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Columbus Blue Collar Burger Trail: 13 old-fashioned joints

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The history of the burger is fuzzy at best. There are myriad claims to the invention of the hand-held concoction. One thing we do know: It was a simple meal for regular, hard-working people.

But something changed with the lowly burger in recent years. Chefs and cooking shows began to “elevate” the burger to new heights, literally and figuratively.

The ingredient list began to grow, as did its size. Soon, so precariously stacked were the avocado, bacon, pepper andouille, and egg plus 15-pieces-of-locally-made-artisan-cheese skyscrapers, served with endangered-Himalayan-salt-truffled-turnip-and-yam fries with caviar aioli dip, that they had to be served with a steak knife stabbed through the middle.

But now, the patty pendulum is swinging back the other way.

Here are 13 of the best blue collar burgers Columbus has to offer

Preston’s • 765-C N. High St., 668 Grandview Ave.

Tucked away in Eugene’s Canteen in The Short North, and at Woodland’s Backyard, Preston’s is a little burger joint that just wants to make you feel good.

Created by Matthew Heaggans and Catie Randazzo, Preston’s is a place where you can get a smashburger or two to fill you up on your lunch break, as the infamous construction workers in the short north do at Eugene’s every day.

Delicious beef, with a few simple classic toppings, and a solid bun are all you need to get you from the lunch whistle to the dinner bell.  – Jeni Ruisch

Club 185 • 185 E Livingston Ave. 

Don’t let the size, or lack of accoutrements shy you away from Club 185’s Daily Double; it’s a near-perfect stack of patties cheese on a golden bun, like a 3x more expensive version of a Mickey D’s double—only 300x times tastier.

Happy hour, lunch, late-night—the Daily Double is the bar crowd’s best bet. Luckily, you can get something like it at all the aforementioned Corbin-owned spots.

So thanks, Tina and Randy Corbin, for boosting our culture and our cholesterol. — Travis Hoewischer

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Cravings Café • 114 N Front St.

Cravings Café beckons burger lovers from all over Columbus. Run by Matthew and Lindsey Tewanger, Cravings’ Downtown Smashburger ($8.50) takes homestyle taste to soaring heights.

The house made brioche bun is what you notice first. Made fresh daily, buttered and toasted, it is the bun that you didn’t know you were missing until you try it.

The special sauce is also made in-house and is their take on Thousand Island dressing, distinguished by the use of dill pickles and caramelized onions. The beef for the 1/3 pound burger is provided by Butcher & Grocer which locally sources from farms right here in Ohio.

Everything on this burger belongs with none of the nonsense; the meat is perfectly seasoned and cooked with crispy edges, the bun has a soft and flaky interior and is complimented by pickles, American cheese and shaved onion.  – Terrance Farmer 

Culver’s • Multiple locations

My people hail from Wisconsin. So a Culver’s Butterburger is more than just a delicious and fresh (never frozen) meal, it’s a tradition. We would hop on my dad’s motorcycle and head to the original Culver’s habitat in southeastern Wisconsin to enjoy the fruits of America’s dairyland.

Beef, butter and cheese.

Imagine my delight when I discovered that the low-cost, yet high-quality diners had started popping up in central Ohio.

Even the name of their menu star rolls off the tongue like a satiated purr. Butter burger.

The menu has many sandwich options, but the good old single burger will be all I need to fuel a road trip should I feel the need to travel back up to the O.C. (Original Culver’s). – Jeni Ruisch

Johnnie’s Tavern • 3503 Trabue Rd.

Started in 1948, this little old place—don’t judge a book by its cover—is loaded with character and a few great bites.

Johnnie’s Tavern, 3503 Trabue Road, is notably “Home of the Super Burger and coldest beer in town.” They hand-make their burger patties and still serve beer in frozen mugs.

For a mere $7.50, stack up your mouth-watering, half-pound burger on a grilled sesame seed bun with whatever fresh toppings you’d like. Pair it with some old-school fried tater tots and you may have enough for two.

Although, I find myself slamming the beefy deliciousness all by myself. – Beth Berkemer

Beechwold Diner • 4408 Indianola Ave.

Working third shift like I do, you become very familiar with the many breakfast places around Columbus.

Don’t get me wrong, breakfast is great! It’s just that after a long night of work one didn’t want to be relegated to only breakfast foods.

This is where my love for the Beechwold burger comes in. I found this gem while attending—ironically enough—an after work breakfast with a friend.

Not in the mood for breakfast, I asked the server if there was any possible way I could get a burger. That’s when she happily informed that the whole menu is always available.

In terms of taste it’s pretty straightforward. Nothing super fancy or off the wall. Thankfully, it’s always fresh, always tasty, always available whatever hours they are open. – Bethany Fenske

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Ritzy’s • 4615 N High St. 

Ritzy’s, the iconic bygone burger chain, whose growing pains lead to its near-extinction in the late ’80s, has reclaimed Columbus territory and resumed flipping patties just like the old days only this time, the second generation has been handed the spatula.

It was important to the newcomers to freshen up the concept but they knew enough to not beef with what wasn’t broken.

