Cincinnati’s Fifty West Burger Bar is a New Can’t-Miss Summertime Hot Spot
Every sign told the pioneer of Fifty West’s new Columbia Township burger joint that opening up shop during a pandemic was a bad idea. “In the middle of the night, I couldn’t sleep,” says Bobby Slattery, co-founder of Fifty West. “I called all (the employees), and we decided to open up the Burger Bar in the middle of the crisis.”
After laying off the majority of his staff, Slattery says the scant handful of employees left in the kitchen braced themselves for an opening devoid of orders and customers. But defying the odds, people flocked to the 1950s root beer stand-inspired burger bar.
“Then the orders just started flying in,” Slattery says. The kitchen was barraged with an average of two tickets a minute from a COVID-friendly online ordering system they implemented at the last minute. The line grew so long, they were forced to start asking people to wait in their cars. Slattery was able to bring the entire staff back on, and he says it has been almost nonstop business since their opening at the end of April.
The brewery spent around 10 years planning and building the Burger Bar. It’s connected to Fifty West’s sprawling campus, which now has a tent-covered beer garden with spaced-apart tables in addition to its existing beach volleyball courts.
The menu features bread-and-butter diner specialties like classic cheeseburgers, flat-top hot dogs and loaded crinkle cut fries, but there are also 12 specialty burgers named for the 12 states that U.S. Route 50 runs through. They’re loaded with staple ingredients inspired by each state, including Cincinnati-style chili, Maryland tartar sauce, West Virginia apple butter and Kansas smoky barbecue.
To combat the influx of business during a pandemic, Slattery says they’re taking extra cleanliness precautions, taking employees’ temperatures at the door, scrubbing down tables and religiously wearing masks. And he says it’s been worth it. “It’s been absolutely insane,” he says, “and so, so good.”
Fifty West Burger Bar, 7508 Wooster Pike, Columbia Township, fiftywestbrew.com.| Photos by Savana Willhoite