CMH Gourmand

Culinary Discovery & Misadventures in the Ice Cream Capital of the World (Columbus)

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Archive for the ‘hamburgers’ Category

First Bite: Bar 145 (A Dual Review)

Posted by cmh gourmand on January 28, 2014

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I have long wanted to do reviews with more than just my spin on things. Think about Siskel & Ebert or American Idol style restaurant reviews. I always thought more perspectives equate to better information. I finally had my opportunity to try this out when I had a chance encounter with one of my 43 fans. Karl M. dined with me at Bar 145 and I asked him for his view of things and he delivered some fine prose. His review and comments will be in italics and mine will be in bold or regular font. I hope you enjoy this spin on things and if you would like to give this a whirl with me sometime, e-mail me at CMHGourmand@gmail.com


Serendipity — it’s more than just a 2001 movie starring John Cusack. This past December I brought my wife out to German Village for a date during the annual Village Lights Christmas open house. As we walked along the snowy, bustling sidewalks, we came across a booth for Columbus Food Adventures and Columbus Brew Adventures. The name was faintly familiar, so I inquired of the gentleman behind the table.

“Do you happen to know the author of the CMH Gourmand blog?”
“Yes,” he responded, “I’m the author, Jim”.

Serendipity, how you delight me. You see, when I first moved to Columbus in 2008, one of my first priorities was learning more about my new city. Stumbling across the CMH Gourmand website was a true blessing and has inspired many a food adventure. I was excited to meet Jim and to thank him for helping me appreciate the amazing culinary diversity and opportunity here in central Ohio. Having now met him in the flesh, I asked him about meeting for lunch sometime and after a little back and forth we settled on a new gastropub in the Grandview / 5th by Northwest area called Bar 145. It is an honor to be able to share my perspective, however pedestrian, on Jim’s blog.

I’m a details-oriented kind of guy and whenever I go into a restaurant it’s always the little things that catch my eye. Bar 145, set back in the new plaza on 5th Avenue that also houses Romeo’s Pizza and Firehouse Subs, is a very pleasant place to have lunch. The decor is an interesting mix of what I consider to be industrial and modern. There’s a subtle scarlet and gray thing going on too between the color and material choices (dark red and lots of exposed metal). The location features a good-sized bar, a wall full of windows, a sizable patio and even an upstairs loft seating area. With a view into the kitchen and free wifi, there’s plenty to keep you entertained.

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Upon being seated, the servers helpfully explained what exactly a gastropub was (a bar with a menu crafted by a chef), and pointed out a few of the highlights on the one-page food menu. Not being much of a drinker myself, I bypassed the drink menu and focused on the food. Immediately several items caught my eye, including Bavarian pretzel bites (being the good German that I am) and Poutine fries with truffle, duck confit, gravy and cheese curds. Eventually we both ordered the make-your-own burger (a $5 Wednesday special) and a few dishes to share – the pretzel bites, the fries and the bar wings.

My burger, a meat patty with artisan lettuce, goat cheese, mayo, bourbon steak sauce and tomato on a pretzel bun, was good, but didn’t blow me away. Jim and I both agreed that while the condiments stood out, the meat was stoic and was just that — a meat patty. For $5, I’d definitely get it again, but Thurman’s, you still have my heart.

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Both Karl and I liked the build your own burger option and with a checklist to help and the special $5 Wednesday price it was irresistible to us both. One of the options was artisan lettuce which intrigues both of us. Outside the lettuce, we tried to work as a team to sample as many different options on the burger as possible. I opted for this on my burger: beef patty, pretzel bun, artisan lettuce, pickle chips, cucumber relish, spicy bourbon mustard, cheese and chicago style BBQ sauce. I requested the burger 145 style which I would describe as medium raw. Next time, I’ll get the burger medium well. The whole was greater than the sum of the parts with this burger. I liked everything but the hamburger patty itself. It lacked any flavor, it could have been a veggie burger for all I could tell. I kept waiting to see Gordon Ramsey or Robert Irvine burst through the kitchen shouting “you call that a burger, where is the salt and pepper and the bloody flavor man!”

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The warm Bavarian pretzel bites, though good, weren’t what I was expecting. The menu describes them as “Butter Baked Pretzel Roll Bites, garnished with Chopped Bacon & served with Cheddar Chive Sauce.” Once again, Jim and I, clearly both great minds that think alike, commented on the fact that the pretzel bites were more like toast. They were tasty, especially paired with the cheddar chive sauce, but not satisfying if you were excited about pretzels. In addition, the pretzel buns – thick nuggets of soft toast that kind of look like a pretzel – didn’t really taste like one. Admittedly, I did finish them all.

Karl was spot on with the pretzel bites. The sauce was great but I felt that I was the victim of a bait and switch, I could consider the bites to be toasted bits of bread.

