Keep Bellefontaine restaurant top of mind for burgers, shakes when visiting nearby attractions
The back of the menu at Don’s Downtown Diner in Bellefontaine, Ohio, reads: “You shouldn’t drive out of our community to enjoy a great meal.”
But Columbus folk like us who have driven an hour northwest of home will be lucky to find this modest joint in the heart of Logan County. Don’s serves “quality food at a fair price,” which includes the best chocolate-and-peanut-butter shakes we’ve ever had. It’s well worth the effort to seek it out.
We discovered Don’s on the Internet while researching places to eat in between exploring caves and riding horses at nearby attractions. The restaurant is located near Ohio Caverns and the Piatt Castles in West Liberty and Marmon Valley Farm and Mad River Mountain in Zanesfield.
Don’s received rave reviews on Yelp, Trip Advisor and Urban Spoon. The most accurate, we learned, was one that read: “The exterior gives the wrong impression of the place.”
Once in downtown Bellefontaine, we nearly passed the squat, white-brick building while driving along Main Street. The restaurant is located one block south of the Logan County Courthouse and Court Avenue, the oldest concrete street in the nation – paved in 1891.
It’s small inside, too. There are a dozen tables and booths and a half dozen counter seats. The decor is mostly stainless steel and black vinyl. The floor and walls are white, except for a splash of red on the side where we sat. We could see the cook’s ball cap bobbing behind a wall as he prepared meals to order.
We also learned that produce is purchased in season from local farmers and fries are hand cut. The menu includes sandwiches, salads, sides and stellar shakes made with ice cream from Young’s Jersey Dairy in Yellow Springs, Ohio – more about that in a minute.
Don’s is best known for its steak burgers, which come from a local, family-owned butcher’s shop, and are priced from $6.99 for a hamburger to $17.99 for the Baby Matilda – a deluxe model made with two half-pound patties, two grilled cheese sandwiches, bacon and cheddar cheese.
Other out-of-the-ordinary menu items include deep-fried pickles, a bacon cheeseburger topped with peanut butter, and the “Fatty Patty,” featuring bacon and cheese served between two Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. We passed on that one, but I’d love to hear from someone bold enough to give it a try.
Kids meals, which cost $4.99, include the standard chicken fingers, grilled cheese, hamburgers and hot dogs, with fries and a drink.
Mike had a simple cheeseburger with pepper jack and extra pickles. It was pretty large, and he said it was “terrific.” My fried fish was tender and white on the inside and delicious between a wheat bun with a side of fries, and the kids ate their grilled cheese sandwiches and fries without complaint.
The highlight, though, were the shakes that arrived in the stainless-steel malt cups that they’re mixed in. They’re thick, creamy and full of flavor and served before your meal arrives, which might explain why they’re so good. Who wouldn’t want dessert first?
Don’s is located at 208 S. Main St., Bellefontaine, Ohio. For more information, call 937-599-4444.