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Cincinnati Bites
Cuban Sandwich with Rice and Beans from Cuba Cafe

Posted Saturday, February 19, 2011

The world would get along just fine without another Terry's Turf Club review, and yet here I am. As a food blogger, I write it not only as an obligatory rite of passage, but because Terry's is a unique place worth its weight in words.

Did I like my burger? Of course. Did I think it was the best burger in the city? I'd have to go with no. But it's up there. Way up there.

Five of us left work for what once was an impossibility: the chance to eat at Terry's Turf Club for lunch on a weekday. That's right. Terry's now opens its doors at 11 am on Thursdays and Fridays. Praise the meat gods and pass the truffle sauce.

Corey from Hold The Mustard accompanied us on our Turf Club outing. This was his third trip to Terry's. Despite the legendary crowds and lines of people waiting to get seated, Corey is proud to proclaim that not once in his three visits has there been a wait. Indeed, when we arrived, we were only one of three occupied tables. So if you want to get seated, make sure to take Corey with you. His lucky four-leaf clover logo is apparently no accident.

One co-worker of mine has been to Terry's countless times. His son was once given a grade school assignment to write and send a letter to his "favorite restaurant," and he picked Terry's. That very letter is now framed and hangs just inside Terry's front door.

The place is filled with as many neon signs as one could possibly hope to tuck into such a small dining room; there are no other lighting fixtures, so everything basks in a soft, reddish hue. While it's admittedly tiny, the room didn't seem nearly as cramped as other bloggers had led me to believe. Maybe that's because we weren't visiting at a time when it was standing room only and I was never forced to sit at a table with total strangers. There are about 10 tables here, about three of which are booth-sized, along with a full bar.

Other contributors to Terry's distinctive ambiance include the three rounded, bottle-shaped Bevador refrigerators, each antique containing seven rotating shelves of beer and other beverages. They have a nice art-deco feel to them that compliment the neon.

Peanuts are served free of charge in small bowls; the floors are gritty with discarded shells. Minutes after seating ourselves, we greedily cracked open a few and contributed to the ceremonial shell tossing. Why the hell we thought it a good idea to be eating peanuts when we were about to eat a half-pound burger and fries is beyond me.

The laminated menu is two sided and fairly straightforward. Their ordering system is to start with a base $8 burger, then choose from the standard, "free" accoutrements, like lettuce, tomato, American or Swiss cheese, pickle, onion and banana peppers. After that, you can upgrade your burger by paying for more cheese options; a variety of signature specialty sauces; and other exotic toppings, like lump crab meat. One of the cheeses --halloumi--was completely foreign to me...turns out it's a salty goat cheese popular in Greece and the Middle East.

I chose a burger with Swiss cheese, grilled onions and grilled banana peppers, with the addition of the highly acclaimed Burgundy Wine with Wild Mushrooms and Truffle sauce. With fries and a water to drink, my lunch came to about $13.50. Portion sizes for the fries are huge; we accepted the waitress's recommendation to get two orders to split among the five of us.

A good burger from Terry's Turf Club

The burgers all arrived and were presented amid our collective ooh's and ahh's --they were impressive to behold. Towering with fixins and a fluffy, Shadeau Bakery bun, the burgers were accompanied by a gigantic, imposing serrated knife we all shared. Cutting the burger serves the dual role of fitting the damn thing in your mouth and also revealing every delectable layer of flavor from within.

As I took my first bite, the intense, winey tang of the Burgundy with Wild Mushrooms and Truffle sauce opened the floodgates of my salivary glands with such speed that I was momentarily overwhelmed by a luscious agony on either side of my jaw. As I chewed further, the pleasant grilled char from the onions and peppers revealed themselves, followed by the flavor of the medium-cooked meat.

The fresh-cut fries had unfortunately cooled too quickly; by the time I'd tasted them, they were lukewarm and thus, not very spectacular. If I could pair Bard's Burger's fries with Terry's burger, I'd probably have a winning combination.

While I completely enjoyed my burger experience at Terry's, I can't honestly say I liked it better than a couple other burgers in my top five. The Burgundy sauce was most definitely the highlight. But the sauciness meant I lost that crusty, grilled-char sensation from the burger, much like I'd find at Gas Light Cafe. Perhaps next time, I'll order a burger sans sauce.

If you're a burger fan, there's little chance you'll come away disappointed at Terry's Turf Club. It's rightfully earned its reputation as one of the best burgers in Cincinnati.

Terry's Turf Club on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives"
Terry's Turf Club on Urbanspoon
Terry's Turf Club

Price: Moderately Expensive ($11 - $16 per person)
Service: Good
Rating: 3.0 out of 43.0 stars

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Ratings Legend
four stars = Outstanding
three stars = Good
two stars = Fair
one star = Poor
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