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Columbus Blue Collar Burger Trail: 13 old-fashioned joints

614now

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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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Food & Drink

Game of Cones: New ice cream contender coming to Short North

Mike Thomas

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It seems a new challenger is emerging in the race to claim the Columbus ice cream crown.

CRMD, a new ice cream spot opening soon at 1190 N. High St. in the Short North, is being teased for a “summer 2019” launch on the company’s website.

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The same site shows the brand’s flavor offerings, which will include matcha, Viet coffee, and cereal + milk. Upon opening, CRMD will also be slinging puffles – a spherical egg-based waffle cone popular in Hong Kong and Macau.

For more information and a full list of flavors, visit www.getcrmd.com.

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Biz + Dev

Update: Cajun food fans disappointed by Ned’s Bayou development

Mike Thomas

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UPDATE: While concrete information regarding the mysterious Ned’s Bayou is still unavailable, signs seem to indicate that the retail space will serve as a popup store for Twenty One Pilots merchandise when the duo comes to town for a double-header at Nationwide Arena on June 29 & 30.

Exhibit A: searching “Ned’s Bayou” on the Ohio Secretary of State’s online database shows an address on Worthington Galena Rd. for the business’ registered owner. The members of Twenty One Pilots are themselves former Worthington residents.

While this in and of itself says little, the group’s de facto mascot (seen here in the music video for the song “Chlorine”) happens to be named Ned.

Mere coincidence? I guess we’ll find out by the end of the month. For now, it seems fans of cajun food might have to look elsewhere to get their fix!

***

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A brand new awning sporting the words “Ned’s Bayou” has appeared over the former Blick’s Art Supplies location at 612 N High St in the Short North.

While initial searches have turned up little information about this forthcoming business, we can only assume that this will one day be the sight of a Louisiana-inspired restaurant of some sort.

Then again, the word “Bayou” carries other connotations. Maybe this will be the Short North’s first-ever spot for gator rasslin’. Only time will tell!

614NOW will keep an eye peeled for more info on this business as it becomes available.

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614NOW Fried Chicken Trail: Uncle Nick’s Greek Fried Chicken

Mike Thomas

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First came the 614NOW Donut Trail. Then, there was the Mac & Cheese Trail. Now, 614NOW is on the hunt for the best fried chicken this city has to offer. Welcome to the 614NOW Fried Chicken Trail!

Uncle Nick’s Greek Fried Chicken

1333 Northwest Blvd

This unpretentious Grandview-area joint is serving up the same fried chicken that made its first location in Warren Ohio a hit since its opening in 1956.

It’s no surprise that the central Ohio Nick’s location is slinging classic fried chicken worthy of its old-school pedigree. Nick’s Greek is exactly what many people long for when they think “fried chicken” – pressure-fried bird that is crispy on the outside and delectably juicy inside.

Be warned – this chicken is so good, you will be locked in that hopeless balancing act of trying to take bites without burning the inside of your mouth.

The crust on Uncle Nick’s chicken is so crispy, it seems like it would never go soft even if you left it in a closed container for an hour. This also means that the juices inside the meat have nowhere to hide, and are perfectly preserved within.

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Fried chicken places are notoriously tight with their secret recipes, but if I had to guess, I’d say that much this chicken’s seasoning comes care of a generous brining. As a result, the meat is salty and mild, allowing the natural flavors of the chicken to shine. Notably, a motto hanging on the wall of the place states, “If the Colonel had our recipe, he’d be a general.” I find no fault in this statement.

Was there just grease on the lens, or was this chicken actually glowing?

Uncle Nick’s is the kind of spot you’ll want to take a friend who has never experienced “real deal” fried chicken. While I preferred the dark meat (owner/operator Andrew Cleary was kind enough to hook me up with a half-bird’s worth of pieces) all of it was head-and-shoulders above any fast-food chains in terms of texture and flavor.

Ratings:
Aroma:🍗🍗🍗🍗 (4/5 drumsticks)
Flavor: 🍗🍗🍗🍗🍗 (5/5)
Seasoning: 🍗🍗🍗🍗 (4/5)
Crispiness: 🍗🍗🍗🍗🍗 (5/5)
Overall Experience: 🍗🍗🍗🍗🍗 (5/5)

Uncle Nick’s Fried Chicken scores a hearty 23/25 on our rating scale. Get out there and see for yourself why this spot is a favorite catering option for the Ohio State Buckeyes Football squad!

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