April 1, 2014
The Bareburger restaurant finally has opened in the Short North, in the former Yankee Trader building.
The New York-based chain is known for its gourmet hamburgers made with organic, grass-fed beef, as well as more-exotic proteins such as ostrich, elk, wild boar and bison. Its focus overall is burgers, fries and shakes made with organic and sustainable ingredients, served in spaces made and decorated with salvaged and recycled materials.
The Columbus location is owned by franchisees and Ohio State University graduates George Mathew, Chuck Xu and Ben Christopher.
“I lived in New York for a year, right down the street from the first Bareburger, and I loved it. I loved everything about it,” Mathew said. “It was so cool and so different, but then I never thought of it as anything other than a great place to eat.”
Two years ago, after leaving his job in corporate finance, he discovered that Bareburger was franchising and decided to open one in Columbus. Bareburger’s corporate office wasn’t convinced.
“The owners didn’t know anything about Columbus, and they were looking for people with more experience to run one,” Mathew said. “We felt strongly about it. We didn’t want someone else to come to Columbus and do this. We just kept pursuing them,” and eventually they said yes.
Bareburger has expanded aggressively in recent years. There are 18 Bareburgers, including the one in Columbus, with most in New York City and the surrounding area. Columbus is the farthest afield, although Bareburgers will open in cities such as Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia.
Nation’s Restaurant News named it one of 2014’s “Breakout Brands,” saying each location sells about $2.5 million in food each year. Bareburger serves breakfast, lunch and dinner made with ingredients that are organic, grass-fed, free-range and sustainable.
The former Yankee Trader building, at 463 N. High St., has undergone extensive renovations and now houses luxury apartments, the Denmark on High cocktail lounge and the Secret Cellar meeting and retail space.
“Because we were in an historical building, we weren’t allowed to touch certain things,” Mathew said. “There is a staircase that leads nowhere, and we had to preserve that, so we just decorated it so people know not to walk up it.”
The ceiling is tin, but the owners couldn’t keep the original colors, a mishmash of steel, purple and copper. “Unfortunately, we had to paint it, but even now it’s beautiful,” Mathew said. Still, we “tried to be as environmentally friendly as possible.”
The tabletops are made from reclaimed wood, and the colored stripe down the middle of each is made from recycled detergent bottles. The light fixtures are made from recycled items — such as forks and knives made into a chandelier — and the walls are reclaimed barn siding.
So far, Mathew is not worried about jumping into the competitive Short North restaurant scene.
“Restaurants bring people here, so I’m not at all worried, because the product is phenomenal."
Off the menu
Nashville-based Gigi’s Cupcakes has opened another bakery in central Ohio, thanks to franchisees Ron and Dawn Freeman. The bakery opened on Friday at 10709 Blacklick Eastern Rd. in Pickerington. The couple also own Gigi’s Cupcakes in the Polaris area and at Easton Town Center.
• The Skyward Grille opens today at 2185 Riverside Dr. in Upper Arlington. It’s the first bricks-and-mortar location for the company, which has catering operations and runs food carts near Ohio State University.
• The Hocking Hills Diner, at 2177 E. Front St. in Logan, opened on Feb. 13.
Dispatch Restaurant Columnist Denise Trowbridge can be reached at email@example.com.