Story by G.A. Benton l Photos by Jodi Miller

I've come to praise hamburger, not bury it.

Too long considered dismissible greasy kids stuff, our national dish has suffered unspeakable indignities at the hands of ruthless, bottom-line factory farmers and the anonymous clowns and illegitimate kings who rule the fast food universe.

They've given the poor hamburger an unfortunately well-deserved reputation as an insipidly flavored cheap piece of unhealthy meat with dubious origins. That's why those masquerading clowns and fake kings inevitably rely on gimmicks to push their soft, industrial, dull gray patties.

Valiantly plucking hamburgers from these lowest-common-denominator depths of the American diet are forward-thinking, high-performing restaurants conscientious enough to make personal connections with their food sources and choose locally raised, grass-fed beef. The differences are astounding.

First of all, chomping through locally raised burgers delivers the fabulously fresh taste of carefully handled, clean meat seared into a juicy and pure-beefy state that can induce delirium in ecstatic eaters.

And since you-and cows-are what you eat, it's no exaggeration to say you can actually taste the Ohio countryside in these burger beauties.

But there's also the easy do-gooderism relatively inexpensively purchased (these burgers are around $12 apiece) by supporting humanely raised local cattle, which in turn also supports the Ohio economy.

Oh yeah, and don't forget the health bonuses of higher Omega-3 fatty acid (the kind found in salmon) and lower saturated fat levels associated with meat from grass-fed cows. Rarely has making healthier and more culturally upstanding choices tasted so great.

Skillet Rustic Urban Food ($12)
Where's the beef from:
Skillet-special blend of grass-fed cattle
Locally baked bun, pungent (local) Jersey Drover cheese, local farmer's egg, zingy dressed arugula and sweet homemade tomato marmalade
Comes with:
Lagniappe salad

Hand-formed olive oil brioche from Omega Artisan Bakery in Columbus

Arugula from Northridge Organic Farm in Johnstown

House-cured bacon from Bluescreek Farm in Marysville

Local farm egg from Kings Farm in Stoutsville

Jersey Drover cheese from Laurel Valley Creamery in Gallipolis

Grass-fed beef from Homestead Farms near Cardington

Tomato marmalade made from tomatoes from Dangling Carrot Farm in Philo


The Lights Out Burger
Worthington Inn ($13)
Where's the beef from:
Grass-fed cattle from Mennonite-owned farms, specially processed by Heffelfinger Meats of Jeromesville
Extras: Locally baked Stan Evans bun, arugula, cheddar, thick-cut smoky applewood bacon, tobacco onions (think "straws"), homemade pickles and a spicy-sweet "secret sauce"
Comes with: Fries

MoJoe Burger
MoJoe Lounge Downtown ($12)
Where's the beef from:
Certified organic grass-fed cattle from Sweet Meadows Farm near Zanesville
Extras: Locally baked Eleni-Christina bun, sharp aged English cheddar and sweet, deeply caramelized onions
Comes with:
Choice of homemade side