Burger kings: Northstar Cafe

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The daily grind

Niman Ranch Cheeseburger, $13.50

There's a reason the twinkling cluster of Northstar Cafe restaurants, which started out as a single organic-leaning Short North star, is steadily evolving into a bright, citywide constellation. Their stellar success can be summed up in one word: brilliance.

Because from the high modern design of their attractive spaces to their limited but super-fresh, made-from-scratch, reliably scrumptious menus to the remarkably friendly servers (where do they recruit these energetic and happy people from?), this locally grown supernova of a company has got smarts to burn.

The Attraction: Niman Ranch beef, actually ground in-house daily

This big-boy burger, available at the Northstar Beechwold, might be spilling over with the toppings, but the resulting meat-juice-leaking sandwich is a fountain of focused and fantastic flavors. Its foundation is seven ounces of beef from the famous (and famously humane) Niman Ranch that gets a good grilling and then placed on a toasted, glossy and sesame-seeded bun.

The harmonious parade of toppings - sharp provolone, fruity intensely roasted tomatoes, sweet sauteed onions, blades of designer greens, shards of great pickles, roasted red peppers and a smear of brash mustard - come together like a messy but marvelous opus with undertones of rich, pickly and garlicky giardiniera.

Hot stuff on the side: The Niman Ranch Cheeseburger comes corralled by a mess o' thin and crispy hand-cut sweet potato fries that have a nifty sweet-and-salty thing going on.