Review: Terry’s Turf Club

There are few things that are more satisfying to me than a burger and fries. I love a good, high-end meal, but sometimes you just want a juicy burger and crispy fries, and nothing else will do. A burger and fries also seems like an easy meal, but it’s rare that you can find a place that does a good burger as well as good fries– you often get a great burger with mediocre fries, or vice-versa. Laura Landoll, the sommelier responsible for the last Midwest Wine Dinner, had recommended– enthusiastically and without reservation– a burger joint on Eastern Avenue. She compiled their wine list, and said that they were the best burger in Cincinnati. On Saturday, I remembered that recommendation when Terry declared that he wanted a burger, and we headed down Eastern Avenue to check it out for ourselves.

Terry’s Turf Club is owned by Neon’s former owner, Terry Carter, and the collection of neon signs pays homage to his old stomping ground. From the outside, it looks like any other dive that caters to locals, and inside, with its pub tables, neon signs (the Wiedemann signs brought back memories, for sure), bowling machine and peanut shell covered floor made the place feel homey, welcoming, and friendly.

The menu is small and specialized: Sandwiches, Fries, and Gelato. That’s it. Though they have a filet mignon sandwich, grilled cod and chicken, portabellas, shiitakes, and a shrimp sandwich, what drives people in are the burgers. They are classic– ground beef, seasoning, and your choice of toppings. Terry (the boyfriend, not the owner) ordered a simple burger with American cheese, bacon, lettuce, onion, mayo and mustard, all on a bun from Shadeau bakery. I got a little “daring” and went with one of the specialty sauces– burgundy wine with wild mushrooms and truffles– as well as some grilled onions and Swiss cheese. The burger was well-done (we were not given a choice, and I prefer mine medium, but this was not well-done into oblivion: it was surprisingly juicy), and in combination with the sauce, a sloppy mess. I’m not sure I picked up any truffle in the sauce; perhaps I would have had I not had all of the other flavors going on in my burger, but the sauce was rich with earthy mushrooms and red wine. I could have topped my burger with foie gras or goat cheese, or any number of other sauces ranging from roasted garlic peanut sauce to curried mango sauce– I’ll try one of those next time.

The fries were good– not the best I’ve had (I like mine much crispier and saltier) but I give them credit for being homemade, fresh, and skin-on. So many places serve mediocre frozen fries, and these were a step or two above frozen. The drinks were good as well– I had a cosmopolitan (eschewing wine that night) and Terry had some Sam Adams Summer Ale. We both walked away full (far too full for even gelato), and we’ll definitely be back.

Are these the best burgers in Cincinnati? I definitely liked it better than Zip’s, whose burgers can tend to be a little bland. Any other must-try burger suggestions? I’m always on the lookout for the best burger, and Terry’s is definitely in the running.

Terry's Turf Club on Urbanspoon

  • Anonymous

    for a good burger hit up Quatman’s on Montgomery in Norwood. The best!! good price too.

  • Julie

    I’ve heard good things about Quatman’s– I’ll try them next time!

  • Chris S

    I’ve always been partial to Arthur’s (in Hyde Park) burgers. A good sight better than the burgers at Zips (IMHO), and not afraid to make em the way I like em (bloody). As for fries however, Arthur’s does not rate. I was hoping for the best with the frites at JeanRo, but I was sorely dissappointed when they served thick fries, a long ways from the thin and crunchy I was hoping for with my steak frites…

  • Julie

    Chris–

    I’ll try Arthur’s!

    Sad to hear about the frites– when I got steak frites there last year, they were the thin, crispy, crunchy sort, which are the kind I like.

    It’s sort of sad when the best fries around are from a fast food joint– Penn Station. Theirs are consistently thin, crispy, skin-on, well salted, and delicious.

  • vudutu

    Who was cooking when you went. Prior to Polly letting the cat out of the bag Terry’s was perfect, we hung out there for Fri happy hours. Most of the patrons were word of mouth and food service folks, Terry was at the grill and the place was not crowded. We could not even get in the door in Jan. and we went last week on a weeknight and someone else was at the grill. It was OK but not the same, bummer.

  • Anonymous

    Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse Dntwn, actually has some extremely tasty french fries. Thin, crispy, wispy, yummy delicious.

  • Julie

    Anonymous, they’re some of my favorite fries in the city. :)

  • Joe

    where to start. I ended up at Trerry’s late one satruday night and had a burger that was amazing. It was about 1:15am and the burger came quickly and was delicious. Juicy, cooked to perfection, and with a really nice pepper-y flavor. I had heard a lot about the bar and I wanted to go back with my wife to have a full resturaunt experiance.

    We stopped by on Tuesday night and it was pretty bad. Everything started out nice enough….we ordered some beers and got out peanuts and started waiting. An hour after ordering our burgers (and noticing that everyone who sat after us was being served) my wife asked the server where our food was and she replied “we dropped your check in the fryer”. So we said ok lets have another beer and the food should be here in a few.

    We got our beer and waited. 20 more min passed and still not food. I flagged down the server and asked her whats going on….and she was very rude. Telling us we should know that when you order a burger there it takes 45 min to get it and she had made an honest mistake with the ticket.

    Fine…..honest mistake, dishonest mistake….whatever…take care of you customers. She offered to take care of one the beers we ordered. So A total of an hour and a half went by and we got our food.

    at that point it didn’t even matter we were so annoyed by the service. My wife and I have both been in the food service industry for 10 years and this is not how you treat customers. The correect move was to take care of our food and buy us a round of drinks or at least be pleasant about it. Her tone and over all attitude was completely off putting. (it should be mentioned that the table next to us also waited an hour for their food and when they said they were not pleased the server said…and I quote “if you unsatisfied with you meal I am sorry, there is nothing I can do about it”.

