Best Burgers 2015: What’s In a name?

The stories behind the names of some of the city’s favorite joints.

Gordo’s Pub & Grill, Norwood
Raymond Gordo found the ideal location—just up from Xavier University—in 2008. He named the JeanRo Burger after his former boss, who he says, gave him a hard time about the switch to bar food. Of course, now that de Cavel has opened Le Bar a Boeuf, the tables have turned. “He says, ‘Eets not a bur-GAIR joint,’ ” Gordo recounts. “Well it is, Chef.”

Zip’s Café, Mt. Lookout
While the name of the original owner appears lost to memory, the legendary Zip burger has been pleasing palates since 1926. Mike Burke—Zip’s fifth owner—bought the place in January. “We like to say Zip’s used to be a bar that happened to have a burger,” Burke says. “Now it’s a family restaurant that happens to have a bar.”

Paula’s Café, Downtown
Paula Kirk started with a soup-and-sandwich spot in the 525 building in 1990. She added burgers in 2007 when she moved her place to Fourth Street. Today she gets her buns from Shadeau Bakery and her beef from Avril’s—coarse ground, with a bit of extra fat to keep it moist and flavorful. For a while, she thought about franchising. “Every city can use a Paula’s,” she says. “I should have gone on Shark Tank a long time ago.”

Arthur’s Restaurant, Hyde Park
It opened in 1947 as the Allen E. Bradford Restaurant; in 1948 it became Apke’s Grill; in 1956 it was called Art’s—presumably after a new owner, though “we don’t know anything about him,” says B.J. Hughes, one of three current co-owners. Then sometime in the 1970s, Arthur’s appeared on the door. Ergo, there is no actual Arthur. But the people in the wall mural by Jerry Dowling? They’re all real.

Doris & Sonny’s Homelike Restaurant, Miamitown
In 1963, Doris and Sonny Hugentobler began dishing up comfort food for pre-Interstate truckers and travelers. Their son Kent took over in 1998. “We always had a burger on the menu,” he recalls. In fact, on Sunday nights the whole family would make and freeze a week’s worth of patties. Now Hugentobler makes ’em fresh. But he says, “I still have the patty press.”

Terry’s Turf Club, East End
Why a turf club? Terry Carter opened his Eastern Avenue burger shack in 2007, using a vintage sign from the old Latonia Turf Club (now known as Turfway Park) for the name. “Saved me $5,000,” he says. The former owner of Neon’s says he started with a 24-inch grill; now he has three different grills. And a zillion toppings. Why? Because “the food is supposed to be fun.”

Herb ’N Thelma’s Tavern, Covington
Henry Boehmker opened the place in 1939 as Heine’s Café; Herb and Thelma, Henry’s son and daughter-in-law, kept the lights on. Two more owners followed, before Joe and Suzanne Fessler bought it in January. It’s very…retro. Says Joe: “You really can’t understand it unless you come in.”

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