February 28, 2020

20 Hole-in-the-Wall Cincinnati Burger Joints You Need to Visit

The Queen City is full of tasty burger spots, and what these unassuming eateries lack in appearance, they more than make up for in flavor. From classic joints that have been around for decades, to more recent casual restaurants, this round-up proves that delicious things come in humble packages.
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Zip's Cafe 
1036 Delta Ave., Mount Lookout
Zip’s has been doing burgers right since 1926, and generations of East Side Cincinnatians call Zipburgers their favorite. If you’re feeling like a light meal, order a classic Zip burger, with fresh, flame-broiled meat from local butcher Avril-Bleh & Sons, nestled in a toasted honey-egg bun from Klosterman Baking Company, and a side of super crispy onion rings. Or go big with the Girth Burger, a Zip burger topped with a split Avril-Bleh mettwurst. With worn wood flooring and dark wood paneling, the small space is separated into a dining area and a bar by a saloon-style door. Head to the back bar for a local beer on draft while you wait for space at a booth or a seat at one of the shared family-style tables. 
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Zip's Cafe

1036 Delta Ave., Mount Lookout
Zip’s has been doing burgers right since 1926, and generations of East Side Cincinnatians call Zipburgers their favorite. If you’re feeling like a light meal, order a classic Zip burger, with fresh, flame-broiled meat from local butcher Avril-Bleh & Sons, nestled in a toasted honey-egg bun from Klosterman Baking Company, and a side of super crispy onion rings. Or go big with the Girth Burger, a Zip burger topped with a split Avril-Bleh mettwurst. With worn wood flooring and dark wood paneling, the small space is separated into a dining area and a bar by a saloon-style door. Head to the back bar for a local beer on draft while you wait for space at a booth or a seat at one of the shared family-style tables.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Dunlap Cafe
1926 Dunlap St., Over-the-Rhine
Dunlap Cafe has been operational since 1936 with an emphasis on home-cooked meals, all-day breakfast and, recently, draft beer. Breakfast sandwiches, omelets and other early morning classics are available all day long with a selection of traditional and specialty burger and sandwich options for seriously reasonable prices.
Photo: Paige Deglow

Dunlap Cafe

1926 Dunlap St., Over-the-Rhine
Dunlap Cafe has been operational since 1936 with an emphasis on home-cooked meals, all-day breakfast and, recently, draft beer. Breakfast sandwiches, omelets and other early morning classics are available all day long with a selection of traditional and specialty burger and sandwich options for seriously reasonable prices.
Photo: Paige Deglow
City View Tavern
403 Oregon St., Mt. Adams
A hillside dive and home of one of the best spicy bloody marys and best views in town. The burgers are damn tasty, too. Meet the Big Ted Deluxe: six ounces of griddle-cooked, handmade beef patty with American cheese, mustard, lettuce, pickles, mayo, onion, ketchup, tomatoes, served in a plastic basket with a bag of chips. 
Photo: Holden Mathis

City View Tavern

403 Oregon St., Mt. Adams
A hillside dive and home of one of the best spicy bloody marys and best views in town. The burgers are damn tasty, too. Meet the Big Ted Deluxe: six ounces of griddle-cooked, handmade beef patty with American cheese, mustard, lettuce, pickles, mayo, onion, ketchup, tomatoes, served in a plastic basket with a bag of chips.
Photo: Holden Mathis
Salem Gardens
6396 Salem Road, Anderson Township
Each burger from Salem Gardens is served in a basket with coleslaw and fries. Despite a full menu, Salem’s burgers get people talking, from their Cowboy Burger, topped with colby cheese, bacon and barbecue sauce, to their Bert Burger that comes with Swiss cheese, grilled onions and sauteed mushrooms. With 10 basket options to choose from, the combination of flavors is up to you. 
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Salem Gardens

6396 Salem Road, Anderson Township
Each burger from Salem Gardens is served in a basket with coleslaw and fries. Despite a full menu, Salem’s burgers get people talking, from their Cowboy Burger, topped with colby cheese, bacon and barbecue sauce, to their Bert Burger that comes with Swiss cheese, grilled onions and sauteed mushrooms. With 10 basket options to choose from, the combination of flavors is up to you.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Herb & Thelma’s
718 W. Pike St., Covington
Opened in 1939 as Heine’s Cafe, the small drop-ceilinged dining room is what some may call a “hole in the wall," but the simple and delectable burgers are made to order and served by an incredibly friendly staff. 
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Herb & Thelma’s

718 W. Pike St., Covington
Opened in 1939 as Heine’s Cafe, the small drop-ceilinged dining room is what some may call a “hole in the wall," but the simple and delectable burgers are made to order and served by an incredibly friendly staff.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Tucker’s Restaurant
1637 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine
This small family-owned eatery has been serving up classic diner dishes since 1957. Through the decades, Vine Street has seen many changes, but Tucker’s hasn't budged. With Findlay Market around the corner, Joe and Carla Tucker have been able to put a fresh twist on many classics, as well as have a steady source of produce for their housemade condiments and goetta. From vegetarian chili to double decker burgers, there’s a little something for everyone, at a price point all diners can appreciate. Just about every item on the menu — with the exception of the $13 steak and eggs — are $10 and under, with many sticking around $5.50 and under. 
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Tucker’s Restaurant

