Well-conceived, burger-centric chain celebrates its Ohio roots
As chain-restaurant themes go, featuring local products has to be one of the better hooks. This describes The Rail — an Ohio-sourcing, burger-centric operation that originated in Akron, is based in Wooster and recently set up shop in Dublin, the branch reviewed here.
The Rail's rock-solid Dublin outlet offers multiple dining spaces with TVs and preconceived rustic touches largely spelled out in red, black and wood. There's an airy, open main room with garage-door windows, picnic-style tables and a concrete floor; a small but nice bar area with padded-booth seating; a patio with a fire pit overlooking a parking lot; and, my least favorite section, a bright little chamber to the left of the bar with unfortunate sight lines. Wherever you sit, expect to have well-trained, friendly servers who are eager to discuss the place's Ohio-highlighting ethos.
That subject encompasses the 24 craft beers on tap, all of which are brewed in the Buckeye State. Included in this excellent selection is a pleasant and versatile beer exclusively produced for The Rail by CBC called Red Rail Lager ($6.50 a pint), which offers restrained toasted-malt notes, a relatively light body and not-over-the-top hops.
Many of the cocktails here veer toward sweet and fruity. A notable exception is the recommended Smoked Bloody Mary ($11), made with Cleveland-distilled Seven Brothers Smoked Whisky.
If you'd like an Ohio-sourced poultry snack to help soak up the Ohio-sourced booze — and why not? — the warm, cheesy, mildly spicy Buffalo Chicken Dip ($8), garnished with crisp local bacon bits, is a modest-sized but rich, satisfying starter.
The Housemade Fried Pickles ($6) hit the mark, too. Dredged in flour livened with fresh dill, fried to crisp and not greasy, and then served with a thin-but-perky jalapeno-ranch dip, the chips are fun to munch.
The house-specialty burgers arrive in puffy and sweet, toasted buns and are served with spot-on shoestring fries. The Rail will garnish its patties with topping combinations such as truffle butter, onion jam and bacon (7th Heaven Burger, $12.50); pulled pork, wontons and bacon (Crouching Burger, $13.25); and a blazing barrage of chili-ignited items (Bonfire Burger, $11.75).
The far simpler Rail Burger — with a choice of melted cheese plus lettuce, tomato and onion ($10.50) — demonstrates that any such bells and whistles are in the service of a righteously thick, juicy and smoke-grilled patty.
For a $2.50 upcharge, you can swap the good house fries with other good and good-sized side dishes, such as the crisp golden-brown Housemade Tater Tots with creamy interiors, excellent grilled asparagus or the well-made Li'l Wedge salad.
That cooling salad is a great companion for the spicy, salty and smoky Mojo Burger ($12.75): an Ohio-sourced andouille sausage and beef patty garnished with a lively and fresh jalapeno slaw, cheddar and lettuce. This one rewards fans of big, bold flavors.
Corned beef is the Ohio-sourced meat in the Woody Hayes-Stack ($11.25) — a terrific, brunch-style dish that essentially merges a Reuben sandwich with corned-beef hash. It does this by layering thinly sliced corned beef with a puffy-yet-crisp potato pancake, pickled cabbage, Swiss cheese, house Thousand Island dressing and a fried egg.
Chicken — locally sourced, of course — encased in a craggy batter that leads to a thick and juicy, though not particularly tender, piece of breast meat is the star of the crowd-pleasing County Line Fried Chicken Sandwich ($10.50). Fresh house slaw and bread-and-butter pickles help offset the richness of the fried bird in this sturdy and pleasurable sandwich.
“Sturdy and pleasurable” pretty much tells the tale of this strong-performing member of The Rail — a well-conceived restaurant chain with the genuinely bright idea to celebrate its Ohio roots.