The loaded fries were served poutine style — that is, covered with gravy. This was my first experience with gravy and fries and I must say, it was delightful. Similar to the pretzel bites, the fries were good in a surprising sort of way. The menu painted an exotic picture of ducks wading in a stream lined with truffles. Instead, all I tasted were decent fries smothered in gravy. Definitely tasty, but not the destination fries that I was expecting. If anything, it heightened my desire to try other poutine-style fries. Any fry would be hard-pressed to dethrone the current king in my book – the fries at Loops.

In my eyes – the fries were good but again, the bait and switch effect was in. I can’t say I think much of the truffle oil fad/trend so I did not order the fries for that. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised to find I could not taste any truffle in the fries. The gravy was OK and I’ve never met a cheese curd that I did not consume” but this was probably the weakest poutine I have ever encountered and might make a Montreal native mildly irked.

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The bar wings — now those were fantastic! I’m not much of a bone-in wing guy, more of a BW3 boneless wing special sorta gent. These wings are far and away the best I’ve ever had. The skin was crisp and as you bit in there was a little heat followed by the meat literally falling off the bone. Next time I might just order the wings. They managed to put together a great tasting wing without resorting to smothering it in sauce. If your thing is to find the hottest wings around, these aren’t it. But if you are looking for a tasty bit of chicken wing and don’t mind just a touch of heat, definitely check these out.

While described as wings on the menu, these are really legs (as was pointed out to me by an astute observer of the obvious). These were fabulous and I would say the top three in the deep-fried wing/leg category in our fair city. Four legs (wings) cost $12.00 which is little steep in my book.

In conclusion, Bar 145 is a nice addition to the neighborhood. The only truly noteworthy dish that from my must-have food perspective were the wings. Granted, the menu boasted some potential winners that I didn’t get a chance to try — the apple pie burger, for example, or chicken and waffles. I could see myself returning for the burger special or to sit on the patio when the weather is nice – especially if it’s a chance to hang out with Jim. It’s a good addition to the 5th by Northwest corridor as it continues to experience a recent revitalization.


At the end of our meal Karl and I were pleased with the overall experience but felt we may have missed out on what Bar 145 excels at. After extensive quizzing of our server I decided I needed to return for the Chicken and Waffles, Coffee and Donuts and another order of the wing/legs. My report on trip two is below. But first let me digress by bringing a new term to your attention.

I first encountered the term Gas Bro Pub while engaged in conversation with three of the foremost lady experts in the field of food and beer analysis. I will not name which of the three threw out the term but as soon as I heard it, I thought of Bar 145. When you visit, think of what that term says to you and them let me know if that diagnosis is accurate.


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Now on to my second trip. I sauntered up to the bar and made the order you see listed above. Initially I was concerned about whether I could finish so much food. Fortunately for my girth and constitution the portions sizes were much smaller than I expected.

First, let me begin with my second order of the wing/legs. These were just as good as the first, maybe better because I felt I had a bit more sauce with these. These four legs were damn good. There is shredded carrot slaw underneath which is a bit bland, but when mixed in with any remaining blue cheese dressing from the wing/legs becomes a great dish by itself.

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As for the chicken and waffles. Overall I would say meh. However, there are some real gems in this dish. The side of macaroni with cheese meets expectations but the pairing of tasty bacon with the mac bumps things up a notch from mediocre. The fried chicken part of the chicken and waffles was really good. The chicken was juicy and tender and the breading was perfect. This may have been the best fried chicken I have had in town for a couple of years. The waffles were nothing to blog home about and the syrup tasted cheap and watery. All in all, it would be a good meal at $10 but I felt gouged at $12 for 1 1/2 chicken breasts, 1/2 of a waffle and a small side of mac and cheese.

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Last and somewhat least is the coffee and donuts. I was excited about this offering and had hoped for something to add to the Ohio Donut Trail. The coffee was really good, and that says a lot because I am not much of a coffee drinker. It had an added surprise of what looked and tasted like a giant junior mint floating on top of it. The donuts, would be what I would call fried dough croutons. They were small, hard, yet chewy squares of dough about the size of a 50 cent piece. These were good but overpriced and not what I would consider a donut.

All in all. I like Bar 145 and what they have to offer. I do want to try some more dishes and I’d gladly go back for the wing/legs and the Wednesday $5 build your own burger special. If you are looking for your first Gas Bro Pub experience and want it to be a good one, this is the place to go. At the time of this writing, Bar 145 has been open less than a month so I anticipate that it will improve and refine over time.

Bar 145 on Urbanspoon

Posted in bar, beer, hamburgers, restaurants | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Swenson’s Drive In: Worth the (Road) Trip

Posted by cmh gourmand on January 1, 2014

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If you find yourself traveling in Akron or the nearby area this year, I’d suggest you block out 30 minutes to travel through time. Swenson’s Drive In Restaurant started in 1934 and other than a few price increases, has not changed a thing since day one. This is a cap hop restaurant, so when you pull up in your car, turn on your lights and a young server will pop out the door to take your order. Your selections will be simple, chiefly burgers, fries and shakes. When your order is ready the same server or a different one will bring your food out to you on a tray you can mount to your car window.

