y Golly’s first opened in Milford in the early 1980s. It quickly became a local institution, bolstered by inexpensive food and drinks. On Thanksgiving Day 2007, an electrical fire gutted the building. Owner Tom Seamans knew immediately that he wanted to reopen the tavern while making some changes to make the restaurant more family friendly, including adding a fireplace and larger windows. Truthfully, the restaurant still looks like a tavern. That’s OK, though, because anything fancier and one might be disappointed by the food, which is solidly in the “tavern” realm.
My family and I walked into By Golly’s on a Friday night, not sure if we would find the place packed. It was busy but not crazy, and we were greeted immediately and seated just as quickly. Our server quickly took our drink orders and chatted with us a bit about popular menu items. We opened our menus to find typical tavern appetizers, sandwiches and burgers, but we also saw steak, jambalaya and fish, which broadened the options.
We settled on pretzel bites ($5.50) and chicken wings ($7 for 10) to start. The pretzel bites come with cheese sauce that is labeled as “queso,” but it is much more like a beer cheese. They’re also deep-fried, which is not disclosed on the menu. I’m not sure they need to be deep-fried; not that I’m complaining, but it seems like overkill. The wings were larger than what I normally see at a tavern and were delicious. The medium sauce wasn’t too spicy and the wings weren’t dripping with it. With the wings you get your choice of ranch or blue cheese dressings and celery. I probably could have made a meal of just the wings, but we were there for burgers.
By Golly’s is known for its burgers, and we knew we had to try at least one of the 18 varieties on offer. Each burger is made with 10 ounces of beef and is served on a Kaiser roll. Not only can you get your average loaded burger (the Lila, $6.99, with all the traditional burger accompaniments like tomato, lettuce, onion and condiments), you can also try the MCFD Fire Alarm burger ($8.99, with Andouille sausage, pepper jack cheese, Triple-X hot sauce and jalapeño “bottle caps” — fried slices of breaded jalapeño pepper), the Grilled Ham N Burger ($8.99, topped with sliced ham, served between two grilled cheese sandwiches; yes, sandwiches) or the mother of all burgers, the Jammin’ Joe burger ($16.95, triple cheeseburger — that’s 2 pounds, all the fixings and a pound of fries). The Jammin’ Joe burger comes with stipulations: you must, while timed by a stopwatch, eat the whole thing to make the Wall of Fame, or fail and make the Wall of Shame. The record currently stands at seven minutes and 26 seconds. We didn’t try the challenge … this time.
My daughter saw a Reuben sandwich ($6.99, with chips) on the menu and decided to forego a burger. The Reuben was fantastic, just the right amount of corned beef and sauerkraut, with a nice crunch to the grilled rye bread. I chose the Route 50 burger (a Lila with your choice of cheese and chips, $7.99; substitute fries for 50 cents).
My only complaint is the Kaiser roll. It seems too big, even for a 10-ounce burger, and it’s really thick, making for some rather gummy bites. The burger patty was cooked to order, had some nice char on it and was seasoned well.
My husband took a chance and ordered one of the specialty burgers, the Little Miami River BBQ ($8). This burger is topped with By Golly’s homemade pulled pork, Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce, cheddar cheese and an onion ring. It was really quite delicious. I didn’t expect to like it so much. The cheddar cheese is lost among the rest of the toppings, but the pulled pork is fantastic and the onion ring isn’t at all greasy or “old oil” flavored. This isn’t a burger you’d eat every week (though you’d want to), but for a once-in-a-while treat, it’s hands-down fantastic.
By Golly’s also has a basement lounge, The Underground, with darts, pool tables and live entertainment. Outside seating is provided as well, weather permitting, and the dining room’s noise level doesn’t reach unbearable even when it’s nearly full. There is trivia every Tuesday and karaoke every Thursday.
The staff we encountered were all incredibly warm and attentive, and I can see why By Golly’s is as popular as it is. I’ve got my eye on those wings, so I’m sure we’ll be back. Maybe next time one of us will try the Jammin’ Joe challenge!
Go: 714 Lila Ave., Milford
Hours: 11 a.m.–noon Sunday, 11-2:30 a.m. Monday-Friday and 11–2:30 a.m. Saturday
Entrée Prices: $6.99-$19.99
Red Meat Alternatives: Some appetizers, salads and sides