Today's reader recommendation comes from New York-based freelance journalist Matthew Moll of Taste of Local (@tasteoflocal), who recently ate a great burger during a trip to Cincinnati. Thanks, Matthew! If anyone else wants to share some burger intel, here's how to do it. —The Mgmt.
Quatman Ave Norwood, Ohio 45212 (map); 513-731-4370;
Cooking Method: Flat top grill
Short Order: No frills burger at a no frills place. Quatman's is a celebration of fresh beef
Want Fries with That? Skip the fries; focus on burgering
Prices: 1/4-pound burger, $4.75, cheeseburger, $5; Mon., Thurs., and Sat. special: cheeseburger, fries, drink, $6.57
Quatman Café hasn't picked up on burger fads like multi-aged meat blends, locavore etymology, or reusable ceramic plates. What you will find is a minimalist burger, the same burger that has fed several generations of Norwoodians.
The cheeseburger at Quatman Cafe is the definition of basic. Meat. American cheese. White bread bun. No spices, no choice of toppings, add your own ketchup. And you can ask the chef for a specific doneness, but it is unlikely you will bite into anything other than medium-well.
The quarter-pound patty is cooked on a flat top grill and served with a square of American cheese, a few pickles, and a slice of onion. This doesn't sound like much, so why is Quatman Café usually included in Cincinnati's "Best Burger'" discussion? The beauty is in its simplicity and the grill master's good timing. Although my burger came out medium to medium well (despite asking for rare), it was surprisingly not overcooked. The patty dripped the right amount of juices and it was seared to a crisp on the outside. The standard issue bun held its own against the demands of the run-off, which my taste buds, hands, and lap all appreciated.
What defines this burger is not only the way the meat is prepared but the meat itself. Quatman Café receives a daily delivery of ground quarter pound patties from Wassler Meats, which boasts of its Butler County raised beef that is grass and corn fed and steroid and hormone free.
Quatman Café's appeal isn't just its unadulterated burgers, but also its straightforward, stripped-down, chillaxin-in-your-friend's-basement atmosphere, which of course leads to affordability. The Monday, Thursday, and Saturday special is a cheeseburger, fries, and drink for $6.57. The drink can include Hudy Delight if you are looking to rage. Even if you love fries, I recommend you skip the special and the unremarkable potato duds and spring instead for another $5 cheeseburger. You will get some stale chips (American, not British) thrown in if salty spuds are a must-have, but the fries, while also simple and uncomplicated, are forgettable. Really, just stick to the burgers.
You will not find many of the things at Quatman Café that make other burger meccas famous and they don't care—sticking to what they do is part of the charm. But you will sample what locals have been eating since 1966: a no nonsense burger that pleases the palate as well as the wallet. Served on a paper plate. —Matthew Moll
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