Swenson’s has earned a large legion of loyalists over the last eighty years expanding to eight locations and a food truck in three counties. Swenson’s excels in the principle of keep it simple. Check out the menu below.

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Swenson’s serves as a good reminder that you don’t have to have an extensive menu with fancy ingredients to be successful – just deliver a good product, consistently with great service. On my recent trip I tried their signature burger, the Galley Boy which is a double cheeseburger consisting of a buttered, toasted bun with two burger patties, two slices of Velveeta and two special/ secret sauces (a sweet BBQ and a tartar style mayo and onion (?) sauce with an Olive skewered on top with a toothpick and a small tub of ranch dressing on the side.

I had a very good vanilla shake, but if I had more experience at the place I would have taken the time to ponder on one of the 17 choices of shakes including grape. There is more to explore on the menu so if it is as good as what I tried, the small sidetrip will be worth your time.

Posted in hamburgers, Ohio, Road Trip | 2 Comments »

Swooping into the Coop’s spot at the Hey Hey

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 11, 2013

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The Hey Hey is an iconic dive bar located in Merion Village / German Village. It previously served as host kitchen to Angela Theado of the Coop. The Coop will soon be perched in a new spot in Clintonville so Angie put out a call for another Food Truck chef to fill her spot. Matt Heaggans swooped in to get that spot as the brick and mortar extension of his Swoop Food Truck.

Actually, the official name of Swoop is Swoop Food Group and it is now a combination of a food truck, two food carts and a lot of good culinary ideas. The Swoop truck was birthed in Washington D.C. a few years ago. It was at that time that my relationship with Swoop began. The captain guiding the ship at Swoop is Chef Matt Heaggans. About two years ago, I started e-mailing with him as he was planning his journey back to Columbus. I have come to know Matt and his crew well over the last year. The constant theme in anything Matt does is a desire to do more than expected and do it better. He maintains a high standard for all of the food he prepares from a lowly tater tot to the most haute of cuisines. Matt is a man of many words however, I enjoy him best when he is quiet. Let me clarify that. I have watched him intently crafting a dish in a kitchen with intense concentration and focus. At these moments he is in the zone and it is truly a pleasure to observe. What I enjoy best is watching him silently watch someone who is enjoying what he has created for them. He watches, smiles briefly then moves on. Sometimes the smile is a smirk and other times it is a large grin but it is always from the heart. Matt is happiest when he can see someone enjoy the craft of his labors.

The Hey Hey has a long tradition of serving food. The old standard expected from any chef who calls the kitchen home are the sauerkraut balls. Yak was added to the menu by the Coop and it continues as the signature protein of the Swoop menu. A bit of back story on Yak. The son of the owner of the Hey Hey operates a Yak Farm. The Coop featured a Yak Burger when it was a food truck. That relationship fostered the transition of the Coop to roost in the kitchen of the Hey Hey. Yak was quickly embraced by the very diverse clientage of the Hey Hey and has become so entwined with the Hey Hey experience that it had to remain on the new Swoop menu.

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I am sure that menu may change over time. I am also confident that two of the new menu items will remain as long as Matt is cooking in the Kitchen. The first is a burger that was described by one person I dined with as the “best fucking burger ever”. That was from a man who rarely uses profanity. His wife, who does use profanity frequently, took a different approach. She silently ate much more of the burger than she planned, a lot more. She was impressed too – but speechless about it which is the highest of compliments. The Yak Attack is a double Yak Burger served on a toasted brioche bun (made by Matt Swint formerly of the Per Zoot Food Truck), a special sauce (which I can not reveal) and a garnish of arugula, diced onion and tomato. It may sound exotic but I would say it is the epitome of a classic American burger just with yak instead of beef. It tastes lean. The bun is moist and has a slight crunch but just enough firmness to hold everything in place. It is among the finest burgers I have ever had. Given the opportunity to sample a few more over the course of time, I may even come to call it the best burger ever. I don’t give praise like that away. The Yak Attack is all that but does not need the bag of nuts.

The second menu feature I foresee as an enduring feature is House Pimento Cheese with Toasted Bread. The cheese dip has just enough spicy kick to it to keep your attention. The toasted bread is dense, chewy and filled with plenty of holes to soak up the dip. This is the perfect item to share with friends. Soon you will be interested to find how many other menu items you will find yourself spreading leftover cheese sauce on.

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There are many good reasons to go to the Hey Hey. You can go to enjoy the bar, soak in the history of the place, enjoy one of the wonderful live music performances hosted there, or partake in some exquisite people watching. And now the Hey hey adds in some of the finest bar food or any food for that matter. Check it out Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays evenings.

Hey Hey Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Posted in bar, hamburgers, Mobile Food, restaurants | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Quick Byte: Thurman to Go

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 26, 2012

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I was surprised but not shocked when I saw the ad above. I knew that Bakery Gingham had recently closed (ending the chapter on the local cupcake fad) next door and I had wondered what would become of the vacant store front. It was not left idle for long.

