If fresh is best, then Grind Burger (5604 Wilson Mills Rd., 216-761-5145, grind-burger.com) is well on its way to providing one of the best-tasting burgers around. In the pursuit of patty perfection, owners Craig and Michelle Ozan decided that it was essential that all beef be ground fresh daily on site. What’s more, it’s done in plain sight behind glass.
“Once you grind beef it starts to deteriorate, and over a relatively short period of time the flavor can really change,” explains Craig. “By grinding it ourselves on site, we’re getting the freshest, most juicy and flavorful burgers that you can possibly get.”
The Ozans start with Certified Angus Beef chuck roll from Blue Ribbon Meats. The double-ground beef ends up with a lean-to-fat ratio of 75/25. The half-pound patties are cooked on a flat-top to the diner’s desired temperature. They’re tucked into soft buns baked by Davis Bakery. “The patty hits the hot griddle and it just locks in all the flavor,” adds Craig.
In the rear of the restaurant, right next to the open kitchen, is a large window exposing the walk-in cooler. It’s there that the house butcher grinds the beef.
“We chose an exhibition walk-in cooler so that everything we make is visible to the diner,” says Michelle. “It’s clean, it’s fresh and it’s organized.” Of course, not everybody wants to see the whole process unfold, she admits, that’s why it’s tucked in the back.
There are a dozen burgers, ranging from the Easy Peazy ($8), with just lettuce, tomato and onion, up to the Triple Truffle ($12), a truffle salt-seasoned patty topped with Pecorino, sautéed mushrooms and truffle aioli. That burger, eaten during a preview lunch, easily ranks up there with Cleveland’s best-tasting burgers. It’s messy, but as the restaurant motto says, “Perfection is messy.”
Starters include sauerkraut balls made with C.A.B. sausage, grilled artichokes with sea salt and garlic aioli, and hot dog sliders, a trio of 3-inch beef weenies topped separately with mac and cheese, chili, and Stadium Mustard and relish. There also are salads, sandwiches, milkshakes and fries, made right using a two-stage cooking process.
The restaurant is located in a portion of the former Catalano’s grocery store in Highland Heights. The upscale interior seats 140 in booths, at tables, at the bar, or in a soft seating area with full service. An oversize black and white photo depicts a turn-of-the-century butcher shop. A large glass garage door behind the bar opens up to a patio that will seat an additional 50 guests. The bar offers 20 draft beers plus more in bottles along with cocktails and red and white wine by the glass and bottle.
At $8 to $12 per burger, Grind hamburgers rank up there as some of the richest in town, a fact not lost on the owners. “We understand that we’re probably one of the most expensive around, but I think if you show diners why, and you provide a good experience and good value, then you’ll get people to come back,” explains Michelle.
There also is no shortage of burger restaurants in town, but given the unique concept and quality of the finished product, the owners are confident they’ll make a splash.
“There are a lot of great burger places in Cleveland, but by grinding the meat in-house, we think we’re providing something different to the market,” notes Craig, who most recently worked in management with Fox Restaurant Concepts in Phoenix.
“Burgers and fries aren’t going away; they’ve been around since the ‘50s,” adds Michelle. “But we’re entering the next level of burgers, where the focus is on doing it right. Let’s make it as local, visible and fresh as possible.”
Assuming all goes well in Highland Heights, diners in other areas of Greater Cleveland might soon see a Grind Burger in their neck of the woods, says Craig. “We would love to open multiple locations, but it all starts with number one right here.”
Try it for yourself starting next Wednesday, October 29.
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