Sam Keesh is the owner of Hero’s Subs & Burgers with his wife and three sons. His casual eatery has been a North Tulsa landmark since 1984, but what makes it truly exceptional is his enormous heart. If you look at his restaurant’s reviews online, you’ll find a lot about his delicious food, but what you’ll also notice is how much his clientele loves and appreciates Sam.
Sam—originally an aeronautical engineer—moved to Tulsa from New York in the early ’80s in pursuit of a position with American Airlines. However, when the job did not pan out he decided to take a chance and buy Hero’s from the owner at the time.
As Sam and I speak, his son, William, is hard at work in the kitchen. Sam is not so much interested in telling me how wonderful his food is as much as he is interested in talking about life, and what’s it’s like to own a small business in the city he loves. I find out pretty quickly that he is not one to boast, and does not even advertise his business, but instead relies 100% on word of mouth. And it’s definitely worked out pretty well for him thus far.
Sam proudly tells me about the important things: how much he loves his customers and that his connections with them span over 20 years now. He is one of the most delightful people to speak with, and his wisdom reflects throughout our conversation. In everything he tells me, there are lessons about life, morality and love. He talks again and again about how much he loves people, and that more than anything he just wants to serve his community. His voice is steady and soft. Sam smiles and stands up every time a new customer enters the shop, not because he has to but because in his eyes, it is his delightful duty. He is the kind of guy that gives out chocolates from a pretty box stacked underneath the cash register, an owner who will not only feed you a satisfying meal, but also put a smile on your face.
Hero’s Subs & Burgers has an authentic, retro feel and vibe. It’s a super clean space filled with various plants and arcade games and boasts an extensive menu to choose from. From burgers topped with melting cheddar and fresh veggies, to lamb and beef gyros drizzled in tangy tzatziki sauce, and all the way to (my personal favorite) Sam’s house-made cabbage rolls, Hero’s does not let you down.
When the Keesh family took over the restaurant, they kept the American classics on the menu but decided to include some of their own recipes as well. The cabbage rolls were one of them. Large in size, Sam fills them with rice, beef, and spices, then right before serving, pours a light tomato sauce over them.
Sam’s gyros are another great choice for lunch. On top soft, fluffy pita bread he spreads a bed of his own tasty mix of lamb and beef gyro meat and tops it with colorful veggies and his tangy, garlic tzatziki sauce.
The tabbouleh is a perfect side dish if your meal is taking the Mediterranean route. Made fresh in house daily, it incorporates mint, parsley, garlic and finely chopped tomatoes. It’s no secret that Tulsans love their burgers, and Sam’s got a good one for them. For the lover of American classics, Hero’s burgers are charred to perfection on a fresh sesame seed bun with lettuce, tomato and onion, and the optional addition of crispy bacon and/or cheddar cheese.
Sam also serves a classic Philly Cheesesteak and an extensive list of subs, for which he uses high quality meats and cheeses sliced fresh each day. Mr. Keesh tells me if he wouldn’t eat it himself, he would not serve it to you. You can’t argue with that!
Meeting the Keesh family was an exceptional experience that reminded me how important a sense of community truly is. Sam is a tried-and-true Tulsan who not only loves this city but serves this community (and certainly their appetites) as well.