    Terry’s Turd House NEVER
    Quatmans FOREVER

  • Anonymous

    Terry’s is amazing. Goat cheese burger. Probably the tastiest meal I’ve had in years. Really – get the goat cheese.

  • Julie

    Anonymous– in a later review, I got the goat cheese. Amazing.

  • Anonymous

    I loved TTC, but check out the new Coco’s – best burger I’ve had, and best burger that two guests on two separate occasions had.

    So, Coco’s is 3 for 3 and I think they’re onto something. Can’t remember what they call it, but it has caramelized onions. I just call it the ‘Josh’ burger after the man who created it – Chef Josh. I’m taking a group from work this Thursdya when Coco’s has a weekly burger special.

  • Anonymous

    A new place in Norwood just opened called Gordo’s. Apparently the owner, Raymond Gordo, has worked with Jean-Robert in the past. Great Burgers here. Definately worth trying out.

  • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com julie

    I need to try Gordo’s, like, tomorrow.

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  • MissNikole

    My boyfriend and I went there for the first time (even though we live in Cincinnati) last night. Every server who was working there – all 4 ppl – were smiling and stopped by and said hello and chatted with us at some point.

    The neons were cool to look at and made way for good conversation. When we walked in the place was totally full – at 10pm on Wednesday night. We stood at the door for maybe 3 minutes and were promptly seated after watching our table being wiped down very well with a clean rag – the lady even went back for a dry towel so we wouldn’t get our arms wet.

    Our waitress was right there every time we needed her but was never obtrusive or bothersome. Our order was cooked to order and done just like we asked – special instructions and all. I’ve read many reviews about this place and some of them are just absurd. It took a long time to get our food – but there is a notice on the menu that clearly says it will. You can see when you walk into the place that you’re going to be sitting very close to other guests – at that point it is totally your choice to sit down or leave. In that atmosphere though – the rest of the world tends to disappear for a while. If I were to make the same dinner it would take me just as long, if not longer. It is WELL worth the wait – and they have plenty of peanuts to tide you over that you can casually toss onto the floor if you wish. It felt odd at first to do this but fun too!

    The food…………..was…………..AMAZING!!! Seriously, the BEST burger I’ve ever had in my life! The accompanying 25oz Belgian beer sweetened the deal – they have a great selection there. The french fries were fantastic and enough to share. I tried my best to eat the entire burger, but it was impossible. We ordered portobella mushrooms on our burgers – and they came out with a huge grilled cap on top of our huge grilled burger. You want grilled lobster on your burger? Not a problem. Goat cheese? Foie gras? Mango curry sauce? You got it! They even have filet mignon and chicken if you are out of your mind and don’t try the burger. The food comes out on paper plates and you get a HUGE knife to cut your sandwich in half if you wish.

    Checkout was fast and they offered a box to take our leftover delicacies home – which we did! I can’t say enough about this place! What a great experience!

  • Josh

    So I’ve been on the quest for the perfect burger in Cincinnati for the past couple of years.

    For others on this quest, know that TTC is the end of your searching. My criteria are pretty simple – I want a burger that is juicy while not too bloody (if at all), a really good bun that can hold all the toppings, seasonings that accentuate and not overpower the meat, and good ambiance. By these metrics, a TTC burger is one of the most delicious things you will ever have the pleasure of eating. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is, but the seasonings are just perfect. They’re very overtly peppery, but then there is a whole host of other flavors that are put together just right for the burger. As is noted many times by others, the place is always packed. My wife and I try to go during off hours, but there is always a wait. Once we started to budget time to get there and have a few cold ones before our meal it just became another great part of the TTC experience.

    Other good burgers in town:

    2nd Quatman – a very simple burger, but also spectacular. Not heavily seasoned. Oh so juicy and tasty. The atmosphere makes me want to go put on a Springsteen album in my car.
    3rd Oakley Pub – The black and blue burger is up there. It is heavily seasoned but not over the top. Perfect amount of blue to not overpower all the other flavors. Also very moist
    4th Zip’s – Textbook delicious burger. Doesn’t do anything too fancy, but it’s always a solid burger. The onion rings and chili are very good.
    5th Main Street Cafe – These burgers are very similar to Zip’s but it doesn’t have the ambiance of Zip’s. Not the crowd either though, so sometimes a nice option.
    6th Salem Gardens – Another textbook burger. The 1/2 chop basket is always fulfilling. Juicy with good flavor. Not overly seasoned. Atmosphere is great neighborhood establishment. The ‘Friendly Corner’ or whatever their slogan is hits it on the head.
    7th Gordo – tried the Jean Ro and the other chef special burger. The toppings were 100% wonderful, but they totally overpowered the burger, which was over cooked anyway. Burgers are round instead of flat, which I think makes them hard to cook properly and hard to eat. Still a pretty good burger if you’re in the area.
    8th City View – I hear a lot about these burgers, but I don’t see them being anything that special. They’re definitely good, but not worth driving across town for.
    9th Arthur’s – Burger madness is an awesome idea. Burgers taste good but nothing stands out about them.

    Still to try:
    Zola’s

    Hope this helps anyone else on a similar search. Please reply with any other burger suggestions that I may not have heard of in Cincinnati

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  • Annette

    Love Terry’s! Awesome SPECIALTY burger! Key word specialty. I’ve gone several times. Before and after Terry’s was featured on Food Network with Guy F. There is usually a long wait to get in and after you order you need to sit back and enjoy the atmosphere. You can’t be in a hurry. Not my favorite fries but they aren’t the worst either. I recommend Terrys 100%!