Just as you remember, Ritzy’s burgers are juicy, bursting with savory flavor, with just the right amount of crisp on the edges. The bread is baked in-house and the toppings—lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, cheese, bacon, chili—are laid out for guests to see, crave, point at, and request to be on their patty.

Be sure to surround your burger with a perfectly golden halo of shoestring fries that are, you guessed it, just like you remember. – Regina Fox

Village Coney • 418 E Whittier St.

About a year ago my daughter and I took on the self-imposed challenge of finding the best burger in Columbus. We had many a patty in the 614 and came to a solid conclusion that our go-to burger was the cheeseburger was at a hot dog shop—Village Coney in German Village.

What we enjoy about this flat-iron burger is how classic and straight-forward it is—great flavor, larger size and good price point.

That with some fries for my daughter, onion rings for myself and a Coke makes for a great weekend lunch. – Pakito Martinez

German Village Coffee Shop • 193 Thurman Ave.

Here’s the thing: The Der, as it’s affectionately known to those of us old enough to remember the wooden “Der Kaffe Haus” sign that used to be affixed to its façade, is, thanks to decades of bacon grease flowing over its well-seasoned surface, home to the best griddle in central Ohio.

Pretty much anything you put on it comes off insanely delicious.

Topped with crispy iceberg, a slice of tomato, a shingle of American cheese, and a bit of white onion (grilled if you’re feeling fancy), this caramelized hunk of ground beef is housed in a straightforward, untoasted white bun.

But when you take your first bite of this seemingly pedestrian burger, something magical happens. Every aspect of it fuses together into a harmonious handful of culinary perfection. No organic anything, aioli bullshit, or egg-washed brioche ridiculousness.

Just a perfect goddamned hamburger on a plate that will make you wonder how you ever lived without it. – Josh Hara

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Hangover Easy • 1646 Neil Ave.

Hangover Easy is one of the few non-chain places left on or around campus where you can get a great meal.

The menu definitely lives up to its name, easing rough mornings with standard breakfast fare and maybe a little hair-of-the-dog, but their burgers are really the standout feature of the menu to me.

Do yourself a favor and get an OG Burger—onions, pickles, and cheese. Classic and simple, cooked how you want with a pile of tater tots. If you need all the extras though, you won’t go wrong with the HOE Burger with bacon, grilled onions, a sunny side egg, and all traditional toppings. – Tom Van Houten

O’Reilly’s Pub • 2822 N High St.

O’Reillys Pub in Clintonville is home to one of the more original and delicious burgers in Columbus.

I grew up in a small rural town, so stuff like Asian fusion turkey burgers don’t interest me at all. Give me something simple, done better than anyone else around, and you’ve got my loyalty.

The Pepper burger at this unassuming little diner, is exactly that, plus some pepper.

A lot of pepper. Cooked any way you like it, this big beef patty is covered in black peppercorn, smothered in Provolone cheese and topped with bacon (and all the veggies you could want). The Pepper burger is legendary in Clintonville. Get yourself there, ASAP. – Levi Ely

Eden Burger • 1437 N High St.

First off, I love burgers but I don’t unfortunately get many opportunities to eat them. Secondly, I am decidedly not a vegetarian.

Put those two things together and a veggie burger better be pretty damn good to get my attention!

I have followed Eden Burger through many pop up events and now to their University District location and they have met the standard for TASTE and TEXTURE.

These people are smart and savvy and they have a product that has substance, juice and flavor that I have never had in a veggie burger before.

In addition—for no extra money—I get such friendly, lighthearted and positive service from the staff that the experience not only does my  body good but feeds my soul. I have a son-in-law who is a vegetarian and lives in Boulder, I will take him to Eden Burger with eagerness and pride.  Boulder got nothing on CMH. – Peter Yockel

Street Thyme • 944 N Fourth St. 

Surprisingly, not many of the seemingly 500 food trucks that line our streets or border outdoor festivals, focus on burgers.

But, the ones that do really bring it. In fact, the only downside of eating an Irish Breakfast burger from Street Thyme, is that I am gonna have to eat it in public.

It’s so decadent in its simplicity—fried egg, cheddar, rasher bacon, and pepper jelly—that I kinda wish I was alone, at home, able to really go at this burger with no one around to witness it.

Is that weird? Probably. I don’t care. Hands-down one of the best burgers in the city. I could eat one every day. – Travis Hoewischer

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Clintonville Brunch Crawl: We dare you to squeeze all 3 stops into 1 day

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Clintonville is lovely this time of year, especially when you make three separate stops for brunch. 

Whether the weather is gracing the charming little burgh with a healthy dose of vitamin D or giving it a couple spins around the Lazy Susan that is Ohio’s climate, a trifecta of morning food destinations is sure to keep your mood afloat.

BLunch  • 2973 N High St.

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Yes, we know that Columbus now is home to a Drunch AND a BLunch.

Snicker all ya want—if you do, you’d be missing out on one of the culinary scene’s welcome newcomers—a half-day cafe that carries the comforts of a First Watch, but with the sophisticated execution of Tasi or Katalina’s.

