The Thurman Cafe, Columbus, Ohio
At first glance, you wouldn’t think a place famous for its burgers would belong in the German Village of Columbus. After all, burgers aren’t widely associated with Germany like sausage is. But in actuality, the hamburger’s name comes from the town of Hamburg, Germany, although the sandwich we know today was not invented there. However, with that bit of information, the location of the Thurman Cafe makes substantially more sense.
That’s because the Thurman Cafe, so named for its location on Thurman Avenue in Columbus, serves up some of the best burgers there are, and a wide variety of them. Like Vortex in the Southeast or Lindy’s in the Southwest, creative burgers are why people flock to the Thurman Cafe and have done so since it opened in 1942.
One big difference between those places and the Thurman Cafe is size. The Thurman Cafe makes sure you’re getting the most burger for your dollar possible, because all burger patties come in at 3/4 of a pound. Considering that most weigh 1/2 a pound or less, that’s quite a sizable behemoth. Along with that huge patty come your choice of how you want to crown it. Options include the Rad Shroom, which features mushrooms and horseradish cheese, the bacon cheddar ranch, the Macedonian, which boasts red peppers on Texas toast, the Jaeger, named after the opposing street and offering mushrooms and onions on an open-faced burger that’s covered with French onion sauce and the Johnnie Burger, with tequila cooked into the meat.
But if you’ve never been to the Thurman Cafe before, there’s only one thing to order from its bevy of burger choices. That would be the restaurant’s signature burger, known simply as the Thurman Burger. At most places, a burger that simply bares the name of the restaurant isn’t one to write home (or a blog) about. It’s usually just your standard burger, topped with nothing, at the cheapest price.
The Thurman Burger goes completely in the opposite direction. It’s almost easier to list what isn’t on the Thurman Burger than what is, but here’s what you’ve got: A 3/4 pound patty, lettuce, tomato, pickle, mayonnaise, banana peppers, ham, American cheese, mozzarella cheese, sauteed mushrooms and caramelized onions.
It’s basically heaven on a bun. There’s not a single bad thing about this burger. All the tastes work so fantastically well together, allowing for the cheese to work with the meat, the vegetables to give it a little something different, the ham to provide a new element of flavor, everything works. It’s simply one of the best burgers there is anywhere.
It’s also a ginormous mess. As anyone who has eaten a burger loaded up with toppings knows, the more toppings and sauces you have on the burger, the less chance there is of the bun actually being able to hold on and keep the burger in one piece. Instead, it’s more likely that the bun will soak up the juice and give way, and that is exactly what happens on the Thurman Burger.
The burger will quickly fall apart when you try to pick it up, which means you might have to use a knife and fork to attack it. Getting it on yourself or your shirt is likely and even expected. It’s referred to as getting “Thurmanized”, and it tends to happen quite often. Because of the mess, the Thurman Cafe is the anti-Wimbledon. If you order a Thurman Burger or the even larger Thurmanator (which adds another patty, cheese and bacon), it is strongly recommended that you wear anything but white, or you might have a hard laundry day on your hands after your visit.
Even if you do, it’s totally worth the risk. Whether or not you actually get Thurmanized, the experience of tasting a Thurman Burger makes the trip an unforgettable and enjoyable visit.
Time to go: Anytime, really. The Thurman Cafe is open until 2:30 a.m. every night, and the kitchen closes at 1 a.m. Be warned, however, the restaurant is small and gets crowded.
Wait during my visit: Substantial. The only reason I got a seat quickly was because the waiter knocked over a drink at another table, forcing the couple to vacate their seat. Well, being a party of one, I had no problem with only one dry seat. Had that not happened, I’d have waited even longer.
Location: The Thurman Cafe is at 183 Thurman Avenue in Columbus, Ohio.
Cost: Not bad. Most burgers will come in under $10 and come with chips as well. You can also get fries, probably for a nominal charge.
Parking: N/A. There is no parking lot, all you have is street parking, and you’re hoping to get lucky here because there are several street areas that are marked no parking. The closer you can get to the restaurant, in general, the safer you are.
Seating arrangement: Good luck. Tables do not come open easily. It’s mostly stools and bar seating, but there are booths. There’s not a lot of space.
Website: The Thurman Cafe
Specialty items: The Thurman Burger