George Mathew graduated from Ohio State in 2009 with the intention of pursuing a career in the business world of New York City. Five years later, he is the owner of Bareburger, a restaurant in the Short North district that opened its doors just last month.
Bareburger started in Astoria, Queens, a neighborhood typically known for its Greek food and culture. In 2009, the first restaurant was opened by a group of local entrepreneurs looking to entice customers with an all-natural and organic burger selection.
Mathew came across Bareburger when a friend of his was in town visiting. They looked up burger restaurants in New York when Bareburger showed up as the second search result.
“As soon as we walked in, we were enamored for the place. It was so different,” Mathew said.
He immediately began thinking of how Bareburger would do in a city like Columbus. After their meal, Mathew wanted to pursue the idea of bringing Bareburger to Columbus, he just wasn’t sure how.
In 2011, Mathew moved back to Columbus for a finance job with a local retailer.
“I liked what I was doing, but I never loved it,” Mathew said. “It was just a job, and I knew I wanted to start something.”
Mathew reached out to two of his friends from OSU, Chuck Xu and Ben Christopher, to see if they would be interested in partnering with him.
In their minds, Bareburger was the best choice because of its already established identity in New York and available franchises.
“Let’s start something from New York and bring it here. Burgers always work,” Mathew said.
In July 2012, Mathew and his partners began the franchising process with Bareburger. Mathew met with Bareburger corporate executives and explained why Columbus would be a great location for another restaurant.
In the meantime, Mathew began searching for available spaces for the new restaurant. He came upon the Yankee Trader Building, located at 463 N. High St.
“We loved the Short North. It’s a more urban, more young neighborhood, and that’s kind of what we attract,” Mathew said.
Another burger restaurant, Flip Side, was in a leasing agreement in the Yankee Trader space that Mathew was interested in. When the lease with Flip Side fell through, Mathew and his Bareburger team were on board.
The building, which used to host a store selling costume and party goods, required a lot of renovations to make it become a true Bareburger restaurant. Not only is their entire menu all-natural and organic, but they also use recycled products in the build out of the restaurant.
The walls of the restaurant are made of reclaimed wood from local barns. The tables are also made of this same reclaimed wood. Bareburger uses spoons and recycled bottles to make the light fixtures that hang above each table.
Almost two years later, and Bareburger was ready to open its doors.
Since it opened last month, Mathew has been amazed by its success. “It’s better than what I expected. We’re proud of ourselves. We do have some improvements we could make, but we’ve done a pretty good job with the work we’ve done,” Mathew said.
Bareburger’s entire menu is all-natural or organic and features a large selection of salads, sandwiches and burgers. They have 15 pre-made burger choices, but there is also the option to create your own Bareburger.
“The way we produce the food, I don’t think it matters your demographic, you’re probably going to like it,” Mathew said.
They also pride themselves on the high quality of food and service that they provide to their customers.
“We also meet many dietary restrictions like vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, so we’re also unique in that perspective,” Mathew said.
Bareburger employees had positive things to say about their experience thus far with Bareburger.
“It’s my favorite restaurant I’ve ever worked at. Without a doubt,” said Max Kamer, a counter server. “Everyone gets along here. It’s nice to see (the management) express a genuine interest in their employees.”
Maria Lopez, a third-year hospitality management student, works as a waitress at Bareburger.
“I’m very for the sustainability and organic movement. When I found this job on Craigslist, I knew this was where I needed to be,” Lopez said.
Mathew has plans to expand Bareburger in the future.
“We got the first one running, and we want to make sure it does well, but we would love to go into different neighborhoods, and maybe different cities,” Mathew said.
Burgers range from $8.95 to $13.95, and fries and sides are an additional $2 to $5. Salads range from $5.95 to $13.95, and sandwiches range from $9.95 to $12.25.
Bareburger is open Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.