It is a period of rebellion.
The world has changed and the champions of heat and flavor have gone awry. Legions of kale-touting, gluten-hating, calorie crushing soldiers have descended into our food system, bringing with them destruction of all things fried and tasty. Gone are the days of the humble milkshake and cheeseburger, replaced by the smoothie bowls, quinoa, and avocado toast. While all these foods are great for one’s health, what the heart truly craves is something different; something greasy and juicy, spicy and cheesy; the kind of food that you need to roll up your sleeves to eat and loosen your belt after. Sadly, it is this food—the stuff that often crave late at night or the morning after—that has fallen victim to the highest of culinary catastrophes.
The truth is, nowadays, junk food is …. junk. It’s filled with overly-processed meats, preservative-laden vegetables, and more oil than the tar sands up north. Though delicious, it’s filled mostly with regret.
We live in an era where computers fit in our pockets, faces can be transplanted, and tickets can be bought to go to outer space. So, dammit, why must junk food be such junk?
Why can’t it be something better; something that answers to a higher seal of quality. Why can’t be topped with local lettuce and tomatoes picked in your own state? It is this question driving Ambrose and Eve collaborators Matt Heaggans and Catie Randazzo—now Three Sheets’ newest kitchen inhabitants—to make junk food great again.
With years of culinary experience and a knack for creating bar food that will make the snarkiest of critiques happy, Heaggans and Randazzo are revamping the world of junk food one juicy bite at a time with their “permanent pop-up” Burger Shack.
Their menu, a blend of gourmet redoes of classic snacks and sandwiches, sets them apart in the current food landscape. The idea came to them after having a junk food themed pop-up in the upstairs kitchen of Three Sheets for their upcoming restaurant Ambrose and Eve. The popup garnered widespread attention and the duo found the style of food to be ideal. They sold out of much of the food the first night and decided to continue working out of the upstairs kitchen with that original menu.
Their menu—which we’re happy to say outlasted the confines of the one-night only event—is a tribute to all of our favorite indulgences.
And they’re more than just a wink-wink tribute. The jalapeno poppers are more than you bargained for, making your mouth—and your eyes—water. There’s a vegan-friendly Cincinnati chili option (Vegan Two-Way). The “Funyon,” seem as big as an Elephant Ear, and the burger is just a straight-up classic delivery—one Heaggans became known for in his days at Flatiron. And the “MacCheek?” Let’s just say it’s better than the sandwich it’s not officially named after, and you’re sure to “lovin’ it.”
“Everything we’ve made has been in relation to something we like—it’s all stuff we want to be eating,” Randazzo said.
It is this love for the recipes that shines through when you eat the food—or when you hang around them and their food.
What is especially clear is how their pasts have melded into creating the spot they have today. Heaggans having come from his time at the Rossi, and Randazzo with her Challah food truck, were able to create a marriage between the high-end, fine dining techniques used in many of Columbus’s top restaurants and the greasy bar food we all know and love.
Just like the chefs that create it, approachability is a main ingredient.
“Junk food is universal—everyone knows it and everyone loves it,” Heaggans said. “It’s culturally unifying and really does bring people together.”
It’s part of our collective childhood, too. Randazzo recounted a time when she used to bike to the store in the winter and would hide pints of Moose Tracks on the roof from her mom. Heaggans used to hide oatmeal cream pies at school.
“Junk food for me has a way of bringing back memories like that,” Randazzo grinned. “It’s hard not to be happy when you eat it.”