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[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Knead

505 North High Street, Columbus OH 43215 (map); 614-228-6323; kneadonhigh.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: Pat LaFrieda beef is juicy and beefy as always. Good local or housemade toppings that are thoughtfully applied.
Want Fries with That? Didn't try'em!
Prices: StuDaBurger, $9.50

I found myself a long way from home two weeks ago during a four-city taco tour throughout the Eastern part of the Midwest. Now if you've spent your life in New York and Boston like I have, the Midwest is an almost uncomfortably friendly place to be in. Waiters talk to you like old friends. Bartenders see you as family. Even the girl who checked my car for damage at the airport rental lot showed a level of friendliness that would have brought tears to my eyes had a service professional in New York exhibited it.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Through the magic networking powers of Twitter and Facebook, I managed to get in touch with professional eaters in pretty much every city we visited who were more than happy to show us around their favorite haunts. The good folks at Columbus Food Adventures not only brought us to a half dozen of the best taco trucks in the city, they also introduced us to Knead, a local-foods restaurant highlighting the goods from Ohio.

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Interestingly enough, though, the one item on their manu that proudly featured a product not from Ohio was the one that caught my eye: the burger, featuring a patty from Pat LaFrieda. This is the furthest afield from New York that I've ever experienced Pat's chopped beef. Turns out the patties travel well.

The StuDaBurger features an 8-ounce patty of LaFrieda blend made with chuck, short rib, and brisket, grilled to a perfect medium rare and topped with Amish cheddar cheese, a few strips of Knead's excellent house-cured bacon, and a whole mess of grilled onions on an aioli-slathered brioche bun.

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LaFrieda's patties are pretty instantly recognizable for the way in which they hold their juices. You take a bite out of this patty and everything—all the juices, the melted fat—just sort of stays in place inside the meat. This is the mark of a perfectly ground patty. As often as you read about juices dripping out of burgers and running down your sleeve, that's actually something you don't want to happen. Juices on your sleeve are juices that aren't in your mouth, right?

And the flavor, of course, is phenomenal. Intensely beefy, well balanced, really good bacon and onions that are sweet and deeply flavored from the grill. It's an all around excellent hamburger, and of course, the service was as friendly as you could ask for.

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About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Managing Editor of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.

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