Short Order: Flavor 91 Burger Bistro

John Marshall
The Flavor Burger

It feels like burger and beer joints open up weekly in Central Ohio. How can they differentiate themselves? Whitehall's Flavor 91 Burger Bistro does it by—get this!—serving a great burger. The beef is grass-fed, RL Valley Ranch-sourced and properly cooked. The burgers are served with high-quality toppings on nice brioche-style buns. But it's also the good-natured family that runs the place—they have a knack for making everyone feel welcome.

Flavor 91 is in a strip mall on Main Street, in a former Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon not far from the Reynoldsburg line. It is a big place, plainly decorated with a sectioned-off outdoor patio in front. You will probably be greeted by Moses Hayelom, the handsome son of the family that owns the restaurant. Moses, like his mother Winnie Alemayoh, loves to share his enthusiasm for the food.

The concept is to serve the great traditional American fare we all love—but to ensure that it is locally sourced, organic and super-fresh whenever possible. This even translates to things like jalapeño poppers ($6)—served by beer joints everywhere—but here they avoid the usual frozen variety. Instead, crisp peppers are bifurcated lengthwise, seeds scooped out, herbed cream cheese put in, coated in crisp breadcrumbs and then fried—it will remind you of why these nibbles became famous.

The terrific salads show a commitment to fresh ingredients as well. One standout is The Z Salad ($10) in which greens are topped with roasted peppers, fried goat cheese and grilled portabella mushrooms.

Did I mention that the matriarch of the family is from Ethiopia? I thought I detected berbere in the wonderfully meaty chili ($5). Berbere is a mixture of dried chilies, garlic, ginger, fenugreek and other spices that is a key ingredient in Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisines. The chili is excellent; chock full of meat, peppers and onions—it sports a strong, deep heat. Berbere also makes an appearance in the dry rub used on Flavor 91's chicken wings ($10), which makes them unique around these parts and totally delicious.

Worth a try is the terrific Flavor Burger ($11). It comes with beef bacon (that's right), pepper jack cheese, tomato, onion and a simple mayo-based sauce that is not too sweet and a little spicy. I also highly recommend the grilled salmon sandwich ($12), which — unlike so many fish sandwiches — uses fresh fish, and the wonderful lamb burger ($12) with mint, oregano and creamy goat cheese.

Hand-cut, seasoned fries come with the price of burgers. Unfortunately, the technique of soaking the potatoes in water, pre-frying, then doing a final fry to create a super-crisp exterior is not executed here. While the fries are tasty, they are a bit soggy.

Flavor 91 extends its craft mentality to the beverage selection, where Fountainhead Craft Soda, made only with cane sugar, is offered. You'll also find six beers on draft, including an IPA and red ale from Whitehall's own 2 Tones Brewing Co., and more beers by the bottle.

Flavor 91 Burger Bistro

5186 E. Main St., Whitehall,