Beyond Breakfast: Preston’s Burgers | Columbus, OH

February 1, 2018

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Preston’s is now located in the North Market. Read about their new location and menus here.

The true joy of writing this blog is discovering something – a hidden gem, a really tasty dish, a memorable experience – and getting to share it. The 10+ years of writing Breakfast With Nick has led us into some wonderful adventures, and I’m grateful for everyone who’s shared their passion with us along the way.

If I have a “job” in all of this, it’s serving as a guide. We pride ourselves on our desire to travel and explore, especially in our own city, and we’ve found sometimes that people need guides to help them be tourists in their own town. I think it’s a healthy attitude, the continual push to get to know the people and places around you.

And that brings us here: I want you to discover something. I’m telling you to go to the second floor of a bar in the Brewery District to find some of our favorite burgers, chicken sandwiches, and comfort foods. I want you to discover Preston’s Burgers.

Preston’s is a project from Matt Heaggans and Catie Randazzo. Matt we’ve followed from place to place, most recently The Rossi. Catie is the owner of Challah food truck, which camps out regularly at Seventh Son Brewing, makes its way around the city, and has a walk-up window inside Woodland’s Tavern.

They’re currently building out a restaurant called Ambrose & Eve (named after Catie’s grandparents) in the Brewery District, in what should be a pretty cool spot when it’s finished. That little stretch on South High Street already includes Kolache Republic and The Daily Growler, and Ambrose & Eve will be connected to Seventh Son Brewing’s new sister brewery, Antiques on High.

While they build out the restaurant, though, they’re camped out on the second floor of Three Sheets, a dive bar (but an approachable one) just up High Street. In order to distinguish the pop-up from the restaurant, they named it Preston’s Burgers.

Three Sheets’ building features wooden floors, tall ceilings, brick walls. There’s a solid selection of craft beer on tap, friendly bartenders, trivia nights, you name it.

On the tables downstairs are taped signs instructing you to order drinks at the bar and order food upstairs. The second floor is reachable by a long staircase, found to the left of the front doors. It’s also pretty spacious, features a second (and usually unmanned) bar, the kitchen, and a couple pool tables.

And what you’re doing to do is walk up to the windows at the kitchen and start looking through the menu.

And then you’re going to order a bunch of things. Go with a group so you can order everything and share it. Preston’s is set up – and named – as a burger shack. That’s what you’ll find: smashburgers, fries, fried chicken sandwiches, wings, chili, funyons, jalapeno poppers – essentially all of your favorite junk foods. But here they’re recreated with an eye toward quality sourcing and preparation. And true to the form of junk food – they’re just fun to eat.

If you’re lucky you’ll spot Chef Matt working in the kitchen. And if not, well, you’re still lucky to be there.

We haven’t worked our way through the entire menu yet, but believe me, we’re trying. The first half is Munches, and features jalapeno poppers, fried cheese curds, funyons, salt and vinegar fries, and potato skins. The fried cheese curds arrive with a light, crispy breading. The house funyon is nice and salty, and comes with a green goddess dressing.

I’ve never been one to add malt vinegar to fries – it’s too overpowering for my palate; and typically the fries simply turn sour. However, the salt and vinegar fries at Preston’s have made a successful case for the pairing. Maybe it’s because the vinegar is incorporated before it gets to the table. Maybe because it’s properly balanced by the saltiness. Maybe it’s because they’re still nice and crispy. Regardless, I have worked my way through a couple bags of these already.

The second part of the menu – titled Mains – features wings, chili, and three different sandwiches. The wings you can order plain, buffalo, BBQ, or Nashville hot. On our last visit we took the boys, so we ordered plain with a side of buffalo sauce. My personal preference would be the Nashville hot.

The MacCheek sandwich is a nod to a popular sandwich that apparently earns its own season. This is 1000x better. It features tender braised pork cheek with a sweetish Cherry Coke BBQ sauce complemented by the fresh, tangy bite of onions and pickles.

And then there’s that chicken sandwich. You can order it two ways: as regular fried chicken with pickles, red onion, lettuce, and a special sauce, OR as Nashville hot with lettuce, pickles, and mayo.

The chicken itself comes in a huge portion, tender on the inside and with a generous crust outside.

Since I’ve been introduced over recent years – like most of Columbus/the nation – to Nashville-style hot chicken, it’s become my default preparation, so I find myself opting for the tangy heat of the hot chicken at Preston’s.

The centerpiece of the burger shack, of course, are the burgers. They’ve available with single or double patties.

Matt once shared his thoughts with me about the proper construction of a burger, about the balance of salt and fat, about melty cheese, properly seasoned meat that’s smashed on the grill, about the crisp texture of lettuce, pickles, and onions to balance out chewiness of the bun and the meat.

Ever since he shared it with me, I can’t get that criteria out of my head. It’s helped me enjoy burgers so much more, knowing how the components can properly add up. So it makes it even more fun to dive into the burgers at Preston’s, seeing how he’s brought all those tastes and textures together.

Pretty much every time we go, Beth and I split a hot chicken sandwich and the double burger. After 16+ years of marriage we’ve learned how to share our meals so we both get to try different things. When we order these sandwiches at Preston’s, I find myself starting in on one, getting halfway through, then suddenly hesitating about sharing it. It’s so good I want to keep it to myself. But then we trade, and I have the. exact. same. reaction to the other sandwich.

Am I overselling this? Hopefully not. But the food is just the sort of stuff we’re looking for: creative but familiar, thoughtful but just plain fun.

You’re going to make a mess of yourself eating it, and you can just embrace it now. You won’t care.

Preston’s is a good reminder of the joy of good food, of the small thrill of discovering a hidden gem, as well as a reminder of the creative work made available to us by our city’s chefs. I can’t wait to keep going back, and I hope you’ll step out and climb the stairs to the second floor of a dive bar for some of our favorite food.

Okay, one more glimpse of the chicken sandwich…

Find out where Preston’s is popping up by following prestonsburgers.com, and on Facebook, and @prestonsburgers on Instagram.

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FOOD + TRAVEL WRITER

I go by Dr. Breakfast, but in addition to restaurants and recipes, I write about family travel, breweries and distilleries, the arts, outdoor fun, and so much more.

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