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A Case Study: Bareburger Clintonville
Bareburger, a modest-sized chain of now 40+ locations in 9 states and a smattering of international countries, arrived on the Columbus scene in spring of 2014 in what seemed to be a mini-wave of gourmet burger places such as Easton's Flip Side and Gahanna's B Spot. Bareburger differentiated itself by promising a more esoteric take on the standard burger via the use of organic ingredients, vegan options, as well as grass-fed beef and other exotic meats such as elk and ostrich. This combination, plus their creative take on the old downtown Yankee Trader space, was good enough to earn it a Best New Restaurant of 2014 nod by the readers of Columbus Underground.
When the eatery decided to open up a second Clintonville location, their general food philosophies seemed initially to me at least to be a perfect fit for the area. Interestingly enough, as time has gone on, this branch has become for me one of the more interesting eateries operating at this time within the Columbus metro, mainly for how the food scene has developed around this location.
Residing in a new build on High Street near the Old Beechwold area of Clintonville, Bareburger's space is very appealing, with garage doors that open up during warmer days and a mishmash of trendy design features that give the interior an appealing quirkiness, including a bar with plenty of local craft beer taps available for consumption.
After several visits, my spouse and I can say we like Bareburger's burger offerings well enough, though we also can say the portions are generally more on the modest side considering the price. Fries and onion rings rank slightly above the norm, and their kimchi slaw offers a nice little twist from the typically run-of-the-mill cole slaw that many places serve.
It was the last (and so far, best) sandwich that I ordered that got me to thinking of Bareburger's current place in the Columbus restaurant world. Their Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich, which was part of a pretty decent lunch deal (a burger, side and beverage for $12.95, or a $1 extra for a draft beer), was what a sandwich should be, with a crispy exterior, juicy interior, and just plain tasty.
However, this chicken sandwich got me thinking a few blocks southward, to the new arrival which actually finished #2 in that same earlier-referenced Columbus Underground 2014 new restaurant poll in Hot Chicken Takeover. In many ways, HCT is an even more perfect fit for Clintonville. Also, as tasty as this sandwich was, I'm generally going to be thinking of HCT first when I'm craving fried chicken.
Also, the incentive to go more north on High Street beyond where HCT has set up shop has lessened quite a bit. This section of Clintonville promises to remain a culinary magnet for awhile, with the exquisite vegetable creations of North Market's Little Eater soon joining HCT and the nearby existing and popular in their own right "old guard" of Northstar Cafe, Jeni's and Fusian.
Then I started thinking to the north, where Pat & Gracie's and Over The Counter, hamburger-centric bar/diner-styled eats that have made strong debuts with nearby locals. Before Bareburger arrived, your options for a good burger and fries along High Street from Old Beechwold into Worthington were pretty limited, unless you didn't mind places that catered toward the masses (Tee Jaye's, Bob Evans, or any number of fast food places.) Now that's not so much the case.
Finally, Bareburger will have waves of nostalgia lapping at its doors from right across the street this fall. From all I have heard, G.D. Ritzy's, a chain that specialized in burgers, Coney dogs, and premium ice cream, holds a special place with many residents here of a certain age (the chain blazed along for roughly a decade starting in 1980 before over-expansion killed the golden goose.)
And I know for a fact that nostalgia is potent fuel - even now, my most read blog post ever remains the visit my spouse and I made to the lone surviving location of the Clancy's Hamburgers chain, which still plies its trade in Western Ohio (Sidney) and brings back many fond memories for residents in Ohio and surrounding states.
Will Ritzy's (and these other factors) kill the Bareburger Clintonville star, or will they both succeed and hold down the southern end of a future thriving, unofficial "North High Street Hamburger Corridor"? It's definitely something to ponder over a big juicy burger, methinks.
4560 N High St. (Clintonville - Google Maps)
Columbus, OH 43214
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