I don’t work downtown, so I rarely get to enjoy the delicious, lunch-only places that dot the downtown landscape. I had to run downtown from my office to pick up a copy of Cincinnati Magazine, so I decided I’d reward myself with a burger from Paula’s.
Paula’s inhabits the old Graeter’s space on 4th street, and is a classic greasy spoon. Though they’ve only been in this spot for a few years, I remember their crowds in their old location on the Skywalk at 5th and Vine. [Correction: They were also at Findlay Market prior to this location] Little has changed in the crowd department, or in the food that brings in those crowds. They serve up up big slices of homemade cake, sandwiches galore, homemade soups (you can buy them by the gallon) and their locally-famous burger. It is, from what I hear, always crowded, and the Friday I visited was no exception.
The staff has no patience for newbies like me– hey, I didn’t know that there was a form to fill out– but they’re nice anyway. “Fill out the form. Come back.” I filled out the form– I decided on caramelized onions, lettuce, mayo, mustard and American cheese on my burger– and handed it back. “Fries?” That’s a silly question. And I stood back, pulled out my Kindle and read while people-watching. In about ten minutes (not 7…), I had a greasy bag in my hand and I was on my way back up the highway. I munched a few crispy, thin fries on the walk to the car, and realized that I really needed to get a picture of the burger pre-20 mile drive, so I pulled off on Dana Avenue, found a parking lot, and grabbed a shot.
The burger is beautiful, as far as burgers go, on a Shadeau bun, but it manages to taste even better than it looks. The meat is juicy and just a bit pink on the inside, the toppings flavorful and messy– pick up extra napkins. This is not a prim and proper burger, but one that bites back. Don’t wear a white shirt to eat this one. The fries are delicious as well, if standard, but hey– I have a thing for skinny, crispy fries.
Next time, I’m grabbing some soup and some of what I hear is really good chicken salad.