CMH Gourmand – Eating in Columbus & Ohio

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Archive for the ‘hamburgers’ Category

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

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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: | 3 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: | 13 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

Johnnie's Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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 »

Man vs. Food – The Dagwood, The Thurman Burger and lots of hits

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 24, 2008

The Columbus episode of Man vs. Food has been drawing a lot of traffic to my blog and attention to Columbus. I am getting 1300 plus page views a day for Dagwoods alone.

So to recap – here is everything you need to know.

Man vs. Food – where they dined

The Dagwood Challenge with Columbus Underground – The Video

Dagwood Challenge – The CU Thread

The Thurman Burger

Columbus Foodcast – Big Eats

And the hits keep coming.

Quick update March 25th 2009

The new record – faster than fast food from the Sopressata Blog

Posted in Columbus, culinary misadventure, events, hamburgers, sandwiches | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

The Low Down on the Johnnies Tavern Meat Up

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 3, 2008

Johnnies Tavern
3503 Trabue Rd
(San Margherita)
614 488 0110

The Cliff Notes version of the Meat Up reads like this: About twenty five people showed up on a beautiful day. The hamburgers were good – the medium rare burgers seemed to get the highest praise. I think I was one of the few people to get a roast beef sandwich as well – (I did it for you loyal readers). The sandwich was simple with some horseradish on the side. It melted in my mouth. Johnnies has cold, frosted mugs for beer and cans of pop (soda to some of you). I forgot how much I like Coke in a frosted mug – my freezer now has frosty pint glasses at the ready. I had heard that the bartendress was awesome – she was. She kept the beers and burgers flowing for over thirty people without breaking a sweat but she was quick to break a smile. We raised $25 for the Haiku Help Fund – Rachel Widomski Medical Care Trust. This cause has fallen off the radar a little bit over the last couple months. So we passed the mug around to keep the momentum going for a good cause. We all had a good time and I saw a few new faces.

Johnnies is the type of place that you can easily drive by and not think twice about it. It is in a part of town that is somewhat forgotten and well off the strip mall path. But Johnnies has something that many places do not – Mojo. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. This is a comfortable place to sit down, eat a quick meal with a domestic beer and head on your way – simple.

John Lombardi is the proprietor. His grandfather opened the place in 1948. Not much has changed since then. Mr. Lombardi (the grandfather) lived next door and walked to work every day. John lived in the same house for quite some time before he took over Johnnies. San Margherita was the Italian part of town long ago. Things have changed over time. If you take a long look at the backyards of the remaining houses you will see old grapevines, leftovers from the days when the community grew grapes for wine and food. One house in the area seems to be making a run at grapes again, maybe a vineyard is in the future. Johnnies has history and memories and nice people that work there… that works for me.

Posted in events, hamburgers, restaurants | 1 Comment »

Johnnies Tavern – Meat Up

Posted by cmh gourmand on October 23, 2008


Columbus Underground “Meat Up”
Saturday November 1st – High Noon

Johnnies Tavern
3503 Trabue Rd

614 488 0110

This “Meat Up” takes us to the West side for some of the best burgers around and what may be the coldest beer in town! There is PBR at the bar. Who could ask for anything more. While no eating contest is planned…who can say what might happen. We do know a good time will be had by all!

Johnnies has been around since 1948. They are also known for their Hot Roast Beef Sandwiches.

Columbus Foodie gave Johnnies two thumbs up. See below for a good review.

Columbus Foodie on Johnnies

If you have never been to a CU Food event – you have missed out, take a look at what we have served up this year.

We headed east for:

The Beanie Burger Challenge

We went central city for Two Pizza Grand Prix.

Pizza Grand Prix Uno

Pizza Grand Prix Dos

We then went North and a little east for:

Hawa Russia Dinner

And we went South, for the D-Day of all CU events – The Dagwood Challenge.

Dagwood Challenge – The Video

Dagwood Challenge – The CU Thread

Come out and join us. And if you know you are coming – post here so we can get a rough headcount.

