Dive into K’s Hamburger Shop in Troy

Experience the charm of an old-fashioned diner at K’s Hamburger Shop in Troy, with offerings like soups and burgers with fries; photo: Paula Johnson

By Paula Johnson

When you walk into K’s Hamburgers in Troy, the phrase “stepping back in time” almost doesn’t adequately sum up the experience. K’s is a diner serving breakfast all day, as well as their famous burgers, fries, and shakes, plus a few other menu items. They’ve been doing it since 1935, when Paul and Doris Klein started the place. While burgers don’t cost 5 cents anymore, and French fries and ketchup are now available, not a whole lot else has changed (these days that burger will set you back $2.70). The building was much smaller when it opened, however, with only 10 stools, and it was located across the street. Forced into moving to accommodate a car showroom, K’s was literally dragged across the street by a tractor to its new location. Two extra dining rooms were added on, and by 1958 K’s was completed, looking much the same today as it did then. The booths in one of the dining areas have vintage Formica tabletops with the classic mid-century modern boomerang pattern. They are exactly like the booths in the beloved neighborhood diner I frequented as a kid.

K’s is an order-at-the-counter, seat-yourself, and listen-for-your-name kind of place. Behind the counter, ladies write down your order, as well as cook it. DCP Publisher Paul mentioned a younger guy who works behind the counter and wears one of those paper food server hats that are rarely seen these days. I wish he had been there—it would have completed the ’50s tableau perfectly. I had the feeling these ladies had been around a while, as they seemed to know most of the patrons sitting around the counter by name. Those folks were clearly regulars, too, and I had the feeling that many a K’s hamburger had sustained them over the years.

I was looking forward to a hamburger sustaining me as I visited for lunch along with Paul, a big fan of mom-and-pop operations and a previous patron of K’s. We looked over the menu board, noticing offerings like Jell-O (with fruit or with vegetables), pickled beets and eggs, macaroni salad, and two kinds of soups, homemade and, oddly, Campbell’s (pairs perfectly with Jell-O maybe?). We asked about the soup and were assured K’s indeed makes five homemade soups every day, so I ordered the beef noodle. Paul went with the chili, and we ordered up burgers, fries, and shakes to round out our K’s experience. Here’s the breakdown:

The Soup: The beef noodle really tasted homemade, with a good, savory, beefy broth. The chili was not a favorite, thin and almost brothy, with few beans, and strangely sweet.

The Burger: A double cheeseburger to be exact ($3.35). K’s grinds their own meat and cooks it in a way I’ve never seen before, with a combination of grilling and frying. They describe it as “wet grilling.” It’s basically a flat grill with tray sides filled with grease. Burgers grill while submerged. Don’t gag yet—stay with me on this. The result is an amazingly great tasting burger. These burgers are the old style, thin patties, so ordering a double is not excessive. I had mine with everything, and it was a delicious, sopping mess.

The Fries: These are the standard, wavy accordion variety, crispy fried and soft inside. I am a fan.

The Milkshake: Paul is a fan of the really retro version of a shake, the malt, which has a slightly molasses-like flavor. I went for the classic chocolate shake ($2.95). We had asked about chocolate syrup being used and were told incorrectly that it wasn’t. I prefer a shake with just chocolate ice cream, finding the Hershey’s taste too strong. The shake is served with a glass along with the tall metal mixer cup, but what’s the point? There is nothing like holding that cold, frosty, silver metal in your hands as you try to suck the thick milkshake through the straw. No danger of ice cream headache here. It took me the whole lunch to drink barely half of mine. If you are in a hurry or just prefer it to thin out a little, go ahead and use the glass to encourage melting. (You are probably the kind of person who puts ice cream in the microwave, something I would put a stop to entirely if I could.)

I love that K’s website (I was surprised they actually had one) has a heading called “Scrumptious Delicacies” on one of its pages. It made me chuckle when I read it. While I won’t go that far, I will recommend K’s if you’ve got a place in your heart for that old-fashioned diner you remember from long ago. Even if you don’t remember one, K’s is where you want to go for old school.

Food : 45%

Value/Price : 25%

Service : 20%

Total Rating : 90%

K’s Hamburger Shop is located at 117 E. Main St. in Troy. For more information, please call 937.339.3902 or visit KsHamburgerShopTroy.com.

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Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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