Since the Thurmanator became a Columbus icon via the show Man vs. Food and the book Hamburger America the lines at the Thurman Cafe have been long and the belly aching extended: “I was going to go to Thurman’s but the wait was three hours” and “The place is full of tourists”.

Now – you can get a Thurman Burger or a Thurmantor to go. The space is simple – an order counter and some menus, there are no chairs and outside some cool posters, no decor. Thurman To Go exists entirely for the production and distribution of Thurman Burgers. These oversized burgers teetering with toppings on the edge of collapse can be ordered by phone and picked up on the go. This should please some, especially those that are looking to add a notch to their food eating trophy case but don’t have the stamina to wait in line at a place that takes no reservations.

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I say hurrah for Thurman’s and for those that can get their fix and add to their weight without adding to their wait. Consider this announcement a gift for those of yourwho have out-of-town guests in for the holidays in dire need of a famous burger or for those of you that have fled our city but are back on break hoping to reconnect with your past. If getting this burger to go fills your fix that is great. But you are missing the point and the real essence of Thurman’s.

The Thurman Cafe has been family owned business since 1938. Little had changed in the space since I became aware of its existence in the early 1990’s. At that time, the place was always crowded on the weekends but if you timed it just right you could pop in with a group of friends with a minimal delay. Back in those days, you had to wait outside on the sidewalk until your table was ready. In the late 1990’s or early aughts they bought the building next door and turned it into a waiting area with bathrooms doubling the size but adding no seating. Now the tavern has taken over a third building but still has not added a single table, chair or booth to add to the dining area – as the square footage increased the number of people served stays the same and the intimacy of the place as well as the pace of the staff remain timeless. I think there is something cool about that – how many times has a restaurant in Columbus over expanded, lost the quality of the product and the consistency of service by getting too big? I would say countless times.

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If I have to wait to have the full Thurman experience of being squeezed into crowded two top that used to be a table from Wendy’s hamburgers in the 1980’s – then so be it. The experience I have at Thurman’s today (well last Saturday) was the same I had in 1992. And I like it that way. It is perfectly OK to get stuck in a rut as a restaurant and stick with tradition. I hope they don’t change a thing again if/when that take over another section of the building. In the meantime, when people feel that have had to wait too long, they go to Easy Street Cafe next door and have a perfectly good meal and a memory of not getting into Thurman’s and a desire to go back and try again.

Thurman Cafe
183 Thurman Avenue
German Village
614.443.1570

Thurman to Go
189 Thurman avenue
614.443.1570 x 1

Thurman Café on Urbanspoon

Posted in hamburgers, sandwiches | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Quick Byte: Iron Grill BBQ & Brew

Posted by cmh gourmand on October 2, 2012

In the past, I mentioned the nachos at Pig Iron as potentially the best in they city. However, a potential problem came up. The place was sold earlier in 2012. I was wary of the outcome. BBQ places typically don’t fare well during transitions. Pits are a labor of love not something to be acquired in a business transaction. So I kept my distance, skeptical of anymore BBQ bliss coming from the new Iron Grill BBQ & Brew. I mean, they dropped pig from the name, what was I supposed to think?

However, doing a little research, I found out who bought the old watering hole down the road. Eugene Staravecka had done the same to Gahanna Grill about 8 years ago and at the time I had my fears about that too. My reservations were unfounded. Eugene fixed what needed to be taken care of – bathrooms, bar and patio and tinkered very little with the menu. He kept the character and cleaned up the rest. The Beanie Burger was still great and life moved on at Gahanna Grill without the slightest of speedbumps.

So what happened to Pig Iron? The Pig was dropped from the name. The Pink truck was moved to the back parking lot, the place has a new bar, booths, carpet and a patio upgrade. The key change is the tap selection increased to twenty from six – hence the addition of the word brew to the name. What else did Mr. Staravecka add to the bar? Rachel from Villa Nova down the street has come on board as bartender in chief bringing a crowd of regulars with her. Her back story is that she helped open Pig Iron years ago. When I was at the bar he added another great addition to my evening – a free shot.

The core menu remains the same but as penance for taking (some of) the Pig out of Pig Iron, the new owner added the best of Gahanna Grill – the burgers. This had me intrigued – could I still have my favorite nachos and yet add one of my top five burgers at the same place….but with better beer? The answer awaits below.

The verdict: The beer selection is great. The nachos, almost as good as I remember and they are still a great value at happy hour pricing. There seems to be something missing from the nacho mix that I can not place and the salsa is not quite as good as Pig Iron – but these are 95% as good as those I recall from days of yon. The Beanie Burger is good, but it lacks the extra je ne sais grease that comes from the decades of Beanie busting out burgers in the back of the original Gahanna grill.

In summary the BBQ place that had some beer is now the bar that has some BBQ and Burgers. That is an outcome I can live with.

