You know, I’ve lived in Columbus for over a decade now and the amazing thing about this city is that it has these little “blink and you’ll miss them” neighborhoods full of history and character. Take Riverlea for instance. Adorable houses full of character, quiet as can be, close-knit community that I never knew existed until a couple of years ago. And then there’s San Margherita, a Columbus neighborhood founded over 100 years ago by Italian immigrants who worked at the nearby quarry. It’s not much to look at, doesn’t have much character left except for the vineyards in the backyards of the remaining few houses, which were planted by their original occupants. But in this sleepy little one-light town, you can get perhaps the best burger in the Columbus metro area.
Located on Trabue, Johnnie’s Tavern does only a couple of things, but they do them right. In addition to a few run of the mill appetizers, there are 3 sandwiches (4 on Wednesday’s, if you get there early enough to get the chili dogs), plus two sides. Here’s their menu. Yup, it fits on one page.
My mother’s boyfriend, a foodie in the same vein that we are, told us that this place, hands-down, had the best burger in town. I think he may be right. For $6, one gets 3/4 lb. of beef of such a quality that it doesn’t need to be masked by spices – just salt and pepper. Even though the burger is served well done, it’s extremely juicy, but never soggy. It sits on a sturdy roll and is topped with your choice of cheese, and crisp and cold lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles. The taste is nothing short of amazing. For sides, you can choose either fries ($2) or onion rings ($2.50) – the fries are great; flavorful and a nice crunch to them, but the onion rings have the edge here – they are crisp without being greasy and have a great beer batter coating that complements the sweetness of the onion.
And speaking of beer – here, it’s cheap, and it’s cold. Ice cold. Just the way I like it. $1.50 Michelob on tap, $2 for domestics, and $3 for imports. Take a gander at this Killian’s Irish Red, served in a frosty mug. My husband said that the beer and the burger have a synergistic effect on each other – each one makes the other taste better.
But don’t take my word for it – next time you’re wandering down Riverside Drive, hang a left at Trabue, and follow it to just past the railroad tracks. Be prepared to leave full, with your wallet mostly intact. There’s a reason this place has been around since 1948.
If you’d like to go: Johnnie’s Tavern, 3503 Trabue Road, Columbus (San Margherita), 614.488.0110.