Burger kings: O'Reilly's

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The barfly

Pepper Burger, $7

O'Reilly's is a gloriously unshowy neighborhoody haunt, only it's in Clintonville, meaning salt-of-the-city, shot-and-beer types rub bending elbows with scruffy artsy kids and OSU affiliates. Its appeals include possibly the friendliest bartenders in town and pleasure-center-reaching pub grub that O'Reilly's ever-growing stream of eager eaters tells me is no longer the area's best-kept secret.

The Attraction: XXX-rated Peppercorn star.

Warning: Not for pansies! This handsome half-pounder of a jaw-slamming sandwich - hamburger's answer to steak au poivre - should really be called the "I can't believe there's so much pepper" burger.

Because its juicy, properly loosely packed, two-fists-required patty is slathered in so many black peppercorns that while chewing on the bulky burger, they roll down your excitedly trembling fingers, they ignite a minerally fire in your mouth and they get embedded in the excellent bun (a buttered and toasted, puffy and crested, locally baked Auddino's special).

Mediating the joyous singe are a blanket of melted provolone, a double ration of crispy bacon, good pickles, leaf lettuce, tomatoes and onions.

Hot stuff on the side: All of O'Reilly's beefwiches come with potato chips, but for a totally worth-it nominal upcharge, you can get either knockout french fries (big, blocky, hand-cut, cooked to dark and sprinkled with herbs) or fried sweet potatoes (sliced like coins and satisfyingly crunchy). Both are terrific on their own, but flirt with being glorious when enhanced by O'Reilly's "bistro sauce," aka mayonnaise spiked with hot sauce, aka "crack sauce."