Burger Tour 2012: The Case Against Gahanna Grill

I’m tempted to contact Motz, the inspiration for my burger tour, and have him remove the Beanie Burger from his list of America’s Best after my excruciatingly underwhelming visit to the Gahanna Grill. Make no mistake, this institution in the idyllic burg of Columbus proudly lets the world know they are on that list (being in that location since 1939), but what occurred inside is nothing to be proud of. I’d almost say they should be ashamed to advertise as such. The Gahanna Grill is not as rustic as Johnny’s, historic as Thurman’s, or classically dive as O’Reilly’s – the small town pub vibe was only accented by a couple of afternoon drunks and one too many shamrocks dotting the walls. The service and atmosphere was completely passable, but the food was hard to choke down. 

I’d come for the “famed” Beanie Burger and ordered without hesitation, to which I was prompted “medium well,” and I was agreeable with this standard. I came to find out that “medium well” meant that these burgers weren’t made to order. The tasteless atrocity that arrived was brought to me less than three minutes from sitting down at the bar. The Beanie is the usual pub style burger – now replicated to better effect by chains like 5 Guys and Graffiti – piled with bacon, cheap American cheese, grilled onions, and the average dressing of lettuce and tomato. It looked intimidating, but as soon as I lifted the bun I could see the grayish hue of the burger and was somewhat scared to dive in. The kicker with the Beanie is the addition of a “house made” slaw. I was intrigued – and tried a bite of the side of slaw that comes with each burger. I’ve had better slaw at Captain D’s, it does nothing to help the Beanie. As sated previously, the Beanie was impossible to choke down and I couldn’t finish it. Should it have tasted better, I would have certainly been able to tackle this monstrosity, but as it was, I couldn’t bear any more after a few bites. It was that bad. Top that off with cold, downright awful side of fries, and I was embarrassed to even think about complaining, kindly paid my bill, and left promptly. Perhaps I caught them at a bad time? Perhaps the best days of Gahanna Grille are long gone? All I can relay is that this IS NOT a worthy burger. And even if it’s in spitting distance of Columbusites who might read here – you’re better off going to Rally’s – for serious. UGH. 

Why Haley Reinhart's "Free" Exists...

No -- I'm certainly not advertising that Haley Reinhart's debut single "Free," should replace the ubiquitous pleasures of Carly Rae Jespen's brilliant "Call Me Maybe" as this years first summer jam (no need for me to expound about that song here) -- but it deserves plenty of merit as a breezy counter to the urban strings and bubblegum splash of Carly. I'm a American Idol apologist. Just look through reams of past posts and you'll see my quick odes to past contestants. This year was a struggle for the show and I'm tempted to never watch again (Jessica Sanchez wuz robbed), but last year, even though froggy Scott McCreary won due to the Red State vote, was full of outstanding performances. Ms. Reinhart came in third-place. She was portrayed as the bitchy villain, the one who really had all of the talent but was snubbed for her confidence (mistakenly perceived as attitude). Now, a full year later, she emerges with that same talent and some very astute handlers in her corner. "Free" is extremely hard to place. Above we see the stunning Reinhart vamping as vintage pin-up, lounging in the beach, and soaking in the sun. But "Free" is more set-piece, a bit Broadway, a bit Nelly Furtado, pure pop pomp with a twinkling piano adding faux-hokum as if she's inches from being the next Adele or Duffy (whatever happened to?). It's dramatic and mindless at the same time, as if she can hang with Kelly Clarkson and Arcade Fire at the same after-party. I'm not entirely convinced that Reinhart will succeed, as this is just as much an anomaly as one can find on the pop charts, but it definitely has potential and fits perfectly on that mixtape you're dying to make before the first road trip of the season. Poolside for miles. 

Burger Tour 2012: O'Reilly's Pub

O’Reilly’s has been a fixture in the Clintonville/North Campus for many years (just how many I can’t seem to find anywhere on the ‘net) and I’ve always loved the place just because it exists. I’ve been there a number of times in the last decade, but for some reason have never tried the food. It’s truly one of a kind, and the last of a dying breed of perfectly comfortable dive bars. They have a quaint sunken bar, a stacked jukebox, free Galaga, a lively patio, colorful regulars (including the guy I call “teach” cause he looks as if he did his first shot before the last school bell), and as far as I can tell it’s the closest thing to a Cincinnati Reds-friendly establishment as I can find (tell me if I’m wrong). 

I’ve always wondered why the barkeeps push the menu on you even if you’re just having a cheap draft during happy hour. Now, after trying a handful of Pepper Burgers over the last few months, I know why. I’m not entirely sure what makes the Pepper Burger so good – maybe it’s the attention to the cheese, the pre-grill recipe, the bun, the just-right size of the patty – but it has quickly surpassed any other burger I’ve had in this city (yes, it’s heads and shoulders above the mighty Thurman). There are a lot of pub-style burgers that boast some kind of quirk (i.e. the Gahanna Grille's Beanie Burger includes slaw) and in most instances those quirks need to be perfected to make or break the burger. Hearing about the Pepper Burger, I'd always imagined that the pepper might just be too much -- but that's far from the truth. The "pepper" of the Pepper Burger adds a satisfying crispness to this sandwich, they use a modest amount of spice in the pre-grilling stages that will never overwhelm the taste of the quality beef used here. And the toppings on the Pepper are not used to mask any inadequacies, they are there to compliment an already formidable burger. There's the standard LTO dressing, pickle chips, both provolone and pepperjack cheese (perhaps this is what makes the burger?), and a small portion of bacon. 

All told -- by reading here you'll find that that in the most unassuming locations, you'll likely find the best food. The Pepper Burger, which must have an origin story that needs to be told, is simple and common in it's creation, but a symphony of flavors when tried. Easily the best burger in this city. And though it doesn't rank as high as Crabill's or the Wagon, it sits high in the hierarchy of the Ohio burger.