Takeout Hero: Ollie’s Trolley


Photograph by Jeremy Kramer

Mr. Ollie managed to do what a millionaire fast-food magnate couldn’t—sell a decent hamburger downtown. After former Kentucky governor John Y. Brown Jr.’s Ollie’s Trolley burger chain folded, Mr. Ollie (real name Marvin Smith) bought the downtown trolley car building at a sheriff’s auction in ’93 and parked it permanently in OTR.


Photograph by Jeremy Kramer

He’s been flipping the original Ollieburger there with a smile ever since. Despite the chain folding, the original spices and Ollie sauce are still available. Smith credits these as the magic in those third-pound that even President Obama has given a thumbs up.


Photograph by Jeremy Kramer

Juicy as all get-out, the flame-charred burger gets a healthy hit of mayo-based Ollie sauce that hides the lettuce, pickles and cheese inside that big bun. And those slender crispy fries get a sprinkle of the secret spices, too. But a basic burger stand Ollie’s Trolley is not. Smith added a full rib joint menu, along with a few fish specials. And his Georgia heritage is apparent in the slew of home-cooking sides—tender collards and a helping of earthy black-eyed peas alongside that crispy deep-fried fish make you wonder why every day isn’t a Friday during Lent.

Marvin Smith mans the grill.

Photograph by Jeremy Kramer

Ollie is also open for breakfast and you gotta try the Lincoln B. Ware Cup, named for Cincinnati’s radio legend. It’s a paper cup of eggs scrambled with melted cheese, buttered grits, hometown sausage, and crisp bacon. Consider it a breakfast McFlurry for people who need a tasty wake up call.

Ollie’s Trolley, 1607 Central Ave., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 381-6100. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner Mon–Sat (but call first).

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