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Monday, July 8, 2013

Kewpee Burger Lima, Ohio (located on Bellefontaine Ave./309 west of Interstate 75, take exit 125)

  When a burger place has been around close to 90 years, they must be doing something right.  Today I'll highlight Kewpee Hamburgers.  The closest Kewpee to the Dayton area is up in Lima.  They actually have more than 1 location there, but the easiest to access is the one on 309, just about half a mile west of I-75. (exit 125)

The outside looks pretty much like any fast food place from the 60's, and less like the diners that made the name Kewpee famous starting in the 1920's.  The chain was named after the Kewpee Dolls that were very popular in the 1920's, when they were brainstorming for a name.

  At one time there were over 200 different locations in the chain, which was founded in 1923.  This makes them the 2nd oldest burger chain in America.  (only White Castle is older, beating them by 2 years)  They still wear those hats that food prep guys wore back in the 20's, and you can see the food being fixed out in the open, not hidden in the back.  They use only locally produced beef.  A lady at the counter told me that the original Lima location was built in 1928.

The burger looks a bit messy, doesn't it?  However, that is the way I like it, with plenty of catsup and onion.  The iconic Kewpee Doll is featured on the wrapper.  Taste was good, and I could tell that the burger was not doctored up with fillers like a lot of chains do.  It tasted much like a homemade burger made with 100% ground beef.  I'll admit that I have some fond memories of this place - I grew up about 25 miles away, and we stopped to eat here about once a year when I was a kid.

  This is a really nice price for a double cheeseburger, especially considering that the beef for the burgers is locally produced.  It's also one of the few places where I've seen green olives as a burger topping.  For those who can't stomach the idea of killing a cow, they also have a vegetable sandwich.  Notice the Frosted Malts over on the left side?  Dave Thomas, founder of the Wendy's burger chain, grew up eating Kewpee Hamburgers in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  He probably also ate Kewpee's Frosted malts, and many say that he based Wendy's popular "frosty" on the Kewpee original above.

Have you ever seen buttermilk listed on a fast food menu?  You can get it here, and I happen to love buttermilk.  They also have grapefruit juice, and you can get a quart sized (quarter gallon) cup of pop for a buck.  They are also known for their slices of pie.

  Although there were more than 200 locations just before World War II, many of these went out of business during beef rationing during the war, and never reopened.  Others changed names and left the chain after the death of the original founder, when there was a long struggle over the future of the company.  Still others were sold off to other businessmen over the years.  Today only 5 locations remain.  3 are in Lima, with another in Racine, Wisconsin and 1 or 2 in Lansing, Michigan.

  I believe that if you're driving past Lima, it is well worth taking a half hour to try out some Kewpee burgers.  What surprised me the most is that they don't have a history plaque up on the wall, or anything like that.  Few burger joints, or frankly, restaurants of any kind stay open for close to 90 years.  I think they should spend a bit and put up a historical display on one of the walls.

Some further reading, for those who are interested:

Location: 1350 Bellefontaine Avenue, Lima, OH 45804
Telephone: (419) 229-1385

Copyright 2013 Dayton Dining

Monday, July 1, 2013

Brookville Grille

    The Brookville Grille is a fast food nostalgia diner, located in the Brookville Plaza.  When I first ate here a couple of years back, there was a working jukebox.  Unfortunately, the jukebox has been removed, evidently because the kids couldn't stay off of it.

   Even so, the interior walls are chock full of advertisements and articles from yesteryear.

   The place has a salvaged counter, and even a soda (or as we say around here, pop!) fountain.  Unfortunately, someone decided to stick an ultra modern high def flat screen tv up on the wall, which really jars you out of any imagined trip back to the 40's.  At least they didn't have the volume turned up loud.  It would have been really cool if they could have grabbed one of these instead, and combined it with a set top tuner that was out of sight, to match the other decor:

  While I was looking over the menu, I spoke with the owner, Jeff.  He said that the neon ice cream sign, as well as their ice cream making equipment came from the Shearer's Ice Cream shop that used to be located on route 48 in north Dayton.  I remember driving past that place and trying their ice cream back in the early 90's.  After looking over the menu, I decided to try something I'd never had before: a "pretzel-wurst", for $6.49.  It is described as a pretzel roll with sauerkraut, swiss cheese, onions and a bratwurst patty.  I also had a bit of an appetite, so I also requested a BLT for $3.89, and a cherry coke, which they made by adding cherry syrup to a regular coke.

  I ended up eating the BLT first, because the pretzel-wurst was so hot that I almost burned myself.  The bacon was crispy, and there was enough of it to compare favorably to what I would make at home.  I was surprised to find the bread toasted, which I usually don't do when I make them, but then again, I could have been proactive and asked for it not to be toasted, and I didn't.  The taste was good, the texture fine.  The tomatoes, like many places, were pink and firm, but not really ripe.  It would be great if they could get truly ripe, red tomatoes from a local place during the summer for these.  The main annoyance with this sandwich was that the lettuce was shredded, instead of in full leaves.  Because of this, it fell all over the place while I was eating, and was messy.  They could save themselves some preparation time and give a better sandwich experience by simply putting on a few sandwich sized leaves of lettuce.

  After I had finished the BLT, I tackled the pretzel-wurst.  Truly, at first I thought it was a boneless pork chop.  The texture is very firm, and not much like the sausage bratwurst we are used to.  However, the flavor is similar.  I'm wondering if it simply doesn't have as much fat as the sausage link variety does.  This was a very filling, meaty meal, and I can certainly see how customers could get used to the pretzel wurst.  The owner told me that they once removed it from the menu, but had so many regulars complain that they brought it back.

Brookville Grille
address: 428 N Wolf Creek St.  Brookville, Ohio
telephone: (937) 833-1940

Copyright 2013 Dayton Dining