The best burgers in town

Steve Schirra

Youƒ_™ll flip over these local joints

The “Mo Fo” burger from Rayƒ_™s is a towering two-patty topped with bacon, mushrooms and the works.

Credit: Beth Rankin

Steve’s pickle meter:

One pickle: The burgers blow. High tail it to McDonald’s if you want a half-edible meal. 

Two pickles: Getting closer to that all-American, hot-off-the-grill taste. 

Three pickles: Just what the doctor ordered. Go here sto satisfy all of your beef-related cravings.  

Four pickles: Just what the doctor ordered. Go here sto satisfy all of your beef-related cravings. 

Mexico has the burrito, Italy has the pizza and Britain has the crumpet. But what exactly is the epitome of American cuisine? One word: hamburgers. 

That’s right; a thick, juicy mound of sizzling beef sandwiched inside of a toasted sesame seed bun. Surely, this is what America is all about. 

I was able to get out this week and visit some of the area’s best hamburger stands and see whether or not their burgers were up-to-par with my highly sophisticated, beef-tasting palate.

Ray’s Place 

Steve’s pickle rating: two pickles

When my colleagues heard I was writing about hamburgers, most of them screamed, “Ray’s! You have to go to Ray’s!” So I did. I must say, though, that if I were giving ratings based on service alone, I would be forced to give Ray’s one pickle. It was the food that saved them. 

After a lengthy wait to have my order taken and my food brought to me, I feasted upon an order of wings and one of Ray’s signature burgers, the Mexican Burger. Smothered in guacamole and salsa, this south-of-the-border burger really did the trick. The meat tasted like it was fresh off the grill with a delicious charcoal flavor that really captured that homemade taste. 

Other specialty burgers include the Italian Burger, topped with a home-made marinara sauce, the BBQ Burger slathered in a tangy barbecue spread and the house specialty, the Mo Fo, covered in mushrooms and bacon.

The cost of food here is a little pricier, $5 for a burger, and an entire meal will probably put you in the $10 and up range. But it is definitely worth a trip to try one of their specialty hamburgers.

A & W 

Steve’s pickle rating: two and a half pickles

A&W is not just a last-resort restaurant in The Hub. In fact, the food you can purchase in the Student Center tastes nothing like the made-to-order fried greatness you can experience at the actual drive-up stand on state Route 59 in Kent. 

A trip to A&W is much better than a typical fast-food experience as the food is served to you in your car. I ordered the most expensive burger on the menu, their specialty, the Mozza Burger. I also ordered a Coney dog, fries and a mug of A&W’s famous draught root beer. 

While my friend had to correct me from calling it a “matzo” burger, I think overall the burger was a bit bland, like matzo. I think next time I’ll stick with a regular bacon cheeseburger as there was nothing special about the Mozza Burger. 

The menu is fairly inexpensive, most items costing only $2, and this is definitely a good place to stop on a date. And don’t forget to wash down your burger with a mug of root beer.


Steve’s pickle rating: three and a half pickles

The service at Swenson’s is fast. Literally. Part of its unique charm is the fact that their servers run from car-to-car, duck into the kitchen to give the orders to the cooks and dash back out again. Throw in some of Stow-Kent’s best burgers and shakes, and you’ve got yourself one entertaining evening. 

The house specialty is the Galley Boy, a double cheeseburger covered in two special sauces and topped with a green olive. I discussed with several people what the two special sauces might be, but we were unable to put our fingers on their unique flavors. 

While it’s not the prettiest burger in the world, this Northeastern Ohio favorite definitely hits the spot.

The prices are very cheap for the quality of the food with a wide variety of menu options to choose from. Most burgers cost around $2. There are also several locations close to Kent State, including state Route 59 near the Target plaza and in Cuyahoga Falls. 

Swenson’s is also very friendly to vegetarians, offering a meat-free alternative to the Galley Boy called the Salad Boy. While I cannot vouch for the taste of the Salad Boy, if it tastes anything like the Galley Boy, PETA members everywhere will be pleased. 

And be sure to enjoy my personal favorite beverage at Swenson’s: a vanilla phosphate. It’s the perfect companion to any burger.

Contact forum editor Steve Schirra at [email protected]