Since 2015, Pendleton’s Nation Kitchen & Bar has been giving back in a big way through its BIT burger promo — a special (and frequently decadent) burger of the month where a portion of proceeds goes to benefit a local nonprofit.
Nation, which takes its name from axe-wielding Temperance warrior Carrie Nation, used a play on words when crafting a name for its community-minded dish. A “bit” is the part of the axe that “makes the most impact,” says Nation executive chef Kayla Robison, and the restaurant’s BIT burger is the one the menu that does the same: One dollar from every burger sold (prices generally fall around $10) goes to that month’s beneficiary.
In 2017, Nation donated more than $4,000 to local causes. This year, they hope to up the ante.
“We get busier every year, so the numbers go up,” Robison says.
March’s BIT burger is a spicy, cheesy collaboration with chef Jordan Hamons of Findlay Market’s Tablespoon Cooking Company.
“We called it the Munchie Madness,” says Robison. “It’s kind of like a little snack burger — everything you’d snack on.”
Topped with Flamin’ Hot Cheetos (a favorite of Hamons), beer cheese sauce, “super lit” sauce, lettuce and pickles on a Sixteen Bricks challah bun, proceeds benefit Northern Kentucky’s Incubator Kitchen Collective, a nonprofit dedicated to helping local food entrepreneurs get to the next level.
February’s chef-driven delight was the Filipino-inspired Quanation Burger, created by Robison and chef Mapi de Verya from Quan Hapa. It benefited ArtWorks. January’s Cool Runnings burger — two Avril-Bleh meat patties topped with Jamaican jerk seasoning and mango slaw — featured hot sauce from local company Dude, Seriously. Dude, Seriously Hot Sauce uses its platform to fight childhood anemia; proceeds from their burger went to Community Care of Southeast Asia, which focuses on childhood nutrition in that country.
June 2016’s Pit Master — an Avril-Bleh deli-brisket-blend patty topped with smoked cheddar, whiskey barbecue sauce, horseradish aioli and onion straws — was so popular, it became a menu staple and took on the restaurant’s name as The Nation burger.
“We like to play on words when we come up with the name of the burger, but when creating the burger we think about a few things — the time of year,” Robison says. “So last year, for March, it being Saint Paddy’s Day, we did a Saint Paddy’s Melt. We’ll also work with nonprofits to kind of get an idea of if we can play with their theme to also inspire us to create the burger.”
Nonprofits and local causes that have benefited from BIT burger sales include Pink Ribbon Girls, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Cincy Stories, Over-the-Rhine Community Housing, YMCA of Greater Cincinnati and more.
“We opened in June of 2015 and started the BIT program in July,” Robison says. “(Proceeds from that burger) actually went toward benefitting my cousin, who was diagnosed with pediatric cancer. He was our first BIT beneficiary and it went toward Children’s Hospital.”
Nation chooses beneficiaries via an application process and by selecting causes they really believe in. April’s burger will benefit the Girl Scouts through a local Girl Scout troop.
“Each of our burgers comes with a Thin Mint cookie — kind of another way for us to give back to our community,” Robison says. “Every year we choose a troop to support and we purchase hundreds of boxes from them. But this year we decided to do a little competition on Facebook and we asked local troops to send us a video of what community project they’re working on and we would choose them to be our main cookie supplier as well as their project will be our main BIT beneficiary for April.
“So these little girls, their school doesn’t have any feminine hygiene dispensers so they have to sneak their products around with them and it’s embarrassing for them — on top of the boys asking questions. Their project was to build lockers in their bathroom so that they can keep their stuff in there and not have to carry it around, because their school doesn’t have lockers either.”
Since the introduction of the BIT burger, Robison says she’s written checks to nonprofits ranging from $300 to $1,000 and the amount just depends on community engagement. The more burgers people eat that month, the more money goes to that cause.
“We’re an awesome bang-for-your-buck burger joint and what we do to separate ourselves from other people, we’re a from-scratch kitchen and we source of all our products locally and we really are about community,” Robison says. “That’s something we’re big into and get involved as much as we can.”
Nation Kitchen & Bar is located at 1200 Broadway St., Pendleton. More info: nationkitchenandbar.com.