Old time diner, good time food

. September 5, 2012.

The summer days I treasured most were the ones that conspicuously lacked the usual scheduled activities, appointments, pressing errands and a never-ending to do list. One such day this past summer we seized the “free day” opportunity and enjoyed a leisurely afternoon in the historic village of Waterville, Ohio.

A bit of yesteryear

I have passed through Waterville many times over the years but had never spent time walking through the downtown shops and galleries. My kids and I enjoyed the historic buildings, unique shops, and the friendly people we met wherever we meandered that day. We even took a respite at Farnsworth Metro Park on the river. My children especially enjoyed that. The afternoon was ours to explore — no rush, no commitments.

Burger joint with personality

Our exploring left us hungry by early afternoon so I heeded the advice of a few friends to try Koral Hamburg. In the 1800s the building that is home to Koral Hamburg in downtown Waterville was a stagecoach stop. The restaurant has been in business since 1926, and changed the name to Koral Hamburg in the early 80s when the Koralewski family took ownership. Fifteen years ago, Jay and Melody Surdasky purchased the restaurant and though they kept the name, they gave it the current 50s/60s theme. They have been awarded bragging rights for  best burger in town on several occasions.   
The restaurant’s outside charm and character was outdone by  that on the inside. The red and white checkered floor coordinated with the painted booths lining the walls and the tables in the center. A plethora of pictures and posters from days gone by adorned every wall. Whether it was a classic Coke sign, or pictures of the Three Stooges and I Love Lucy, they gave the old-fashioned diner unique character. Add to that a painted tin ceiling, jukebox, and an old-time soda fountain for shakes and malts, and
it’s a dining experience that feeds all -your senses.

Bring your appetite

Owner Jay Surdasky will be the first to let you know their quarter pound burgers are made with only fresh ground chuck made from the highest quality ingredients. “It’s all about the food,” said Mr. Surdasky. Though they have salads, homemade soups, and tasty coleslaw on the menu, customers come for the burgers, onions rings, secret recipe chili, and of course, dessert. There are a variety of other wonderful sandwiches on the menu, too. The Cod fish sandwich seemed to be popular the day we were in, and Surdasky said the Reubens, stacked with corned beef, are very popular as well.

My bacon cheeseburger for $4.75 was big and flavorful. Surprisingly, the kid burgers weren’t much smaller! For children 12 and under they offer hamburgers, hot dogs, or grilled cheese with a pop, chips, and Tootsie Pop for only $3.75. Kids eat free Tuesday and Thursday evenings with one kids meal accompanying each adult platter and large drink purchase. On Mondays and Wednesdays the Koral Quarter Pounder is only $1.25 — quite a bang for the buck. “We try to give back to the customers and keep our prices low,” said Surdasky.   

Despite 15 more restaurants opening in a three mile radius of Koral Hamburg over the years, they have adapted and survived and continue to serve almost 50,000 customers every year. “We are always thinking of something new to keep it interesting,” he said. For instance, the Koral Kupcake has been popular with the locals. The “bun” is made of yellow cupcake, a chocolate brownie serves as the hamburger, and the condiments are made of icing. We would have loved to try one, but after finishing the fabulous chocolate malt served in the 26 ounce tin, we were more than full.

My kids joke that we’ll have to return and have my husband try their Kardiac Burger (two four-ounce patties, four pieces of bacon, and two kinds of cheese — intense!). It comes complete with sirens and such. I may pass on the Kardiac Burger myself, but I’m thinking the homemade carrot cake and double chocolate cake are a must try.

Bottom Line: Slow your pace and experience an old time diner and burger joint that takes you back in time. The kids are guaranteed to love the food and desserts, and it’s a fun, yet affordable outing for the entire family. Stick around for a bit and enjoy the small town atmosphere and the wonderful nearby metro park, too.

Koral Hamburg
12 N. 3rd.  St. Waterville, Ohio
Mon-Sat: 11am-8pm
Sun: 11am-7pm

Karen Zickes is a mom of three active
children and freelance writer who resides
in Holland, Oh. She can be reached in
c/o editor@toledoparent.com.