Iron Grill BBQ & Brew
5295 North High Street
(The hinterlands between Clintonville and Riverlea)
614.885.4744
website

Iron Grill Brew & BBQ on Urbanspoon

Posted in bar, BBQ, beer, Clintonville, hamburgers | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

The Pepper Burger & Other Reasons O’Reilly’s Rocks!

Posted by cmh gourmand on April 7, 2011


I have mentioned O’Reilly’s a few times over the years, most recently as the inspiration for the Clintonville Cocktail and the Clintonville Cocktail Royale. I might not want you to go to O’Reillys. I might not want O’Reilly’s to be more crowded so I can’t find a booth or barstool. I might use O’Reilly’s as a litmus test. But I might as well tell you about O’Reilly’s.

There are fifteen bars (give or take) in Clintonville. This may come as a shock since Clintonville is well known for having quirky and archaic alcohol laws and dry zones. I have been to every bar in Clintonville and most of them are, well, maybe there is a reason parts of Clintonville should be dry, let’s leave it at that. O’Reilly’s is a good bar. It is a very good tavern. It is a spot that makes Baja Clintonville a great place to be.

If the maxim “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts” was ever better applied I have not yet found that example. O’Reilly’s reminds me of the bars you find in most small Ohio towns. It is dark, maybe a little dumpy or “divey”. Because it has an Irish name it is infused with real and fake Irish bric-a-brac for character. The bar is sunken. There are a few characters you can expect to see there every day on one side of the bar or another. The staff have been there for years, some have been there for decades. Ann Marie is the kind of woman that is likely to lose her car keys daily but if you walk through the door once she is likely to remember what you want to drink and your name the next time you drop by. Johnny, the main grill cook makes an occasional appearance in the front end of the business. His personality and demeanor are more suited and more happy in the kitchen and for that we are all better off. Tom comes across as abrasive, surly and ill-tempered but don’t be taken aback by that because he is that way with everyone and it serves to amuse him and his regular customers the first time he encounters a new person walking through the door. The beer selection is not so great but O’Reilly’s pours a good Guinness properly. There is a Galaga machine in the corner, a respectable juke box and a selection of board games to play. These things combined make O’Reilly’s a good bar to go to. The menu makes it THE bar to go to in Clintonville.

Villbillies, as long time residents of Clintonville, are called have all eaten at O’Reilly’s in their lifetime. There is some debate on what is best on the menu. Everyone seems to have one or two items they get everytime. This is an interesting phenomenon to observe. The common answer when asked about the menu at O’Reilly’s is “I don’t know, I always get ___________”. The burgers are a common favorite. I have tried them all. I like them all. However, the one I always get is the Pepper Burger with a side of sweet potato fries.

The pepper burger is 1/2 pound of hamburger encased in cracked black pepper. The misshapen, handmade patty is topped with pepperjack cheese, plenty of pickles, provlone and bacon. The bun is fresh and light toasted so it does not collapse from the weight of the contents. The sweet potato fries are also hand made and served with some type of secret sauce. Place a dill pickle on the plate, add a pint and a glass of water and my meal is complete. When I walk through the door at O’Reilly’s this is what I want. If this is what I get then I am truly content when I walk out the door.

The other burgers do deserve a mention: Bacon BBQ, Mushroom and Onion, The Deluxe Cheeseburger. My secondary burger of choice is the Jerk Burger (aka The Tom Burger, this is not me being mean, this is on the menu). The Jerk is slathered with spicy, peppery, tangy, jerk sauce. I suggest American Cheese with this one.

O’Reilly’s does Saturday morning breakfast specials September to May. You can order Egg Salad and Tuna Salad Sandwiches May to September. There is a daily dinner special which varies by the day and the week. If you get O’Reilly’s then I will probably get you.

O’Reilly’s
2822 North High Street
Baja Clintonville

O'Reilly's Pub on Urbanspoon

Posted in bar, Clintonville, hamburgers | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Jimbo’s Burger and Biker Bar: South Bloomingville

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 14, 2010

During my many years of roaming around the Hocking Hills I have driven by Jimbo’s countless times. I was always intrigued by the place but never stopped due to being too full, too hurried or too late to my next destination. Or maybe it was the 50 to 100 Harley’s parked in front of the place that made me hesitate to halt my journey. I deferred on each opportunity to drop in and drove on by.

Recently I found out that Jimbo’s likes hogs of both varieties – bikes and pigs. Jimbo’s is famous for their Hog Burger, a large, all pork sandwich that gets a lot of buzz on the biker boards. This was the tipping point for me and called for immediate investigation.

The drive from Columbus or Athens to Jimbo’s is scenic and serene (at least at the end) since the bar is located near Old Man’s Cave and Ash Cave. My Subaru sauntered into the gravel parking lot and felt a bit out of place even through there were only two bikes and a sports car in the lot. Walking inside, I was immediately pegged as a greenhorn/city slicker/cracker but accepted and welcomed in spite of my lack of credibility. My initial thoughts of the place channeled images of the Blues Brothers Band walking into the country and western bar in the Blues Brothers movie. Except this is a biker bar and I was clearly bikeless. I announced that I had arrived to try their famous big burger. One of the patrons asked how many I was going to get, since he described them as being “like White Castles”. Having a bit of forewarning on burger size, I played along and let him know that since I already had lunch, I was going to limit myself to two. I ordered a hamburger and a pork burger so I could give both a fair shake.

