The three-pound, thirty-dollar burger
Want to finish Tavern 19's behemoth Burger? Best bring some friends
It doesn’t take much effort to find a good burger in Rochester. Of course there are the local mainstays: Bill Gray’s, Schaller’s, and Don’s Original to name a few.
And then there’s the Tavern 19, where the old-fashioned hamburger looks like it’s on steroids.
Located in the former Evergreen Restaurant in Hamlin, Tavern 19 is named after the route on which it resides. With a homey yet modern feel, the restaurant’s menu features American fare ranging from wood-fired pizzas to pasta dishes, lobster, scallops, and steak.
At the heart of this traditional menu is the self-proclaimed “Killer Burger”—three pounds of ground beef served on a roll with French fries and a pickle for $28.99.
So far, according to Craig Reynolds, co-owner of Tavern 19, the burger has yet to be finished, but hundreds of folks have tried. If someone completes the task, the burger will be on the house. The patron will also take home a T-shirt.
Reynolds is no stranger to the Rochester restaurant business or the burger crowd. His grandfather Mickey bought the Charlotte Tavern nearly fifty years ago, and his parents Alan and Patti ran it until about fifteen years ago, when his twin brother, John, took over. John still runs the Charlotte Tavern, and Craig heads up Tavern 19. (Both brothers helped out at the Charlotte institution from the time they could reach the sink.)
The precursor to the Killer Burger was created—accidentally, you could say—more than twenty-five years ago when the brothers were on the wrestling team at Hilton High School.
“Back in high school, my brother and I were wrestlers for Hilton, and after we made weight, we would go down to the Charlotte Tavern and make these giant burgers that we called ‘Murder Burgers’ to get our strength back up,” Reynolds recalls. “Customers noticed the big burgers we were making and started asking my parents for them after we went off to college. Somehow the name got mixed up and became the Killer Burger, and it’s been on the menu for over twenty-five years. Over the years, the size has definitely grown to its current size.”
While the Killer Burger is an obvious draw, Tavern 19’ is also known for its wood-fired pizzas. The recipe is based on that of a New York City eatery, Goodfella’s. The pair were inspired when they met the owners of Goodfella’s while attending college downstate.
Each pie begins with a few simple ingredients: Italian-imported San Marzano tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, sauces made from scratch, Pecorino Romano cheese, and a finish of fresh basil. Additional toppings are practically endless and range from the usual mozzarella and pepperoni to eggplant, prosciutto di parma, peas, peppers, ricotta cheese, and more. The pizzas are then cooked in a revolving wood-fired brick oven, which is the first of its kind in upstate New York, Reynolds says.
The pizzas have done so well that the brothers will be adding them to the Charlotte Tavern menu this summer.
Tavern 19 has a full-service bar with nightly specials, including a brand-new cocktail and wine menu with wine and beer flights available. The Reynolds family invites patrons to stick around and enjoy the game room, which has dartboards, TVs, and a pool table. Find more information at thetavern19.com.
Jessica Gaspar is a lifelong Rochesterian and holds a special interest in Rochester history.