I don’t eat a lot of burgers, so when I do, I want them to be special. Of course, you can’t talk about burgers in Columbus without mentioning Thurman Café in German Village. While my taste is usually basic (quality meat, lettuce, tomato, mayo), I do go for Thurman’s mushroom and swiss version, which is pretty simple when compared to many of their other choices (Thermanator, Macedonian, Hot and Spicy Salsa, etc.).
The Thurman Burger – Photo: George Motz
While most Rusty Bucket (nine locations throughout Ohio) diners order the Bucket Bites (munchie sliders w/ pickle chips, onions and cheese on potato buns), I like the plain ole’ juicy Rusty Bucket burger. Since there’s a Bucket within walking distance from my house, our family visits there regularly, and not just for the food–we like to catch up on the local gossip.
On a recent work visit to Cincinnati, we discovered the Brown Dog Cafe in Blue Ash. The burgers compare greatly in size to Thurman’s versions, with more meat and add-ons than most can possibly devour at one seating. Dinner at the Brown Dog is more upscale—no burgers—but they do offer a Caffeinated Wild Boar Tenderloin!
But my heart for burgers lies in Cleveland, on the West Side where I grew up. I waitressed at the Rustic in Rocky River during college breaks and often crave their savory Patty Melt washed down with a chocolate malt. It’s not just the burgers that draw me to the Rustic, it’s the fact that my mom and I use it as our little getaway when I’m visiting their home with my kids.
My dad and I have a burger getaway, too. We usually take my husband with us when we sneak out and head to Herb’s Tavern, because it is a tavern after all (the Rustic is dry). Also located in River, Herb and Bobbie Brugh have owned the restaurant for nearly 50 years.
It’s known for its Herb Burger with mushrooms and grilled onion, but the menu lists 24 items you can choose from for your carnivore creation, including peanut butter and sauerkraut (this is Cleveland after all!).
While son Curt and other family members handle the day-to-day business, Herb (when he’s not snow birding) can usually be found hopping about the tables making folks laugh.
Throughout my life, however, I’ve probably eaten more burgers from the iconic Bearden’s in Rocky River. That’s why I was sad to hear that the restaurant has “temporarily” and maybe permanently shut down due to ongoing construction on Lake Road. Joe Orange, big brother of one of my best friends in high school, purchased the restaurant from his dad, who got it from his dad. There was a time when Bearden’s had five locations throughout the Cleveland area and was considered the hot drive-through spot to hang out.
I was truly disappointed years ago when I excitedly shared a Bearden’s Peanutburger with my son and he did not adopt my enthusiasm. But, he did devour the homemade onion rings.
Joe Orange told a Cleveland TV news reporter recently that he may reopen once the construction is complete (this summer), but Cleveland.com reported that it looks like it’s the end of the line for Bearden’s. And as writer James Ewinger put it so eloquently, “If that’s so, terms like ‘end of an era’ and ‘institution’ fail to adequately mark Bearden’s role. It is so thoroughly woven into the fabric of life on the West Side that the place is more of a relative shared by thousands than a place where they had a great milk shake.”