While I waited for the food, I chatted with the staff and the customers – all of whom are regulars. Jimbo’s is open Thursday to Sunday with reduced hours during the winter but a slightly larger menu when it is cold. The off season menu includes a fan favorite chili and a Texas style corn chip chili casserole, which reads as divine. The decor is a mix of motorcycle, NASCAR and hog themed (motorcycle and pig) chic, so I was somewhat out of my element. There is an impressive T-shirt collection affixed to the ceiling that took a long time for me to read (and appreciate). I learned the bar is packed most of the night and day on Saturday and Sunday. It often starts to fill up early Friday afternoons when the weather is good. Bands play during the weekend. The patio seats up to forty and the sprawling bar can pack in a good number as well. There is a great map in the main entrance which displays each large and small road in the region and highlights the best bike routes for customers.

The burgers are 1/2 pound, after cooking. There are over a dozen toppings available and several specialty burgers. The Jimbo Burger features grilled onions, cheese, mushrooms and bacon. The blend of pork for the Hog Burger is specially prepared by two different butchers just for Jimbo’s.

I tried both burgers. Lifting and looking at the burgers, each seemed to weigh much more than 1/2 pound on an extra large bun. Both were served open-faced with the bun top on the side. As a signature, when sour cream and/or other condiments are ordered, they are used to write out Jimbo’s in script on each burger. I liked both of my burgers. I might give a slight edge to the Hog Burger. It had a good pork flavor which was not fatty or greasy. Ultimately, the topping combinations may be the key to burger bliss here. I ordered Velveeta on my Hog Burger which took me back to my youth while taking it away at the same time. The burgers are priced at $5 and $6 which is an excellent value. (@CMHTobias gave the leftovers a hearty endorsement as well, eating them before the car left the lot).

Ordering the two burgers and eating (most of) each gave me significant street credibility with the the regular patrons and staff. I was on a first name basis with everyone by the time I walked out the door. I was asked to come back soon and to keep an eye out for some of my new friends when in Athens, as it turned out we knew some of the same folks.

If you are hiking the Hocking Hills set aside a little time and stomach space to try a burger from Jimbo’s before or after you hit the trail.

Jimbo’s Bar and Diner
23356 SR 56
(somewhat southwest of the intersection of SR 664 and SR 56)
South Bloomingville, OH
740.332.6550

Posted in bar, culinary misadventure, hamburgers, Ohio, Road Trip | Tagged: | 10 Comments »

Hamburger Columbus: Johnnie’s Tavern with George Motz

Posted by cmh gourmand on May 2, 2010

Motz at Work

In 2007, I joined filmmaker/writer George Motz for the Columbus leg of research for Hamburger America. The book was a success so the publishers have asked him for a second edition, this time with an additional fifty famous hamburger (well, 53 since three of the original 100 from Hamburger America have closed) places. There is an interesting backstory to the book. George did not set out to write a hamburger book or any book for that matter. In 2004, he created a documentary called Hamburger America about eight unique and historic family owned hamburger cookeries. The publishers saw the book and asked the filmmaker to add author to his business card. This is the rare instance of a film leading to a book.

The rules for places picked for Hamburger America (2) are as follows: the hamburger must be good, it must have been served by the same place for twenty years or more and it must be made with fresh, ground beef. The two Columbus picks for the first edition were Thurman Cafe and Gahanna Grill. While there are several good candidates in Columbus, the site selected on this reconnaissance mission was Johnnies Tavern in San Margherita.

...before

Johnnies meets the criteria set forth and then some. The site of the tavern has been owned by the Lombardi family since the early twentieth century. It started as a grocery store but it 1948, the family knocked down a wall, added some space and turned to the tavern trade. John Lombardi is the forth generation to run a family business at this site. He is the manager and the head hamburger maker, often slinging hamburgers solo in the backroom kitchen.

....after

The menu is simple: cheeseburgers, roast beef sandwiches, fried bolonga sandwiches, fries and onion rings. There is another staple on the menu, beer. Johnnie’s won an award for the coldest beer in Columbus. In the photo below, you can see a poster of Dominic Lombardi (John’s grandfather) with one of their famous cold beers. The beer is still cold although we did not take a thermometer to test it we could see that the frost on the mug was thick and frosty. San Margherita was the former home of Italian immigrants to Columbus, many of them coming to work in the quarry at Marble Cliff. There are only a few landmarks left of that immigrant era, ancient grape vines in a few yards and Johnnie’s Tavern.

