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Opening the Best Burger Joint in Omaha

Today, Universal Allah of Best Burgers is cooking burgers and toasting buns in the No More Empty Pots Commercial Kitchen. Upstairs, his family and friends are running a pop-up restaurant in Cups Café at Florence. They’re getting a feel for how their own restaurant will run when they open it in 2020. After working with his team on their dream for about a year, it was time to test the concept. Their team was built from scratch after Universal was injured at his sheet metal manufacturing job. When it was time to rethink his plan, a restaurant just made sense.

A Community Need Identified

In every profession, there are the people that everyone looks up to. In manufacturing, these folks are,the journeyman. When something went wrong or you got behind, they would come in to clean it up. One day after they’d finished a job, a few journeyman asked Universal for a recommendation. They knew exactly what they wanted–a mom and pop burger place, fresh patties with nothing frozen; and some simple, good ingredients. They were looking for an iconic burger joint. When Universal tried to list a few places off, every single one was closed. 

For blue collar workers, the shifts go late and they go late often. Some people work overnight, and even some of the day shifts end after midnight. Most of the time, that makes fast food the only option. If you forget your lunch or don’t have time, you’re going to the place that’s still open. Universal saw his opportunity. Omaha, and North Omaha in particular, needs its iconic burger joint. 

When Universal graduated from high school, he pursued a culinary arts degree at Job Corps Realizing that there was an opportunity right here in his own neighborhood brought an old dream back to life. He thought to himself, “I take risks. I’ll throw my hat in the ring. Let’s go.”

Where It All Began

The timing seemed perfect, but it wasn’t just an opportunity; it’s about community and legacy. Universal grew up in a family of cooks. His grandmothers were cooks, and his grandfather took him on a homegrown tour of local restaurants. He says, “I’m really into family owned things. Growing up as a kid, we would go to a different mom and pop diners; Lisa’s Radial Cafe is the only one that’s still there. My grandpa instilled that in me. It’s fine to go to Village Inn, but if you go to this place, you support this family who lives in your community.” 

Those types of values carry Universal through his life. He executive produces  local TV show, and says, “It’s about my whole family and our friends. The hope is that a teenager or a young person will see it and say ‘that dude has a show? I could do a show better than him.’” His restaurant is rooted in the same values; “A lot of people, especially in this neighborhood, their aspiration is to cook. It’s what they love, what they’re good at. Like my friend, he’s a line cook but he doesn’t see how he’s gonna become an owner.”

Learning Along The Way

Following a dream can be hard. At first, it was all about the food. He would spend time in the kitchen testing out different recipes and flavor with his friends. Then it came time to think about the permits and logistics of really opening a restaurant. They found a location, built a business plan, and started gathering their funds. They partnered with Equida to serve as their business coaches and support the launch of their project. Their future location is still under construction, and there have been complications. But Universal isn’t a man to give up, and he was raised with the knowledge that your community will lift you up. 

He found No More Empty Pots. “When I heard about No More Empty Pots, they had all the resources. The process for me was getting hard and I didn’t know if I would have to throw in the towel. I wanted to try everything, so I reached out to Nancy, she connected us to Britney, and it was open arms. “Nancy and Britney have been great. They walked us through everything. It was just an idea, and I wanted to test the concept, but I didn’t know exactly how I would do it.” That’s when the idea for the pop-up started. “At first it was just a consultation, but we then talked about a pop-up and doing it. It’s different in a kitchen with your friends. I wanted to get strangers to test it and give feedback. Friends aren’t really judging it the way a stranger would.”

The pop-up was a hit! “Now people call me and ask, where’s your restaurant. I went down and there was only coffee and stuff. Where are you?” At the first pop-up during the No More Empty Pots Annual Holiday Open House, Universal and his team sold more than 80 burgers. 

Universal, his restaurant, and his team are proof that your dream is possible, even if it takes a little bit of help and community support. He’s ready to prove that anyone in his community can do it too. “I want more people to know about No More Empty Pots because they’ll get that support. They’ll see. I come from such situations that no one expected nothing of us. We have to make expectations for ourselves. My peer group inspired me. Like Nancy with this place. She did it. If she can do it, I can do it too. Why be afraid? You can always find a job. So why not just take a risk? Why not believe in yourself?”

If you want to stay updated on Universal and Best Burger, follow them on Facebook at @bestburgeromaha

If you’re interested in renting the No More Empty Pots Commercial Kitchen, fill out the application here. If you’d like to learn more about starting or running a food business, check out our Incubator program.

4 Replies to “Opening the Best Burger Joint in Omaha”

  1. Melvia says:

    That is wonderful we need more ord this in the community we love to eat Good Food

  2. Mz. Aj says:

    This is a great thing. Every1 in Omaha and visitors even from out of town should want to show support. The Burgers are great and friendly staff are admirable. I have a couple of good Friends that strive to be their best. Thanks for your drive and establishing ownership in a fast pace Local Business. I witnessed Leaders and Entreprenuership developedments. I am very proud to see this transform into the best Best Burger!

  3. Alan T. Black says:

    What are the hours?

    1. Talia McGill says:

      Hello Alan –

      The pop ups run at different times and are considered calendared events. The Cafe itself is open Mondays 4pm – 8pm, Tuesday – Friday 7:30am – 2pm and Sunday 8am – 2pm.

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