The Thurman Cafe: Hamburgers, weightlifters, and a German Village miracle

Ain’t ya heard? There’s a famous burger joint in German Village called The Thurman Cafe. Every March,¬†Arnold Schwarzenegger runs the Arnold Classic in Columbus and it’s become a tradition for competing bodybuilders to go to the cafe and eat their enormous hamburgers. The restaurant is even covered on Travel Channel’s “Man vs Food.” I’d only been once before and waited something like a day and a half to get in (it is a known possibility to have a three hour wait), so I made a plan to go during an off hour with my wife and father-in-law. To my surprise, I pulled up to a parking spot directly in front of the cafe, with nobody waiting outside.

It was a German Village miracle. For those interested in going without waiting, we arrived at about 4:30 on a Wednesday afternoon, just as rush hour was picking up. Winds were coming out of the NW at 10 mph. I was wearing black. I don’t know what else to tell you.


The Thurman Cafe is divey, cluttered, and dark. It’s not exactly where I would bring my grandma, but then again, that’s precisely what the next table over had done and she didn’t seem to mind. The walls are covered with dollar bills, on which are written the names of those who have completed the ‘Thurmanator Challenge.’ In celebration of the Arnold Classic, the Thurmanator is, in this order, a bun, mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickle, banana peppers, a 12 oz burger, bacon, cheddar, another 12 oz burger, sauteed onions and mushrooms, ham, mozzarella, American cheese, and a bun served with fries and a pickle spear. There’s no time limit. There’s no covering the bill. You pay for it, you eat it in one sitting, and you get to put a dollar bill with your name on it on the wall.

I steered clear of the Thurmanator and opted for the more reasonably-sized 3/4 pound behemoth Thurman Burger, which comes with most of the same stuff as the Thurmanator, but less of it. Pink lemonade for scale.


All told, with no wait and quick food, we were at the Thurman Cafe for less than an hour. I had anticipated a longer trip, but now we were stuck near downtown in the height of rush hour. To kill time, we wandered over to nearby Schiller Park.


It was a gorgeous late afternoon, and we enjoyed walking the perimeter of the park scoping out our future house (right after I win the lottery).


Or I’m digging this one with a gas-lit lantern out front.


At about 6 o’clock, we figured we’d let enough commuters get out of our way, so we headed back home. In all, a giant burger at The Thurman Cafe and a walk around Schiller Park is a great way to spend a Wednesday early evening in May.