1637 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine
This small family-owned eatery has been serving up classic diner dishes since 1957. Through the decades, Vine Street has seen many changes, but Tucker’s hasn't budged. With Findlay Market around the corner, Joe and Carla Tucker have been able to put a fresh twist on many classics, as well as have a steady source of produce for their housemade condiments and goetta. From vegetarian chili to double decker burgers, there’s a little something for everyone, at a price point all diners can appreciate. Just about every item on the menu — with the exception of the $13 steak and eggs — are $10 and under, with many sticking around $5.50 and under.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Blue Jay Restaurant
4154 Hamilton Ave., Northside
Since its opening in 1967, the Blue Jay Restaurant has, for the most part, remained the same, boasting a nostalgic image and homestyle eats. As with any good local diner, there’s Cincinnati-style chili in bowls, on coneys and 3-ways, plus classics like all-day breakfast, burgers, double decker sandwiches and homemade pie.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Blue Jay Restaurant

4154 Hamilton Ave., Northside
Since its opening in 1967, the Blue Jay Restaurant has, for the most part, remained the same, boasting a nostalgic image and homestyle eats. As with any good local diner, there’s Cincinnati-style chili in bowls, on coneys and 3-ways, plus classics like all-day breakfast, burgers, double decker sandwiches and homemade pie.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Quatman Cafe
2434 Quatman Ave., Norwood; 224 W. Main St., Mason
This no-frills grill has been serving Norwood patrons since 1966, when it was founded by high school buddies Albert “Albo” Imm and Ken Talmage. Their half-pound burgers are the epitome of simple: no special spice mix, standard 80:20 meat to fat ratio, served with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle on a plain old paper plate. Current owner Matt Imm says what makes them stand out is the fresh, local ingredients (everything but the tomatoes and lettuce are purchased from Cincinnati companies). Fans of the burger especially love dining on Monday, Thursday and Saturday, when $8 will get you a cheeseburger, fries or onion rings and a drink. It’s hard to go wrong with that, but if you want to change it up, Quatman’s also sells some grub you don’t find very often — fancy a bowl of mock turtle soup? Quatman’s also has a second location in Mason. 
Photo: Paige Deglow

Quatman Cafe

2434 Quatman Ave., Norwood; 224 W. Main St., Mason
This no-frills grill has been serving Norwood patrons since 1966, when it was founded by high school buddies Albert “Albo” Imm and Ken Talmage. Their half-pound burgers are the epitome of simple: no special spice mix, standard 80:20 meat to fat ratio, served with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle on a plain old paper plate. Current owner Matt Imm says what makes them stand out is the fresh, local ingredients (everything but the tomatoes and lettuce are purchased from Cincinnati companies). Fans of the burger especially love dining on Monday, Thursday and Saturday, when $8 will get you a cheeseburger, fries or onion rings and a drink. It’s hard to go wrong with that, but if you want to change it up, Quatman’s also sells some grub you don’t find very often — fancy a bowl of mock turtle soup? Quatman’s also has a second location in Mason.
Photo: Paige Deglow
Mad Mike’s Burgers and Fries
Multiple locations including 194 N. Brookwood Ave., Hamilton
Mad Mike’s certainly isn’t fancy but the burgers — made with black angus beef — are really good. These two-patty sandwiches are juicy with crispy edges and the topping options might be one reason for the “mad" adjective. Signature offerings include the Rockefeller, a blissful combination of blue cheese, tangy-sweet cranberry chutney, crispy fried onions and cilantro mayo. Or the bigger-than-your-head Hawaii-Five-O, with caramelized crushed pineapple, beer-battered onion strings, barbecue sauce, American cheese and bacon. 
Photo via madmikesburger.com

Mad Mike’s Burgers and Fries

Multiple locations including 194 N. Brookwood Ave., Hamilton
Mad Mike’s certainly isn’t fancy but the burgers — made with black angus beef — are really good. These two-patty sandwiches are juicy with crispy edges and the topping options might be one reason for the “mad" adjective. Signature offerings include the Rockefeller, a blissful combination of blue cheese, tangy-sweet cranberry chutney, crispy fried onions and cilantro mayo. Or the bigger-than-your-head Hawaii-Five-O, with caramelized crushed pineapple, beer-battered onion strings, barbecue sauce, American cheese and bacon.
Photo via madmikesburger.com
Bard’s Burgers & Chili
3620 Decoursey Ave., Latonia
This eatery is tucked in downtown Latonia, but is certainly worth the drive. Located in a former chili parlor, Bard’s specializes in both burgers and Cincinnati-style chili (hence the name). Burgers are made with fresh, never-frozen ground chuck, infused with spices, seared on a flattop and served on a toasted bun. Their Chili Cheese Burger is made with their own Cincinnati-style chili, and topped with American cheese, lettuce, pickle and mayo; the Purist strips it down to just beef and the bun; and the Donut Burger comes topped with American cheese, lettuce, pickle and mayo on a donut bun from neighboring Moonrise Doughnuts (add bacon and make it a 5.0 Burger). 
Photo via Facebook.com/Bardsburgers1

Bard’s Burgers & Chili

3620 Decoursey Ave., Latonia
This eatery is tucked in downtown Latonia, but is certainly worth the drive. Located in a former chili parlor, Bard’s specializes in both burgers and Cincinnati-style chili (hence the name). Burgers are made with fresh, never-frozen ground chuck, infused with spices, seared on a flattop and served on a toasted bun. Their Chili Cheese Burger is made with their own Cincinnati-style chili, and topped with American cheese, lettuce, pickle and mayo; the Purist strips it down to just beef and the bun; and the Donut Burger comes topped with American cheese, lettuce, pickle and mayo on a donut bun from neighboring Moonrise Doughnuts (add bacon and make it a 5.0 Burger).
Photo via Facebook.com/Bardsburgers1