Snow and Berg families enjoy a lunch at Bearden’s to celebrate
the first day of preschool and kindergarten. The restaurant
has an extensive children’s menu (West Life photo by Larry Bennet)
recalls memories of drive-in dining heyday
By Cynthia Schuster-Eakin
Published Sept. 2, 2006
the words “hamburger” and “Cleveland” and chances are Bearden’s
will pop up on your computer screen.
Bearden’s Restaurant in Rocky River has close to a
60-year history of serving what they claim are the best burgers
in Cleveland. Established prior to the heyday of the drive-in restaurants,
Bearden’s was the place to be on a Friday or Saturday night back
in the 1950s. Owners Joe and Gina Orange say that, to this day,
they hear stories of high school romances, first dates and hot cars.
Bearden’s actually opened in 1934 as the Jackson Limited.
It was owner Charlie Jackson’s second drive-in. “Limited” referred
to the model train circling above the dining room. The restaurant
closed in 1943, but was leased and reopened in 1944 by Bill Orange.
Ross Bearden bought the building in 1948. Orange retained the lease
and formed a partnership with Bearden to open more restaurants.
They built three more, located on Rocky River Drive, Pearl Road
in Parma and Warren Road in Lakewood.
J.B. Orange took over the operation of the restaurants
in the 1960s. He bought the Lake Road operation in 1971 and began
a series of remodeling projects. He added a shingle roof and Tudor
facade. The pavilion in the back of the restaurant was enclosed
and became the “Back Room” with its own train, wooden benches and
tables and a Franklin stove. J.B. Orange’s youngest son Joe purchased
the business from his father in 1985.
The model train still runs in the dining room at Bearden’s,
and despite the changes that have take place over the years, that
train is still a favorite with the children.
“Lots of kids come here because of the train,” manager
Gloria Starr said. “People call ahead to see if the train is running
Families are catered to at Bearden’s. Kid’s meals
are top sellers on the menu. “I think it is because we offer such
a large variety of items to choose from, and you get a milkshake,”
Starr noted. The children’s menu offers chicken tenders, fish sticks,
cheese sticks, toasted cheese, burgers, hot dogs and pizza. Each
meal comes with fries and a shake and is priced at $4.95.
There are many different items on the Bearden’s menu
today, but burgers are still king, according to Starr. The double
Beardenburger ($4) is the favorite, she said, followed by the single
steakburger ($3) and the peanutburger ($3.30), which is topped with
melted peanut butter.
“Years ago, we had Michael Stanley in the restaurant
to film a segment for a television show,” Starr recalled. “They
made a peanutburger while he was here. After that, it seemed like
we served six solid months of peanutburgers.”
Other sandwiches on the menu include chili dogs made
with homemade chili ($2.75), breaded cod ($3.75), ground chicken
burger ($3.50) and barbecued pork ($3.95). Add an order of Bearden’s
renowned onion rings ($3.25), or a side of fried zucchini with ranch
dressing ($3.95) or chili cheese fries ($6.95) to that for a filling,
but inexpensive meal.
Customers looking for something on the lighter side
can opt for a grilled chicken salad ($6.50), chef salad ($6.95)
or tuna or chicken salad platter ($6.25). A different soup du jour
is offered daily and chili is served by the bowl in season.
Dinner entrees are served after 4 p.m. and include
honey-dipped fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy ($8.25),
breaded cod dinner ($8.25), or veal cutlet with mushroom gravy ($5.95).
Hot turkey is served open faced over bread with fries and apple
sauce ($6.75), and the shrimp dinner includes a half dozen good-sized
fried shrimp with fries, onion rings and cole slaw ($8.25).
A daily selection of fruit and cream pies are available
for dessert. Beverages are mostly coffee and fountain drinks, but
beer is served.
Next year, Bearden’s marks its 60th anniversary. Youngsters
still come in to watch the train circle the dining room and customers
enjoy the burgers that have made Bearden’s a household name in Cleveland.
Bearden’s is at 19985 Lake Road. Phone (440) 331-7850.
Major credit cards are accepted. The restaurant has wheelchair access.
The restaurant is open until 9 p.m. daily in the summer. Starting
in October, the hours are 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Monday through
Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.