June 21, 2010

Lonnieburger Baskets: Terry's Turf Club

Now this is the stuff...

This is the burger that we set out looking for.

Terry's Turf Club...recently of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives...one of Food Network's 50 States, 50 Burgers...Restaurant Widow's choice for best burger in Ohio...

Terry's is a decent drive away from The Homestead out in the exurb of West Chester, so The Girl - and Steph the first time, The Mother-in-Law the second time - had a chance to work up a bit of an appetite.  Our first visit was on a Monday evening, and we had a wait of around fifteen minutes, a short wait from what we'd heard about Terry's typical evening crowd, and got to share one of their typical six-person tables with another trio.  The second visit came just after their four o'clock weekday opening, and we were able to walk right in and sit down at a table we didn't even have to share.

  • The meat is outstanding - understandable since it's apparently Angus chuck with what seems to be very little spice being used - and the burgers are marvelously grilled.  The grilling starts with the large patties - I'm guessing eight ounces each - being dropped on a buttered grill, salted and peppered, then patted down to ensure good contact with each part of the patty.  Beside the burgers are the buns which are griddled in a bit of butter giving them a marvelously golden crust to stand up to the burgers themselves.  The beef, here, is the story, and it's a masterwork of the finest order.  That beef is then perfectly cooked with crisp edges and just barely pink centers.  I was lucky enough to taste just the burger itself as my second one was served with a piece broken off and fallen onto the plate.  Oh, wow...oh, wow.  Burger - 10 (if there's something better out there, I'm going to have to go all the way to eleven.)
  • Even though the burgers themselves are effectively perfect, it's the toppings for those burgers where Terry's is supposed to be legendary, offering a half dozen special toppings that change every few months.  Their signature topping - which I sadly haven't tried yet - is a mushroom and Burgundy sauce that everyone raves about.  This is offered beside - at the moment - a rosemary garlic curry that tempted me and a trio of other sauces that had less interest for me.  The standard - and free - topping are fairly standard: tomato, lettuce, onion, american or swiss cheese, and banana peppers.  I particularly enjoyed the peppers and onions grilled - in butter beside the burgers and bun on the griddle, of course.  All were of high quality as was the bacon - a bit pricey at $3 for three slices - which was thick-cut and flavorful, pre-cooked before being throw back on the grill while the burgers cooked, coming out crisp and perfectly finished.  After the burgers are cooked on the first side, they are flipped over and any cooked toppings or sauces added on with the cheese added on top while the second side cooks letting the cheese melt down across the totality of the burger and any grilled peppers and onions. With all the toppings, the burgers end up fairly tall, so they're presented to the table with a serrated knife for the splitting into more easily devoured parts.   Toppings - 9 (They might be higher, but I haven't tried the sauces just yet.)

Photoa from Cincinnati Re-Adventure and Glen Hartong


  • The Terry's experience starts outside with a dozen old, wooden theater seats with nice padding outside allowing comfortable waiting experiences.  The seats are flanked with arm-waving signs greeting guests to the Terry's experience along with at least a dozen neon signs from days gone by.  Inside, the neon continues, casting a faint red glow throughout with dozens of old neon beer signs on every available space and a trio of gorgeous bevadors outlined in neon, themselves.  The restaurant is small, seating no more than fifty people at any one time, often at communal tables due to the necessity of the always-present line of people hoping to get into Terry's.  Most of the tables have a good view of the bar and the grill - a please to see worked on our second visit by Terry Carter, himself, who stopped by to visit our table when he saw us admiring his grilling skills.  Ambiance - 10

Photos by MorrisTai and ChemGuy

  • Terry's has to have a weakness, right?  If their burgers are that awesome, their fries have to stink, right?  Sadly, no.  The fries are miraculous, too.  They're great.  The orders are huge - easily enough for us to share three ways among three hearty eaters.  The fries are freshly cut each day and fried to perfection before being simply but perfectly seasoned - I don't even know that there were salt or pepper shakers on the tables because nothing - the fries, included - needed them.  The fries were on the thick side of square profiles - maybe 3/8 of an inch across - and fried to a dark, crispy finish while staying fluffy inside.  Fries - 10

  • This is the only, minor bugaboo with Terry's.  It's not expensive, but it's not cheap either.  The basic burger - with cheese if you want it - is $7.00.  Fries are $3.50 but serve three easily, so I'll split that into $1.17 per person.  My drink - a diet coke - was a can of coke but was served with a highball glass with ice and cost $2.00 - a bit much for a can of coke that I could easily have brought in.  Bacon is, however, $3.  So, for the bacon cheeseburger with fries and a diet coke - my standard of cost - ends up being $13.17.  If you eschew the bacon - which I did the second time and found that these burgers are so awesome that they don't need the miracle that is good bacon, you can save a few bucks and earn Terry's a few more points.  Price - 3
Other Stuff
  • Terry's has a full bar and a good beer selection. +1
  • Terry Carter - the eponymous owner - stopped by our table and chatted with us commenting that his mother from the hills of Kentucky taught him that you always need butter and bacon for anything.  He was personable up close and hilarious to watch him cook. +1
  • The bun was also grilled and would have been good enough to eat on its own, reminiscent of a grilled bun at Miami University's student union cafeteria. +1
Total - 45 (out of a perfect 50)

If Terry could somehow make his burgers available for half the price that they currently are, this would be nirvana.  As it is, it's only earthly perfection.

Summary rankings so far...
  • Terry's Turf Club - 45 (out of 50)
  • Quatman's - 32 / 34.5
  • Sammy's - 26
Next up, Kuma's Corner from Chicago and Cafe de Wheels in downtown Cincinnati.  If they beat Terry's, I don't know that I'll be blogging about them, however, because I may just have keeled right over dead from pleasure.

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