The White Family has decades of hospitality under their belt—the family owned Galena’s Mudflats until recently, and dad Jeff has been running the OSU Faculty Club for the past 20 years.

Those two were training grounds for son Jeff, once a young, eager dishwasher and now head chef for the White’s new “daylight eatery and bar.” Mom Jane, despite her own admission that in the family’s tavern-running days breakfast didn’t get served until halfway through afternoon, now relishes an intimate spot where people can maintain their own balance between booze and breakfast.

A full-bar at brunch is a rarity in the peculiar little burg, and positioned near Lineage, Old Skool, and Condado, BLunch could be the perfect starting point for a casual Clintonville crawl.

Then again, you may not have another stop after Chef Jeff gets done with ya. He and the White family have concepted a bennies-and-batter focused menu, where you’ll be sure to come back after a healthy amount of indecision. Me? I’ve been dreaming about the Bananas Foster pancakes (topped with ice cream) and the huevos rancheros over masa cake for weeks. – Travis Hoewischer

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Dough Mama • 3335 N High St.

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Dough Mama is the top of my list for my favorite breakfast joint. I love so much about this place.

The atmosphere is super chill, laid back, and inviting. The food is so so good. I would call it comfort food with an extra sprinkle of love and thought.

From pie to salad, it’s all good.

They use a variety of local and seasonal ingredients and support some of my favorite local delicacies with Dan the Baker bread and Thunderkiss coffee … YUM! They also have a variety of vegan and gluten-free options.

I am smitten with the Gluten-Free Lemon Poppy muffin. This place is my go to for a yummy drippy egg, roasted potatoes, salad, a sweet treat and a perfect cup of coffee.

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My husband loves Grammie’s Sammie and a piece of Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie. I somehow manage to splurge here and feel really really good about it.

Their menu has some great staples but they also always have specials that look and are amazing.

Right now they serve both lunch and breakfast during the day and I’ve heard it through the grapevine that they will soon be open in the evening and serving dinner. I cannot wait to see what delicious dishes they create for that menu. – Jana Rock

Baba’s • 2515 Summit St.

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Baba’s is my go-to breakfast spot in Columbus. You can grab a breakfast sandwich on their homemade griddle muffins (aka little pillows of heaven), order a rack of ribs, or in the spirit of Alabama Worley, have a slice of perfect pie and a cup of Thunderkiss coffee.

Their delicious baked goods are made in house, they smoke all of their own meats and their produce and coffee are all sourced locally, though their espresso will send you to the moon.

The service is fast, their team is super-friendly and there are never any pretentious vibes in the super chill atmosphere they have created on the corner of Hudson and Summit.

They’ve made a beautiful impact in their short existence in the SoHud neighborhood, fostering local artistic connections and bringing beautiful new mural art that rotates different artist from the community throughout the year. Don’t forget to grab one of their perfect cinnamon rolls for later. — Vanessa Jean Speckman

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Harvest Pizzeria sowing last seeds in German Village

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Eight years ago, Harvest Pizzeria cropped up in a small space in German Village. Today, the local pizza chain announced the closure of its flagship location.

Harvest Pizzeria German Village will open its doors for the final time on Saturday, April 27th.

“Despite the success of Harvest in German Village and our strong ties to the neighborhood, the owner of the property will not honor our renewal of the lease,” wrote founder Chris Crader in an email. “…the landlord’s demands for a new lease at a higher rate would not allow our little pizzeria to remain viable.

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Crader added that he is proud of the strides Harvest German Village has made over the years, and thankful for the community that’s supported it. He hopes they can return to the neighborhood when the right spot presents itself.

As far as the employees go, Crader wrote that with the success of the other locations, the German Village workers will be able to join a team at another restaurant.

“Harvest sincerely thanks all of its loyal supporters and we hope to see you at our other locations soon,” wrote Crader.

This news follows the announcement of the Grandview Harvest closing back in February. Read more here.

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Crawfish boils claw their way into Columbus Saturday

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What’s the deal with crawfish boils? Sure, they’re delicious, but as a true land-lubbing midwesterner, my knowledge of this particular culinary phenomenon is fairly lacking.

That said, I definitely can’t tell you why there are multiple crawfish boils going down this Saturday. Best not to overthink it—just enjoy the experience!

Pecan Penny’s |113 East Main Street
Saturday at 4 PM – 7 PM

Sponsored by Brewdog, downtown BBQ joint Pecan Penny’s is kicking off patio season with an all-you-can-eat Crawfish boil, complete with giveaways and a DJ.

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Rehab Tavern | 456 W Town St
2 PM – 6 PM

Rehab’s own 4/20 crawfish boil kicks off at 2:00. Your $15.75 entrance fee will net you a pint of beer in addition to all-you-can-eat crawfish and fixins’!

Can’t make either of these, or want to try the boil experience before committing to a large-scale event? Check out Kai’s Crab Boil or Boiling Seafood Crawfish—both on Bethel Road —for first-rate seafood experiences you won’t soon forget.

Why are there two crawfish boils on the same day? Why are there two crawfish restaurants on the same road? We may never know, and honestly, who cares? Crawfish is the bomb! Just put on your bib and get crackin’!

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