Menu

Coldest beer poster

The burger is a handmade patty that starts off as about one pound of ground beef. You have your choice of five types of cheese (pepperjack is the crowd favorite) plus lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and a dill pickle on the side. The bun is toasted (big points there) and slightly steamed with sesame seeds. The service is friendly, well at least based on my interactions with Britney. There is a pool table, a few TV’s and the sounds of trains passing by on the railroad tracks about 100 feet from the front door for entertainment.

I hope that Johnnie’s makes it into the new Hamburger America. There are some other places from Columbus I would like to see as well, in particular, the pepperburger from O’Reilly’s. We will have to wait until the book comes out in 2011 or 2012. In the meantime, you can follow George’s adventures on twitter. On his latest run, he hit at least six hamburger places (including Johnnie’s) in three states over two days. He consumed over one dozen hamburgers, three Pattycake Bakery cookies, one Steak and Shake milkshake and Bigbee Malt at Spudnuts in Cleveland. Go George!

And Go Johnnies!

Johnnie’s
3503 Trabue Road
San Margherita (an unincorporated section of Columbus near Hilliard)
614.488.0110

Posted in beer, hamburgers | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Crabill’s Hamburgers, Urbana

Posted by cmh gourmand on September 13, 2009

Crabill’s Hamburgers
727 Miami Street
Urbana
937.653.5133

There are several different routes you could choose to head to Crabill’s in Urbana, each will take you through small towns, past farmers stands and involve at least one major freeway. The one way trip will cost you an hour and a quarter or slightly more of your time. The journey is worth the effort for a taste of hamburger history.

burger balls become small hamburgers

burger balls become small hamburgers

Three generations of Crabill’s have used a special spatula to smash small hamburger balls into mini hamburgers since 1927. The first burgers were cooked in a hamburger buggy. As business grew a small six seater stand became Crabills. This hamburger hangout took a brief respite for a few years but was brought back in the tradition of the original. The third generation of Crabill’s opened as Crabill’s on Wheels and used the momentum to rebuild the business to open the new stand. The location today is not the original but it does have the six stools from the much smaller 1929 edition of Crabills.

sit on history

sit on history

The menu is as small as the building. Choices include hamburgers, cheeseburgers, double burgers (suggested), chili dogs, a few other items and homemade pies. There is a drive through window which does a brisk business all day. The true Crabill’s experience involves finding an open stool inside and watching the hamburgers grilled in front of you from the counter.

There is an old school approach to hamburger toppings that goes back to the 1920’s: mustard, relish and/or onions. In 1990, ketchup was added as an option. Burgers are ordered, grilled quickly and dressed right in front of you. A typical experience is to order a few, love them, observe that they seem to disappear quickly and then order a few more. There are several regular customers that just walk in and are served without ordering because their tastes are so well known to the staff.

Chili Dog

Chili Dog

For the sake of diversity, I also sampled a chili dog. Homemade chili is served (Ohio style) on a slightly toasted bun with a bit of sear to the hot dog. In my opinion, that is the proper approach to hot dog creation, not bad for a place with an eighty plus year history of “hamburgering”.

There are also other traditions here. Large scale consumption of hamburgers as in 33 hamburgers in 45 minutes in 2007. The owners and staff are friendly and clearly have fun doing what they do and interacting with their customers, neighbors and friends.

classic combo: cheeseburger and bottle of coke

classic combo: cheeseburger and bottle of coke

Posted in hamburgers, pies, restaurants, Road Trip | Tagged: | 5 Comments »

The Details on Details

Posted by cmh gourmand on February 9, 2009

Details sign

My report on Details has been lingering around on my MacBook for a month. I keep getting bogged down in the details and stumped about what to expand on or what to cut out. However, the time has come to go with what I have after 5 trips and let the pictures serve their worth at a thousand words or more apiece. For a small space, I find Details has a lot to offer. The Cliff Notes on Details read: it is the perfect hangout if you take food in any form seriously and you want to enjoy the journey to your plate as much as the arrival to your palate.

Details had a quiet opening in December. The lounge is the offshoot of Rosendales. However, this is no culinary step-child or a waiting area for patrons pining for a table in Rich Rosendale’s restaurant. Details has an identity and style of it’s own. The first story features a well adorned and fully stocked bar. I walked the length of the bar many times but I never sat on a stool long enough to appreciate the first floor. The second level seats about 20. The core of Details is upstairs at a six seater minibar facing the kitchen/alchemist’s lair/culinary workshop.

The heart of Details is Chef de Cuisine Drew Garms. This minibar is a showcase for how fine food may come in small packages as well as proof that little details do make the difference in a great experience.

Some of the gadgets

Some of the gadgets

Chef Garms knows his craft. He is a CIA graduate. Like several staff at Rosendales, he perfected the art and science of cooking at The Greenbrier an acclaimed restaurant and hotel not far from where my parents grew up in West Virginia. At the Greenbrier, he earned ten ACF (American Culinary Federation) medals and was Chef Richard Rosendale’s apprentice on the 2004 national culinary team in Erfurt, Germany. Upon completing his apprenticeship in 2005, Chef Garms was promoted to Saucier at the Greenbrier. In 2007 Chef Garms became Sous Chef and helped Chef Rosendale and his culinary team with the opening of Rosendales (info in italics courtesy of the Details website). In October 2008 Garms returned to Erfurt, as a member of the United States Regional Culinary Olympic Team.

