111 N Elizabeth St
Lima, OH 45801-4334
Kewpee Whaa?! I'll be honest...I never had heard of Kewpee Burger until a coworker and I made a random trip to Northwest Ohio. In search of a cheap yet different lunch, we drove around until my coworker spotted the Kewpee Burger restaurant and excitedly squealed into the parking lot. I was confused and wondering what all of the excitement was all about. After all, the building looked like it was straight from the 1960s and had an oversized baby doll donning a chef's hat on its sign. If anything, this was all a turn-off!
Inside also looked like the 1960s and had even more creepy looking baby dolls pinned up by the menu board. The menu board itself was nothing flashy at all, either. I had felt like I had entered a time machine to a time where this was all cutting edge and high tech. To add to that, most of the clientele were in the later part of their lives, and probably had been coming to Kewpee Burger since its inception. What was remarkable, however, was just how many people there were filling the countless seats in the vast restaurant! The place was filled! This place was no joke...my coworker was on to something, it seemed!
Looking past the weird baby dolls and inspecting the menu, it looked like your standard McDonald's/Burger King/Wendy's hamburger fast food menu - only cheaper! Yes, cheaper! The prices seemed as frozen in time as the burnt orange decor! Hamburgers for $1.50, milkshakes for $2.40, chili for $1.70, and something called toasted cheese for $1.75! Fantastic! I ordered the cheeseburger combo meal that came with fries and a soda.
Sitting down, I noticed the peculiar phrase "Hamburg with pickle on top makes your <3 go flippity-flop" emblazoned on the side of my drink cup. I finally demanded that my coworker tell me what was up with this place. Why was it so popular and how had I never heard of it before?! As it turns out, he explained, there are only five Kewpee Burger locations still in existence, three of which are in Lima, Ohio.
It was founded in 1923 and is the 2nd oldest hamburger fast food chain in the world! In fact, Kewpee Burger is where Dave Thomas used to go growing up as a kid in Michigan and served as his inspiration for Wendy's, which he started when he moved to Columbus, Ohio in 1969.
Get out of town! I couldn't believe what I was hearing. This was some rich fast food history that originated right here in Ohio...and by the delectable taste of those juicy square Kewpee hamburgers, I could tell why it has remained a staple in Northwest Ohio!