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Friday, November 25, 2011

Best Grub We Ever Had: Staff Edition

Posted By on Fri, Nov 25, 2011 at 10:00 AM

Cheezeburger!
  • Cheezeburger.

In honor of this week's feature story on Cleveland foodies' all-time favorite flavors, we bring you the recollections of our ever-ravenous staff. In this installment: Maude Campbell ...


I pretty much dismissed the most popular fast-food burger place on the planet by the time I was in fourth grade. Cholesterol had not yet become a daily household concern so that wasn’t it. You see, my grade-school palate had become accustomed to a more grown-up cheeseburger experience.

While my peers squealed delightedly when a trip to the then take-out only Golden Arches was announced; a smallish patty topped with not-really-melted cheese, a lopsided squirt of ketchup, two pickles set askew, and a sprinkle of tiny-diced onion didn’t work for me. A cheeseburger to me, was a dine-in affair at the Whip.

The Whip offers “beefburgers” rather than hamburgers and they're topped with truly melted cheese. To mine I always added the very sophisticated (for a kid) grilled onions and mushrooms (extra); onion rings, not fries, was my preferred side; my beverage—a chocolate shake which came with a dollop of heavy whipped cream and a cherry. From most tables I could see into the kitchen and watch them make my shake with real ice cream at one of those retro shake machines.

The Whip opened in 1940 and became a noted stop on Pearl Road in mostly rural Parma Heights. The white bungalow looks much the same inside and out as it did when I was a frequent diner in the 1960’s, and then, it looked much as it did in the ‘40s. The dark, thick wood paneling and red vinyl tablecloths are the same. The same decorative plates line a plate rail up front, and a 1940’s metal coat rack is a substantial presence. It has a more homey, rather than diner feel.

I, and many other long-time fans still refer to the lovely people who bought the place in 1979 as “the new owners.” The new owners are wise—they’ve kept the tradition going.

My beefburger with cheese can still be had today; it’s now called the “El Dorado” and comes with grilled onions and mushrooms—you don’t have to pay extra. It’s not a gourmet burger but is practically greaseless and the hamburger roll—-oh the roll! The cut sides of the already buttery bun are buttered and grilled just long enough for a fragile toastiness. The bun outsides and innards are croissant-like in texture.

They still have onion rings and milkshakes but I can’t see the old shake machine in the kitchen anymore. Standard ‘40s favorites dominate: liver and onions, T-bone steak, open-faced turkey sandwich with mashed spuds and gravy, spaghetti and meatballs, fried chicken, grilled cheese, and hot dogs. My mom often ordered the “Dieter’s Delight” with a beefburger (no bun), cottage cheese, tomato, and vegetables. It’s called “The Duchess” now.

I don’t get to the Whip as often as I should. Then again, there’s been a McDonald’s smack across the street from it for at least a quarter century and I think I’ve stopped there twice in that time—for a coffee.

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