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So Cincinnati: Herb and Thelmas

Updated: Friday, January 24 2014, 11:15 PM EST
COVINGTON, Ky. (Joe Webb) -- If you've driven up the hill on Covington's Pike Street you've undoubtedly seen the odd shaped building on the big curve.

If you step inside, chances are you'll see Rich Ritchie at the grill.  It's his baby.  There's no other grill like it.  It's a 1940's version of the South Bend grill.  It's got a seasoned platter on it, seasoned in more ways than one.  Not only has it soaked in the flavors of fried bologna and hot metts, it's acquired a real burger seasoning.  This old grill cooks a lot of burgers.

On an average week? 300-325 burgers. You take that times 52 weeks a year and you make between 15,000 and 17,000 burgers a year.  Each one a third-pound, hand-made patty of burger that was ground that day and never frozen.  Slow-cooked.  It's what brings back the regulars and draws in first- timers, like Emily Frank.

She got the standard cheeseburger with pickle and onion.

"It was a great experience. It's delicious. It tastes fresh. You can taste the grill. It all comes together very well."

A single cheeseburger is $2.50. The building was built in 1859.  It's been a barber shop, bank and apartments.  Since 1939, it's been pretty much what it is today.

Rich bought the place two years ago from the Boehmker family who ran it for 73 years.  He has filled it with memorabilia, authentic beer lights from local brewers, and a trolley car ad from the old green line that clacked up the hill past the bar for generations.  The burgers are a big draw to Herb and Thelma's but there's more.

For the people who came here with their grandparents and parents, it's continuity.  A sense of place.

"This is just like old Covington and it's a warm, inviting place."

"It's a refreshing step into the past and we're losing them. We just lost Chez Nora last week. We're losing these places one-by-one."

Rich has Herb and Thelma's on the market.  The 80-hour weeks are getting to him.  He hopes to find a buyer who keeps it like it is.  So does the throng that gobbles up those 15,000 burgers every year.  Because you can get a burger a lot of places but Herb and Thelma's is the only place you can get one of like these.

Herb and Thelma's got its name from Herb Boehmker and his wife, Thelma, who bought the place from Herb's father in 1961.  Herb sold the bar to his son Chip in 1984 and he ran it until 2012.

VIDEO HERESo Cincinnati: Herb and Thelmas


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