2299 Lee Road
Cleveland, OH 44118-3447
by Penny Panini
My colleague, Beau, reviewed a sandwich at Brennan's before. He wasn't impressed, but Frank Sphar had told me over and over again how great the burgers were at the Colony, how it was her go to burger place, and on the quest for Cleveland's Top Five Burgers, I thought I ought to give it a try.
I met up there with another friend Frank, on a night that supposedly was going to contain a massive snowstorm at some point. I felt that familiar dread driving to the East Side in the winter, a threat that no matter how clear the roads were now, inside an hour I might be caught in a whiteout, trying to navigate the slow highwayless way out of the Heights. Despite the snowstorm that began almost as soon as I got there, there was a good sized crowd in the Colony at 7pm, and we had to wait to get a booth. Frank is a new friend, so there were a million things to talk about, and you know how it is with new people, that rush of conversation, the small degree of nervousness that gives way eventually to fever pitch exchanges and leaning excitedly over tables. When we were choosing where to meet, Frank had told me he was a pescatarian, which sounds just like Presbyterian when you say it out loud, and I always say new words out loud at least once, so the stamp of Presbyterianism is upon him. Anyway, it means he only eats fish and not all-American red meat. He got the lake perch sandwich, and I ordered the All World Burger, with provolone, mushrooms, onions, and bacon. I wasn't really hungry at all, having spent the day consuming as much coffee as reasonable for work, and was drinking even more coffee at the bar. But this was the reason we came here; it wouldn't do to not even take a bite.
It doesn't look like the biggest burger when it comes out on the small white plate. But it's deceptively thick, and the blanket of cheese and mushrooms was even thicker and perfectly gooey. I removed the offensive lettuce and tomato slice, but kept the chunky pickle slices. Pickle slices and mustard are key to any burger for me, and these were crunchy fresh pickles, the kind of which Whoppers only dream of, or rather I dream of anytime I end up having to get Burger King. I asked for it medium rare and it came out the same, which is always special for bar burgers. The bun was squishy white, and soaked up the meat and cheese grease with aplomb. We had just been talking about gourmet burgers, and I was saying how I preferred the grease and squeeze of a good dive burger. The All World had all the elements of that artery clogging dive bar glory, but with heft and honor.
I ate a quarter of it and gave up; I just wasn't hungry enough. Into a box it went, and there it sat on the table for another two hours while we talked. Later it sat for another 45 minutes in my car as I drove home in the snow, dodging gaping potholes on the empty streets past the Clinic. When I finally got home, it sat on the porch for fifteen minutes while I looked at the snow and took crappy cellphone pictures of my lonely road. Finally into the fridge it went, until two hours later when, having finished writing a love letter, I heated up a quarter of it in the microwave. The quality of the reheat matters to me, because most of my food is going to be consumed as leftovers late at night. I'm happy to report it heated up even greasier and cheesier, and I'm even more happy that I still have half left for tomorrow morning. I think this might be a strong contender for my list of best burgers, if only for the fact that I don't regret braving a winter storm to get one.