It's that time of year when three words instill fear and frenzy into otherwise stable people: holiday shopping season.

It's that time of year when three words instill fear and frenzy into otherwise stable people: holiday shopping season.

I can help.

Because when you're inevitably left holding the bags at Easton as endless Christmas carols play, I can recommend an oasis. It's a happy place featuring juicy burgers, crispy fries, surprising appetizers and rewarding drinks. It's down-to-earth but sophisticated Flip Side, part of a small chain of northeastern Ohio-based burger parlors.

Since the Easton branch opened in 2012, several other high-end, higher-priced burger specialists have popped up around Columbus. None are as good as Flip Side.

Yep, Flip Side's probably going to be crowded now, too (hint: Seats are more frequently available near the big bar), but once settled, you can refuel and refresh for the holiday melees still lying ahead. Call it a temporary "de-Scrooge-ification."

Friendly servers wearing Run-D.M.C.-inspired T-shirts will greet you in Flip Side's mall-negating digs. So will classic rock, low evening lighting, unobtrusive televisions and the word "local," which is written on the butcher paper-tinted walls.

Living up to this billing, instead of "factory farm" meat, Flip Side uses leaner, cleaner and heart-healthier beef from grass-fed Ohio cattle.

Six out of its 20 craft taps (including CBC's great Bodhi, $6) are also sourced from Ohio.

Local liquor crops up in interesting cocktails, such as the Joshua Tree ($8). Made with Watershed gin and Two Hearted Ale, it's like floral lemonade with a hoppy finish. Also recommended: the tart Flip Side margarita ($8) shaken with fresh citrus.

Imbued with Christmas spirits, now move on to the Macaroni and Cheese garnished generously with juicy barbecued beef brisket ($9.50). The large and comforting serving showcases a cheese sauce that tastes like it was built from a real bechamel.

If crispy starters are calling, check out the nifty Mini Kobe Beef Corn Dogs ($8.50). A quartet of little knockwurst-type sausages arrive blanketed in not-too-greasy, sweet jackets. Seeking crispy vegetable matter? Then target the light and crackly Tempura Asparagus ($7) -- spears partnered with shiitake mushroom caps.

As with all standout burgers, Flip Side's are sear-crusted, juicy and not overly dense. The 7-ounce patties come on sesame-seeded, lightly toasted brioche rolls.

Among Flip Side's many over-the-toppings burger creations, the One Red Door ($10.50) contrasts creamy brie cheese with "crispy shallots" (think crunchy onion straws). Unifying the wonderful sandwich is a chunky aioli that's sweet from dates and smoky from bacon.

Deeply caramelized, balsamic-drenched onions lend the messy namesake Flip Side burger ($9.50) a bold French onion soup flavor. Tangy house barbecue sauce and crispy bacon give it backbone. Holding it all together is aged cheddar.

I also enjoyed the explosive Chili Pepper Burger ($9.50). Unfortunately, the meat got a bit lost in the heat of pickled jalapenos, sriracha, smoked ketchup and "chili onion rings."

Skipping meat and carbs? Try the bunless Inverted Veggie Burger ($8). Two hearty chickpea-based veggie burgers -- that actually taste like vegetables -- sandwich a salad livened up by a roasted red pepper sauce.

Flavorful sandwiches can also star progressively raised "Laughing Bird" shrimp ($13.50), fresh-tasting grouper ($16), or sushi-grade tuna ($15).

Overall, my favorite burger was the Curry Lamb ($11.50). Its thick, lean and gamy patty came with minted cucumber threads and a thin, yogurt sauce.

You can't lose side dish-wise, either. Because whether they're terrific onion rings ($6), serious hand-cut fries ($4) or sweet potato fries served with a counterbalancing horseradish mustard sauce ($4.50), they're top-notch.

With an indulgent Chef's Shake ($5.50; peanut butter, pretzels, chocolate and vanilla ice cream), sweet-toothers aren't excluded from Flip Side's "something for everyone" ethos.

Considering 'tis the season of mall mauling, I advise getting it spiked with dark rum ($3).