Simplicity can be a beautiful thing, especially when it comes to food. Good food doesn’t need to be paraded across the plate in a menagerie of condiments and exotic preparations. Some dishes are just better in their most rudimentary, stripped-down state. The hamburger has always been one of those foods to me. While variations of this iconic mainstay of American cuisine range from the gourmet to the grotesque, it is often impossible to “taste the burger through the toppings.” And let’s not forget the common misconception that a messier burger is better; these beefy towers of Babel are the epitome of excess and gluttony. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve relished these burgers at times—juice dripping down to my elbows, a mountain of used napkins piled on the table. But sometimes you need to step back to the basics and remember how good a simple burger, free of all those distracting toppings, can be.
The German Village Coffee Shop is one of those establishments that not only gets the art of simplicity; they do it well. From their breakfast items to their sandwiches and daily specials, the German Village Coffee Shop turns out good food at prices that can’t be beat. Their hamburger is no exception and is my favorite burger in Columbus. It’s a lesson in simplicity: ½ pound beef patty on a toasted kaiser roll, topped with mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and pickles; that’s it. Extras are as modest as the burger itself: cheese, bacon, or mushroom and swiss. The patty sports a nice crust imparted by the grill, encasing just enough juice to keep the burger moist and is evidence that a hamburger doesn’t need to be sloppy to be delicious. The only thing that could improve this burger is a side of their famous hash browns—be sure to order them with onions and cheese. What’s more, the $4.50 price tag for a cheeseburger makes it hard for even the fast food establishments to compete.
The beauty of the German Village Coffee Shop is that it is exactly what it claims to be, no more, no less: it’s a coffee shop—a diner in the purest sense of the word. It’s not a retro diner, decorated with 1950s nostalgia; it’s not the latest hipster hangout where over-priced, mediocre fare plays second to the atmosphere of being seen. It’s a neighborhood coffee shop, plain and simple. Food is prepared on the grill behind the counter and served in an unpretentious atmosphere that leaves both you and your wallet full and satisfied. More importantly, it’s a place you want to come back to again and again, as is evidenced by the German Village Coffee Shop faithful who regularly fill the diner.
An online presence has recently been established for the German Village Coffee Shop, who has both a new website as well as Facebook and Twitter pages. You can sometimes (though not always) find their daily specials posted via their social media pages. While it’s hard to not order the hamburger, I highly recommend venturing away from their normal menu items occasionally and trying one of their daily specials (Johnny Marzetti is one of my favorites). You won’t be disappointed.
The German Village Coffee Shop is one of those neighborhood institutions that make Columbus what it is. It’s a constant in an ever-changing landscape of small business and restaurants which have come and gone over the years. It has managed to stay relevant by being true to what it is, steering clear of pretense, fads, and trends. It’s simple done right.
Photography courtesy of guest photographer, J.J. Smiley.