This weekend's burger foray took us to Bellevue, Kentucky, just east of downtown Cincinnati. It's a forty-minute drive from our place in West Chester, and in the process, we pass by the exit for Terry's Turf Club (our top-ranked burger in the Cincy area). That means Virgil's Cafe (warning, auto-playing Tom Waits) is going to have to be pretty spectacular to merit a second visit.
Cincinnati Magazine's review says...
- #6 - Virgil's Cafe
Virgil's feels too fancy to qualify as a burger joint. Clean and crisp black linen tablecloths covered with butcher paper and overly polite waiters just don't scream out "Burger time!" But don't let that fool you; the modestly named "beef hamburger" - grilled, succulent beef topped with sauteed mushrooms and caramelized onions on a multigrain kaiser roll - equals hamburger heaven. And do not miss out on their sweet potato fries with a side of ancho-mayo.
- Their 'beef hamburger' (yes, seriously, that's what it's called on the menu - as though a hamburger would be anything but a beef hamburger) is, indeed tasty. The beef is nicely moist if a little greasy. I went for medium and got something on the pink side of that. The Girl went for 'something on the done side of medium' and go exactly what she'd asked for with very little pink left in the center. The patties are plain but high-quality beef (100% prime chuck according to the menu) with almost no spices, something I missed as the burger needed a bit more salt. The patty is oddly perfect - evenly thick throughout, perfectly round - which could be because Matt Buschle (owner, chef of Virgil's - check out his vimeo channel, warning: fat man) makes them in bulk or because they're pre-bought, I dunno. Burger - 6
- The menu says the burgers come with sauteed mushrooms and onions and a choice of cheeses (Swiss, cheddar, or blue). For an extra $2 each, you can add pastrami, bacon, or an egg. I went for cheddar and bacon. The Girl went with Swiss and her onions on the side. She only likes the onions if they're cooked to death. Her onions weren't nearly dark enough for her, but I enjoyed them and appreciated the double helping. The cheese was - as you can see above - nicely melted. The bacon was tasty and very crisp without being remotely burned (I think they deep fry their bacon.) The onions and mushrooms were sauteed without being too dark. Toppings - 7
- The burgers don't come with any fires, only kettle chips which I'll admit we never saw. For an extra buck and a quarter each, we swapped out the chips in favor of sweet potato fries with the threatened ancho mayo. The fries came out nicely hot and decently crisp (hard to ever get sweet potato fries totally crisp with their high amount of sugar). There wasn't much spice on them at all, and they could have used more salt and pepper. The fries didn't stay hot for too long, but that's partially a product of how thinly they were cut. I didn't see any reason to rave about the fries. They're fine but nothing special. Plus we had to pay extra for them. The ancho mayo was indeed ancho-ey and mayo-ey but just fine. Fries - 6
- I was surprised with the ambiance in the place. It's a converted house that's been turned into a really attractive restaurant with beautiful wood work throughout. The seating breaks down into three or so areas, each with a little different flair and rotating artwork (for sale) on the walls. I dug the place, but it is a little more high class than most of the joints we've been getting burgers. Seating is limited, and reservations are strongly recommended (OpenTable is available online). The service was busy but pleasant. Ambiance - 8
- Ah, here's the rub. Burger is $10. Bacon another $2. Fries an extra $1.25. Diet Coke was $2. That's a total of $15.25 for burger, fries, and a drink. This isn't a cheap burger. Cost - 1
- Virgil's is a neighborhood place, and Matt makes nearly every bit of food in house. He's a big proponent of local, quality food. I'm all in favor of that. I hope that their non-burger options were better. The burger was fine but won't be drawing me back in. +1
- The burger bun was housemade but far too dense. The bottom was nicely substantial and became tasty as the juices soaked into it. The top, however, was too chewy without that juice. The Girl brought part of her burger home and was almost repulsed at how dense and chewy the top was the next day. The buns are pretty but too heavy. -1
- We sampled their appetizers with a serving of their jalapeno hush puppies (pictured above). They had nice flavor and were pleasantly moist. They were, however, small and not terribly numerous. At $4 they didn't feel like a bargain. +/- 0
- It's in friggin' Bellevue. That's frickin' far from home.
- We did stop at the Party Source on the way home, so there is that.
- Terry's Turf Club - 45
- Cafe de Wheels - 44
- Senate - 43
- Stuffed on Vine - 38
- Five Guys Burgers and Fries - 36
- Roxy's - 36
- VanZandt - 34
- Gabby's - 34
- Oakley Pub & Grill - 34
- Quatman's - 32 / 34.5
- Troy's - 32
- By Golly's - 32
- Wildflower Cafe - 31.25 (scaled from 26/40)
- Virgil's Cafe - 28
- The Pub at Rookwood Mews - 28
- Smashburger - 28
- Habits Cafe - 28
- Graffiti Burger - 27
- Arthur's - 26
- Sammy's - 25
- Gordo's - 20