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.

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 deepen your growing dementia, I can recommend an oasis. It's a happy place rife with juicy burgers, crispy fries, surprisingly cheffy 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 TVs and the word "local," which is literally 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 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 onto the Macaroni and Cheese garnished generously with juicy BBQ beef brisket ($9.50). The large and comforting serving showcases a nutmeg-y cheese sauce that tastes built from a real bechamel.

If crispy starters are calling, check out the nifty Mini Kobe Beef Corn Dogs ($8.50). A quartet of garlicky 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 aroused 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 alluringly gamy patty came with minted cucumber threads and a thin, yogurt sauce.

You can't lose side dish-wise, either. Because from terrific onion rings ($6) to serious hand-cut fries ($4) to 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).