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by Caitlin Saniga

I’ve been ordering this burger my whole life. It’s Swensons traditional hamburger with mustard and pickles only. I usually order broken onion rings (little bites that are super crispy!) and a California drink (grape soda mixed with lemon-lime soda and crushed ice) to go with it.

At Swensons, you pull into a parking spot near the building and turn your car’s headlights on for service. Servers run up to the driver-side window and take your order. When the food’s ready, they bring it out on a metal tray that clamps to the car’s window.

I visited: Swensons, a northeast Ohio chain of drive-ins that’s been around since 1934 and specializes in burgers and milkshakes. Lots of people know Swensons for their signature Galley Boy sandwich, a double cheeseburger with homemade barbecue and tartar sauces. And the milkshakes are out of this world. Insider’s tip: There are 18 milkshake flavors on the menu, and any of them can be combined in one drink. Some of my favorites: Mint, peanut butter and jelly, and blueberry-pomegranate.

I tried: The hamburg (That’s what the menu calls ’em!) with mustard and pickles. It comes served on a buttered and toasted bun.

Why it stood out: The burgers at Swensons have a distinctly sweet taste to them. Over the years, I’ve heard rumors that the burgers have maple syrup, grape or raspberry jelly or brown sugar mixed into them. I’ve known more than five people who’ve worked as servers at Swensons, and none of them seem to know the secret ingredient. The mystery is half the fun.

It cost: $1.80

Swensons has a special spot in my heart. I’ve eaten there for a number of occasions, including once for a homecoming dinner date. I no doubt ordered a hamburger with mustard and pickles plus a California on this trip, too.

Find out more: Swensons has seven drive-ins scattered around Northeast Ohio. The one I most often visit is the Montrose location.
www.swensonsdriveins.com

*$6 Snacks is a recurring feature that reviews an area eatery’s snack — for $6 or less. Look at a map of the places we’ve tried. Help our map grow by submitting your own review. Find out how!

Swenson's (Akron) on Urbanspoon

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by Caitlin Saniga

My burger fixins were Bibb lettuce, Roma tomatoes and red onion. No mustard or ketchup necessary — these burgers were juicy and flavorful enough. A dill pickle on the side never killed anyone, either.

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup beer (I used Yeungling.)
  • 4 burger buns
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • burger fixins (lettuce, tomatoes, onions, spinach, apple slices … whatever ya want)

I found this beautiful Bibb lettuce — roots and all — at Fresh Market (my favorite specialty foods store) in Roanoke.

Preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high heat and lightly oil the grate. Or plug in an electric kitchen grill.

A. My friend Eddie puts mustard on errrrythang. B. He grew weary from watching me cook and take a million pictures of his burger. So he quickly annihilated it when I handed it over.

Mix the ground beef, onion, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, and thyme in a bowl. Mix in the beer until absorbed by the meat mixture (It will seem like the beer won’t absorb at first. Keep mashing). Form into patties.

Cook on the preheated grill until the burgers are cooked to your desired degree of doneness, about 5 minutes per side for well done, or about 5 minutes total in an electric kitchen grill. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read 160 degrees.

Sprinkle about 1/4 cup of cheese on the insides of each burger bun. Place buns on grill (with the lid covering) or under a broiler for about 1 minute, or until cheese melts.

Assemble burgers with your desired fixins.

Makes 4.

Recipe adapted from: AllRecipes.com

Photo: Caitlin Saniga

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