Whitehall's Daft Burger
New burger joint offers unusual toppings, arm-wrestling challenges
Wimpy, Popeye's penniless friend with a proclivity for hamburgers, might not like the menu at Daft Burger in Whitehall.
Well, he might like the burgers but maybe not the toppings and certainly not the competitive activity -- arm wrestling.
"It's not for everyone. ... It's for those who are a little more adventurous," at least with their palate, said co-owner Fernando Lara, 29, a Los Angeles native who left sunny California for central Ohio eight years ago.
After working at various restaurants his family members own, he and his younger brother, Albert, chose to open their own restaurant in July.
Daft Burger, a 2,500-square-foot joint that seats 50, occupies 885 S. Hamilton Road, in Whitehall.
Fernando Lara said he missed the food and hanging out at some of the "mom and pop burger joints" in the Los Angeles area and noticed that such places were uncommon in central Ohio.
In addition to a menu of creatively themed grilled hamburger platters, Daft Burger harkens back to a bygone era as people arm wrestle at tables and a jukebox is part of the restaurant's decor.
The Lara brothers and their two cousins staff the restaurant.
Lara said some advance trial-and-error efforts went into creating the menu.
Two popular entrees include the Elvis Burger and the Doc Holliday burger.
The Elvis Burger, named for Elvis Presley, features one of Presley's favorites, peanut butter, as well as bacon, plantains and pickles. The Doc Holliday burger, named for the famous gunslinger, features onion rings, bacon, pepper-jack cheese, mustard and barbecue sauce.
Other specialty burgers feature dates and cream cheese.
"Most people offer mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard, but I want to serve burger toppings that are truly unusual," Lara said.
Burgers with the traditional toppings are served, too.
"We grill all of our hamburgers, and we think that really adds to the flavor and makes the best burgers, regardless of the toppings," he said.
Lara also offers a veggie burger.
Thus far, the menu is limited to hamburgers, with sides of either french fries or onion rings, although Lara said the menu eventually might expand to include chicken or other items.
Lara said he chose the name Daft Burger as a nod to the dictionary definition of the word daft, which could have more than one interpretation, such as silly, foolish, mad, insane and frivolously merry.
"We think our burgers are kind of crazy and hope people are crazy about them," Lara said.
Lara said he surveyed several locations before choosing Whitehall, a site he preferred because of its proximity to freeways, a large population and the lack of competition.
Lara said although Daft Burger is unusual, he considers a business such as Five Guys Burgers and Fries to be of a similar nature as it, along with a few other chains, focuses on grilled burgers.
"But we are truly one of a kind," said Lara, who added another unusual component to the restaurant by highlighting the art of arm wrestling.
Lara and his brother are well-practiced at arm wrestling, so much so that the brothers have been known to arm wrestle customers, with a free hamburger hanging in the balance.
"That's how we'd settle some disagreements -- well, being brothers and all, we both got pretty good (at arm wrestling)," Lara said.
In addition to challenging customers, the table at the restaurant reserved for arm wrestling provides an opportunity for camaraderie among customers.
Lara said he particularly tries to introduce the practice to teenagers as a constructive activity.
"I think we're off to a good start here, and we're having fun, too," Lara said.
Daft Burger is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.