Cinci’s Best Burger? Vol. II
For more than 85 years residents of Cincinnati's gorgeous Mt. Lookout neighbourhood have called Zip's Cafe their local watering hole. Opened in 1926 it's made it's reputation not on it's service, beer lineup, (which incidentally now features offerings from the terrific Great Lakes Brewing Company) or quaint atmosphere but on it's burgers.
Such is their reputation for burgers that they're often rated as best in Cincinnati by local diners, bloggers and media outlets alike. In fact, they're burgers are such an institution in the area they resisted adding bacon for almost their entire existence. However, in the spring of 2013 they gave into the smoky, salty overlord. At 5pm EDT Wednesday, April 24, 2013 they held their bacon release party. An event marked earlier in the day by Cinci mayor Mark Mallory declaring it "Zip's Cafe Day" in the Queen City.
What makes their burgers so good?? 2 words: Flat Top. Well, that cooker of all things delicious and of course quality ground beef delivered daily by Bleh-Avril & Sons, Inc. and the soft honey egg buns from Klosterman Bakin Company on which they are served.
The cafe sits right in Mt. Lookout Square and has an almost European feel to it. Hanging baskets adorn the facade and a nice green awning punctuates the front door.
Inside it's dimly lit adding some ambiance and is rather a tight squeeze. The main dining room out front seats about 30. Behind that is the "Code Room" which is really just the bar area and behind that the kitchen. There is a number of beautiful old Cinci-centric photos scattered through out. A toy train circles the dining room and pokes its head into the bar for a short stretch.
But enough of all that, time to get to the million dollar question; are they the best burgers the city has to offer?? In my mind, no. That's not to say that they aren't fabulous eats though. So let's get a look shall we??
The Chili Cheese Fries are good even if they are pretty low brow. Shoestring fries are covered in a very tomatoey chili and smothered in cheese sauce. It really is a very tasty dish however the complete antithises of fine dining. They very much reminded me of the ones at Ritzy Lunch in Clarksburg, WV. Where the chili and cheese almost completely dominate. While I think the dish would be better suited with a heftier fry, I'd miss this mess if they changed it. As with Ritzy Lunch, it was almost like chili cheese potato soup. Which as I'm sure you can imagine is a good thing.
Their Burger is a text book rendition of the Classic American Cheeseburger. Fresh ground beef, simply seasoned, done on a flat top and served on a Wonderbread style bun. It's right in line with the likes of Miller's Tavern in Detroit. It's absolutely perfect, tasty, juicy and beefy. It practically melts in your mouth.
I just couldn't resist the Train Wreck Burger. This is their basic sandwich with deli ham, three cheeses and Mettwurst. It also comes with a host of condiments but I skipped most of them. I don't care for tomatoes on a burger and for the most part, can't stand lettuce on one. There are of course exceptions to rules but I wasn't about to make one here. Anyway, all the flavours worked nicely together and at times took turns standing out. Delicious.
Well there you have it folks, some great burgers in a historic Cincinnati pub located in a quaint part of town.
You can find Zip's Cafe at 1036 Delta Ave, Cincinnati, Oh.