Every once in a while I get cravings. Sometimes it’s for a donut
, other times it’s lamb vindaloo
. But most often what I crave is a big, juicy burger
. No place I have yet encountered satisfies my primal desire better than the Thurman Cafe
in Columbus, Ohio
The restaurant is small with a pinball equipped waiting room leading to a long bar and a small dining area. Lots of goofy stuff on the wall, including a 1939 College Diploma, old license plates and (many) favorable reviews. The waiting room is not an accident folks, before they built it you had to wait outside. There is a reason.
The reason basically is food. The Thurman Cafe serves up oodles of good, basic Americana. Sandwiches, pizza, steak fries, wings. Nothing fancy. Just done well, and lots of it. Cheap. Dirt cheap for what you get.
I recommend starting out with a dozen buffalo wings. They look a trifle expensive, but that’s because they give you the entire wing. What a concept, counting a whole wing as one, instead of a half! Sauces range from barbecue to Chernobyl but all feature taste. Imagine biting into a drumstick hot enough to turn your tongue incandescent, yet noticing that is has flavor. And what a flavor it is, with a rich tomato base that manages to combine sweet and atomic without prejudice. Washed down with a Leinenkugel’s on draft, and you have an excellent start to this evenings festivities. The beer selection is good but not outstanding, containing the standard American brews with such imports as Bass Ale, Guinness, Red Stripe and Beck’s of all colors.
The sandwiches are good and more than ample. The eight inch Texas Coney is big enough to make John Holmes jealous and Madeline Kahn sing. They cover it with enough cheese make to Drew Carey face another angioplasty. You’ll find your basic deli sandwiches, and I’ve heard good things about the Chicken Cordon Bleu, Thurmanadelphia and the Club. Plus they have a slew of subs, all nicely priced, with the Thurmandelphia a beef lamb and cheese study in excess. There is thin pizza available, and it looks good, but I’ve never gotten past the burgers to try it, so if you want pizza, you’re on your own.
But most people come here for the burgers. You can’t pick them up. Silverware is mandatory. Ordering a Thurman cafe hamburger is the equivalent to ordering an entire meat loaf packed between two pieces of bread. And they taste sort of like meat loaf too. The beef is extraordinarily fresh. My waiter assured me the burger was no more than fifteen hours dead, as they buy at the only Columbus meat market which does that sort of thing. Thurman cafe burgers come in fifteen different varieties, varying primarily in topping and bread type.
My rotation normally incudes:
The Macedonian Burger, which they serve on texas toast with sweet red peppers, lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo and an order of their tender, tasty french fries, some of the best fries in Columbus.
The Bleu Cheeseburger, which is drenched with an excellent, chunky bleu cheese dressing, mozzarella and the normal toppings.
The Jaeger Burger which is an open-faced burger smothered with sauteed mushrooms and onions, and french onion dip. Also served with fries.
That’s just the beginning. You can get your burger with horseradish and ‘shrooms, or grilled onions and monterey jack, heck you can even get the thing naked.
If you’re really ambitious you may attempt a Thurman Burger itself. Which has ham, sauteed stuff, two kinds of cheese, the normal toppings . . . In other words enough stuff to feed Afghanistan all by itself. Tastes pretty good too, but I’ve only tried one of those once, thank you. I have some limits.
Burgers are served with a pickle spear and potato chips. Fries are extra except on the Macedonian and the Jaeger burgers. The do sell fine onion rings and their outstanding french fries on the side, in portions big enough to share. Which you may have to. A thurman burger and fries is big enough to share all by itself. And the fries might be the best in Columbus.
The Thurman Cafe is located at 183 Thurman Ave, Columbus, OH 43206 and can be reached by phone at (614) 443-1570 or faxed at (614) 449-2233. It is located in the heart of German Village, one of the first neighborhoods to be gentrified in Columbus. It contains some wonderfully restored homes, and to the north is the brewery district home of some of Columbus’s best nite spots, places where a man can sip a good single-malt scotch or dark beer while listening to a fine band.
The easiest way to get to the Thurman Cafe is to take the interstate downtown. Just south of downtown on I-71 is the Greenlawn Ave. exit. Turn west to get to Greenlawn Cemetery Turn east to get to the Thurman Cafe. Go east and the road will jog left at the third light, where you intersect U.S. 23 or High St.. Take the jog and you are now on Thurman Ave. The next light ahead will be Jaeger St. The Thurman Cafe is on the tiny strip mall on the right, just before the light. You have your choice of street parking. Come early if you don’t want to wait.