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

Chef-O-Nette (and a serving of Tasty Tremont Center Tips)

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 13, 2008

Chef O Nette
Chef O Nette
2090 Tremont Center
Upper Arlington
614.488.8444

I found myself in a (good) dining rut, I was mainly hitting downtown and Short North eateries. It was time to get back to a baseline and venture away from High Street. You can’t get more basic than Chef O Nette. Walking in, you don’t feel like you are in Arlington, you feel like you are in a small town somewhere, maybe even Mayberry. You also feel like you have walked back in time to the 50’s, 60’s or 70’s. The prices are right here with the most expensive item being $10.95.

A cheeseburger plate with crinkle cut fries and cole slaw will knock you back $5.45. The burgers are thin patties, grilled just right and are served on sesame seed buns. You can also get a Chef-O-Burger – a double, for $2.65. There are some diner classics here: The Hangover – Hamburger, ham, cheese, tomato, lettuce and onion as well as the Sta-Slim Special – Lean ground round patty, cottage cheese, cheese slice, tomatoes, pickle chips, and rye bread.

Burger and Fries

The milkshakes, although on the small side are served in an old school Coke glass and are a standard order for regulars. My favorite thing here is the Cole Slaw. I am constantly on the search for perfect cole slaw, I rarely find this except old diners. Chef-O-Nette does it right here – everything is finely chopped and diced with just the right mix of sauce. This is popular enough that they sell it in pints for $3.25.

Cole Slaw

Chef-O-Nette is a blast from the past. Drop in some time, sit at the counter on one of the red, chair backed stools and enjoy a simple meal. There is also a carry out window here if you are in a rush.

The Tremont Center has a some other good culinary selections as well. There is an Old Bag of Nails here as well as one of the two Moretti’s locations in town. (I can’t quite place why, but the Tremont location of Moretti’s is the better of the two.) Huffman’s Market is here as well, one of the last of the family owned, independent super markets in town. Huffman’s carries some hard to find items that make stepping in worthwhile – Johnson’s Ice Cream, Esther Price Chocolates and Der Dutchman donuts.

Posted in Diners, hamburgers, kid friendly dining, restaurants | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

The Double Beanie Burger Challenge – June 14th, 2 PM

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 5, 2008


Many people heard of the Dagwood Challenge. (See my March 2008 post.) Those that read about it and/or saw the video – wished they were there. Seeing the human drama of the thrill of victory (Zach) and the agony of defeat (Dave) was moving, life changing and awe inspiring.

This is your chance to participate in another round of Columbus Culinary history. An opportunity to tell someone years from now – while riding on a streetcar with some other affluent ilk – that you were there back in 2008 for the Beanie Burger Challenge.

The challenge – eat a Double Beanie Burger and fries in 30 minutes to get a Double Beanie Burger t-shirt and your photo on the wall.

The first one to finish has their burger paid for by CMH Gourmand.

Where:
Gahanna Grill
82 Granville Street
Gahanna
614 476 9017

When:
Saturday June 14th, 2 PM

What:
Double Beanie Burger
-about 1 pound of beef in two patties
-lettuce
-tomato
-onions
-bacon (I think…)
-coleslaw
(cheese…..I think or on request – sometimes it blurs together)

Fries on the side

I have about 20 people confirmed from Columbus Underground (this is not a CU event, there are just several interested parties that visit that site a lot) so if you are interested, please confirm by posting on this page so I can have a head count. We have one committed female competitor – I would like to see at least two. You can read about the Beanie Burger and see a photo in the Tale of Two Burgers post from March 2007.

Still on the fence? This is one of the 100 best burgers in the country as seen in the book Hamburger America by George Motz.

Just Eat it

Click the link below to see what all the buzz is about.

Columbus Underground Buzz on the Double Beanie Burger Challenge

And Vivian did finish her burger….but barely made it through the fries.

Posted in culinary misadventure, hamburgers | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »