Pimento Cheese & Bacon Burgers at the Roadhouse

The classic dish of Columbia, South Carolina here in Washtenaw County

By Ari Weinzweig

Throughout our history at Zingerman’s, we have taken great delight in tracking down regional classics and, by raising the bar on the quality of the ingredients used, turning them into really terrific and still authentic versions of their original selves. It’s what we’ve done at the Deli from day one with all of the traditional Eastern European Jewish dishes we feature. It’s what the Bakehouse does every day with nearly everything we make. It’s what we do with each carefully conceived dish on the menu at Miss Kim. Same thing happens at the Roadhouse with fried chicken, ribs, pulled pork, fresh Great Lakes whitefish, and with our particularly tasty Pimento Cheese & Bacon Burgers.

The history of the pimento cheese burger.

While the Pimento Cheese & Bacon Burgers at the Roadhouse are really great, their roots are 700 miles south of here, in Columbia, the capital city of South Carolina. Robert Moss, author of The Lost Southern Chefs: A History of Commercial Dining in the Nineteenth-Century South, writing in Garden and Gun, tells the story:

Down in Columbia, South Carolina, they’ve been putting the golden-yellow spread on hamburgers for more than half a century, and they do it a little differently. As best as culinary historians can tell, the pimento burger was created there by Jacob “J. C.” Reynolds, who, around 1954, opened the Dairy Bar on South Main Street in the shadow of the state capitol. Reynolds introduced his signature burger sometime in the 1960s, and it quickly became a favorite of harried bureaucrats and hungover college kids. … versions, and for decades the pimento burger ruled as an unheralded but much loved local specialty.

 Trying to track down an old-school pimento burger can be a wistful exercise, for so many of the original sources have long since closed their doors. … all had splendid pimento burgers, and all are now fading memories.

The Pimento Cheese & Bacon Burger at the Roadhouse is totally memorable, but it’s not fading and it’s not hard to find. Just swing by Maple and Jackson Roads and order one up. The Roadhouse crew occasionally features them as a lunch and dinner special, but you can always add our pimento cheese and slices of bacon to our awesome burgers. You could probably convince them to make you one at breakfast too. If it were me, I might consider asking for an over-easy egg on top at that time of day! 

Why our Pimento Cheese & Bacon Burger is so good!

Whatever time of day you have one, Roadhouse burgers like this one are really quite remarkable. I can easily slip into taking them for granted, but I’m reminded by folks who don’t have access to them every day just how truly terrific they are. Pasture-raised beef, dry-aged for a couple weeks, butchered by hand in the back kitchen, ground fresh daily, and hand-pattied (the more typical machine-making breaks down the fats in the meat and diminishes the quality of the eating experience). In this case, the burger is topped with that now nationally known Pimento Cheese (seriously, even people from the South ooh and aah over it) and two strips of Nueske’s Applewood Smoked Bacon. Served up on a toasted Brioche bun from Bakehouse, the whole thing makes for a marvelous meal. 

Down in Columbia, the original pimento cheese burger was often served topped with chili, and we are happy to do that, too. Just ask to add some of the Ancho Beef Chuck Chili on top when you order the burger.

Swing by soon and order one up!