Super size me, ToledoWritten by Robert Holman | | email@example.com
I’ve been inspired. The documentary ”Super Size Me” has me convinced the fast food burger is not only boring but downright dangerous. What is a burger lover to do?
Go on a Burger Quest to find some of the best locally prepared burgers to end the industry-promoted need for the fast-food burger.
The Toledo area is crammed with interesting, locally owned establishments that actually form, cook and serve their burgers on site – unlike the commissary driven fast-food industry.
Here are my self-imposed Burger Quest rules:
1) I will patronize no national or regional chains
2) I will order only a ”cheeseburger, fries and a coke” without looking at the menu
3) I will only attend restaurants without liquor service
4) I will only dine between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.
During the course of about two weeks, I ate at 10 qualifying restaurants in the Toledo area and rated them on a 10-point scale for each category:
Any burger lover knows that much of the taste comes from the toppings. I never requested specific toppings but ordered ”everything” when given the option and accepted ”everything” when it was suggested. ”Everything” has at least 10 different definitions. These are my discoveries, in chronological order:
5755 Secor Rd.
Cost: $5.42 plus $1 tip
Trilby Diner is worn but clean, and decorated with vintage
photographs chronicling Trilby, Ohio, annexed by Toledo in 1965. The open-kitchen diner seats about 40. After seven minutes, my hot cheeseburger and thick-cut fries arrived. My waitress suggested the ”quarter-pounder” with ”everything,” which came nicely dressed on a basic bun with ketchup, mustard, diced onions and pickles. The distinctly hand-formed patty was a bit dry but had a nice beefy flavor. I had penciled in a 10 for atmosphere until the cook had a smoke at the counter.
578 Dussel Dr., Maumee
Cost: $7.88 plus $1 tip
Sam’s Diner has dŽcor which is incongruous: modern fixtures and posters, with dated plastic plants hanging from a warehouse-style ceiling. The ”12oz. bacon-cheeseburger with two sides for $5.95” was tempting but I stuck to my rules. In 12 minutes my huge, $4.45 burger arrived on a toasted bun. It was beautiful. Two slices of melted cheese and ripe tomato, a slice of onion and a fresh leaf of lettuce adorned the carmelized, hot and juicy beef. The flavor was fresh and bold. Mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard were delivered on the side. My skimpy serving of fries barely had room on the plate, not that it mattered, since I couldn’t finish my meal.
Cost: $4.88 plus $1 tip
Established and decorated in 1927, entering the Green Lantern is like riding in a Delorian with Michael J. Fox. The small, lonely building smells like a burger joint 100-yards away. Maurice, the cook, greeted me with a hearty, ”Hello my friend,” while my waitress took my order before I sat down. My hot burger with ”everything” arrived in nine minutes with the right amount of ketchup, mustard, diced onions and pickles. The beef had a tasty crust from the just-hot-enough flattop grill. My plate had a nice balance of burger and fries.
Al Smith’s Place
3350 Executive Pkwy.
Cost: $6.58 plus $1 tip
Al Smith’s is – knick-knacks, clean, green and white, cane-style chairs, and window treatments – country. My too-round cheeseburger ”with everything” was served in 10 minutes. It was topped with four chunks of iceberg lettuce, a slice of onion, a thick slice of ripe tomato and mayonnaise. It was good sized but gray, warm at best, and not really cooked through. The cheese was cold and not melted. The bun was doughy and disintegrated before I had to use my fork for the last five bites. The fries were soggy.
2103 N. Reynolds Rd.
Cost: $5.34 plus $1 tip
Schmucker’s interior is the classic diner-mix of chrome, stainless steel, neon and multiple specials boards. More than 20 ”Homemade” pies were listed on one board. It was packed, so I sat at the long L-shaped counter. My burger with ”everything on it” took 14 minutes to arrive, but while I waited I was entertained by the lone cook working the 48-inch flattop, fryer, two burners, and the 12-pot, hot food station. The patty, relatively small but nicely browned and juicy, was topped with melted cheese, onion slices, pickles and mustard. I could not finish the generous serving of freshly cut, golden brown and delicious fries.
Monroe Street Diner
4514 Monroe St.
Cost: $7.14 plus $1 tip
Considering my soft spot for the whimsically decorated Monroe Street Diner (being regulars, my wife and I had our wedding-day breakfast ”comp’ed” 10 years ago), my lunch was disappointing. My waitress took my order immediately but took three more tables’ orders on the way back to the kitchen. My food took 18 minutes to arrive. Given no topping options, my $3.85 burger came with none – only cheese - and the ketchup and mustard on the table. I had to ask for a napkin. The patty was good sized and browned, but dried out; the bun was too small. The sad order of fries likely came from the dregs of separate over- and under-cooked batches. I guess I should have stuck to breakfast.
1855 Reynolds Rd.
Cost: $6.97 plus $1 tip
On his walls, Dave has a variety of signed headshots of celebrities he has served, from John Sununu to Clint Black. He also displays UT sports memorabilia. I asked for ”everything” after my waitress asked me what I would like. My meal arrived in only four minutes. The burger was good sized with an interesting scalloped edge that must be made with a cookie cutter. It was browned nicely, hot, juicy and topped with iceberg lettuce, finely diced onion, a slice of ripe tomato, pickles and mayonnaise. The serving of fries was ample but under-cooked for my taste.
5623 W. Alexis Rd., Sylvania
Cost: $5.89 plus $1 tip
Sylvania Diner is about the regulars. Most patrons order without a menu and the wait staff calls diners by name. The interior is clean but has a dingy feel. My burger ”with everything” was served hot, with a great, tasty crust. It arrived in eight minutes, topped with a thick slice of melted cheese, two fresh slices of onion, pickles, and mustard. The bun was buttered and grilled. The golden, thick-cut fries were cooked perfectly. The size of the burger and serving of fries was adequate.
8253 Mayberry, Sylvania
Cost: $6.06 plus $1 tip
The clean and bright Mayberry Diner is decorated with nicely displayed black-and-white photographs of ’50s style diners. My meal was served in 13 minutes. The big burger was hot and cooked through but more gray than brown. ”Everything” was a thick slice of onion, a slice of tomato, a leaf of iceberg, pickles, and mayonnaise. The crumbly bun was too small but the golden, peel-on thick-cut fries were nice and crispy.
My meals were better, more relaxing and entertaining than any trip through the fast-food queue.
What is your favorite burger joint in the Toledo area and why? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.