A quick glance at the menu might make one think bar food. Such is not the case. Take a long look behind the bar at the small workspace and molecular gastromy gadets; you may wonder what you are in for. When two cooks are working this space, their motions mirror an olympic synchronized swim team but with flamebursts, cocktail crafting, negative eighty degree flash-freezing, anti-griddling and other Iron Chef activity going on.

Here is a sampling from the regular menu. The complete menu is online at the Details web site.

Details Burgers  Miniature Angus Beef Sliders, Black Sesame Brioche, Plum Tomato, Lettuce, House Made  Ketchup and Mayonnaise

Details Burgers: Three Miniature Angus Beef Sliders, Black Sesame Brioche, Plum Tomato, Lettuce, House Made Ketchup and Mayonnaise

Steak Fries with a trio of sauces

Steak Fries with a trio of sauces

Tuna Tar Tar Tacos with  Avocado, Pickled Scallions and Ginger

Tuna Tar Tar Tacos with Avocado, Pickled Scallions and Ginger

House Made Charcuterie (meats),  Bread & Butter Pickles, Dijon Mustard with Crusty Bread

House Made Charcuterie Specialties, Bread & Butter Pickles, Dijon Mustard, Crusty Bread

Smoked Paprika Potato Chips

Smoked Paprika Potato Chips

I do not have a photo of the Spanish Chorizo Chili (Black Beans, Scallions, Avocado Butter, and Fried Plantains Chips – I have found a garbanzo bean or two in here as well – and yes – there is Chorizo – Spanish style sausage). It is the perfect dish to kill the cold of winter.

The menu satisfies. Several small details make this minibar menu a fine dining meal. Let’s begin with maple syrup. A basic ingredient. Drew smokes his maple syrup which serves as the coating for his house made pastrami. He gave me a small syrup sample that ensured perfection in a slice of French Toast at Chateau Gourmand as a day after long night meal of atonement.

Now let’s move on to ketchup. Who cares about that? Chef Garms does. I am a convert as well. The tomatoes in the base are smoked and then mixed with other ingredients to create the finest condiment on the face of our planet. Few places make their own ketchup which makes sense, who has the time for a condiment? Well when the chef cares about his ketchup – imagine the effort he puts into everything else. I would order a 20 ounce glass of the house ketchup and drink it straight. I now ask for three servings of ketchup instead of a trio of sauces with my steak fries.

Ketchup...smoked Ketchup

Ketchup...smoked Ketchup

Speaking of drinking. The absolute awesomeness of the cocktail menu finely complements the cuisine. These are old school cocktails which have no better in Columbus, perhaps no peers this side of NYC (with the exception of Highland Estates).

The description of the martini demonstrates the Details approach to cocktails.

Martini

We are unabashed purists.
Your choice of Gin and a healthy pour of dry vermouth.
On the rocks if you must. Optional Olive or Twist.
Not available in Vodka

The quality of the alcohol selections demonstrate the respect Details cocktails deserve. The Aviation includes Creme de Violette and Maraschino Liqueur. My new found friend St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur finds a home in the Wry Smile. There is a respectable selection of high-end bourbons and cognacs. My current favorite is Amaro Mio: Raisin-infused Grappa shaken with Amaretto, Cointreau and Espresso.

cocktail menu

Old Mule

Old Mule

Wry Smile

Wry Smile

Mojito

Mojito

Champagne  Cocktail

Champagne Cocktail

If there are 5 people you want to share a great evening with, set up a Detailed Experience. There are two seatings each evening, at 6:00 and 9:00, for up to six people. Reservations should be at least twenty-four hours in advance. Chef Garms will greet you at the mini-bar with a cocktail then serve a series of tasting plates, blending elements from the menu, his own inspirations and feedback from your party. The price is $55.

Some of the usual suspects and I reserved a tasting menu on New Years Eve. I did not take any notes and this post is getting really long so I will defer to the photos.

reserved

Chef Garms on the right

Chef Garms on the right

nye cocktail

Red Hot Pork Rinds and Wasabi Peas

Red Hot Pork Rinds and Wasabi Peas

mixed fried

Mixed Fried: Plaintains, Wontons, Potato Chips, Sweet Potato Fries

burger and fries

fries

during

after

cocktail and meatball

meatball

Caesar with a twist on pate

Caesar with a twist on pate

toast and cheese

the lineup

dessert 1

dessert 2

fin

At Details (and some other kitchens in town), there is a movement afoot to redefine, refine, and promote a Columbus food culture that is not fast food but fabulous food.

Details
791 North High Street
Short North
614.298.1301

Details Lounge

Posted in bar, beverages, hamburgers, restaurant reviews, restaurants, Short North | Tagged: , | 12 Comments »

 
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