot of fun pop-ups and was, I think, a private chef, most of the time. And so I approached her. Elevated bar snacks really was kind of our thought and that’s what we opened with and started with,” Marshall said.
Meanwhile, a flat-top grill in the building sat mostly dormant until weekly staff meetings when they would take turns cooking. One time, Marshall took to the grill with his grandfather’s smashburger recipe and technique and they were an immediate hit.
“We came up with this idea of doing a weekly burger pop-up burger weekly we called Paloma Town and we would do it Saturday night starting at 10 p.m. So the kitchen would run with its normal menu all day and then we would switch over to do the smashburgers,” he said.
It wasn’t long before there were lines for a burger, fries and a paloma.
“In the beginning, we would only buy a certain amount of meat and when it was gone, it was gone. We did that forever. It was just a lot of fun,” Marshall said.
And then COVID-19 hit. Restaurants were first allowed to do takeout, so they started firing up the grill all day five days a week.
“That helped a lot. We could run a really lean staff and they could make some tip money and get paid hourly and we can make enough money to pay the rent and not be too worried. So that kind of helped us through COVID,” he said.
When bars and restaurants started reopening, people were coming specifically for the smashburgers so they became a mainstay.
“Financially, it just made more sense to keep doing the burgers and then the Alton Brown thing happened and it kind of exploded even bigger,” Marshall said.
In early November, celebrity chef Alton Brown and his wife stopped in while they were in town. After the meal, he tweeted:
“So #OklahomaCity, you have the best double cheeseburger in America.”
Marshall said his phone immediately blew up, paving the way for his new concept, the lease for which had been signed before the pandemic
“Everybody knew it was coming but I hadn’t made any kind of official announcement but then the Alton Brown stuff happened so we kind of rode with that,” he said.
The intention is for Flycatcher Club to open for lunch at 11 a.m. seven days a week. They plan to close at midnight during the week and then stay open until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
The grill hours have yet to be determined, but Marshall expects them to serve the late-night crowd. He’s anticipating shutting down the kitchen at midnight on weekends.
Aside from the burgers, Marshall said they intend to have an expanded bar food menu that includes eight to 12 items.
Marshall said Flycatcher will also have a pool table, some pinball machines and dart boards. He hopes that leagues for each will develop at the club.
“Other than that, kind of just like a dive-y beer bar where you get a good gin and tonic or a Jack and Coke or beer and a burger and it’s more about just enjoying the spot in a little more laid back, casual kind of way,” he said.
The opening date has not been set but Marshall said he’s hoping Flycatcher Club will be open for business by May, catering to its own clientele as well as Beer City Music Hall’s crowds after the show.
Until then, the renowned burgers are available at Bar Arbolada from the time they open until about 10 p.m. each night, he said.