Gerold's Old Dutch Tavern owner reflects on 34 years in the business

After 34 years of ownership, Old Dutch Tavern owner Larry Gerold is cooking up his last Thursday Burger Night patty Dec. 21.

It’s a bittersweet moment for Gerold, 61, as he has called the bar his home for more than three decades.

Gerold has been in the restaurant industry his whole life–he started out working at Cedar Point’s Silver Dollar Cafe at 18–but it was a matter of happenstance that led him to buy the bar, which has been a Perkins Avenue mainstay since 1957.

“I was in the bar and the owner said ‘I’m gonna sell the place’ and I said ‘Hey, I’ll buy it,’” Gerold says.

That led to years of memories, late nights, and, of course, burgers. Thirty two years of burgers, in fact, as he started Burger Night a couple of years after taking over the business.

The idea came about after Gerold would attend his pool league then hop in the kitchen to cook a burger.

Larry Gerold“I had an idea of a burger with five toppings for one price,” Gerold says. “And it grew and grew. In its heyday, people were waiting two hours to get a burger. I’d tell them how long it would take and they didn’t mind. They’d make a night of it.”

One of those five toppings could be the Odd Item, a special item that changes each week.

Gerold says he likes to incorporate holidays into the Odd Item, like Lucky Charms for St. Patrick’s Day or fruitcake for Christmas.

“I thought let’s make it different,” he says. “My wife and I would scour grocery stores looking for something odd.”

The oddest item that has ever appeared is Pepto Bismol. And yes, someone did actually add that to their burger.

“No one had a stomach ache that night,” Gerold laughs.

To close out his Thursday Burger Night, Dec. 21’s Odd Item will be peanut butter, which was the very first Odd Item of the Week.

And even though the Odd Item tradition is light-hearted, Gerold has always taken his cooking seriously.

“I take pride in every burger I cook,” Gerold says.

Gerold also has taken pride in running the Old Dutch Tavern all of these years. He’s done it all at the bar, from cooking up the burgers to making repairs and taking out the trash. And even though he’s loved it all, he says he’s ready for a change.

“I did everything, and it wears on you after a while,” he says.

He says he couldn’t have done it without his family, and Allison Terry, who has been working at the bar for the last 25 years.

“I’ll miss the people we’ve met, the friends we’ve made,” he says. “We’ve had a lot of friends come and go. It’s going to be bittersweet.”

And as the new owners step behind the bar, he’s comforted in knowing that some of his traditions may carry on, including Burger Night.

“Hopefully they’ll have their own twist on it,” he says.

So what does the future hold for Gerold? In the short-term, he’s looking forward to spending time with his wife, Ginny, and their four children, who are all coming home to celebrate Gerold’s final days at the bar, which will be Dec. 29 and 30.

“That first week, I’ll drive straight here and think ‘What am I doing here? I don’t work here anymore,’” Gerold says. 

In the long-term, Gerold is still undecided, although when people ask him that, he tells them all the same joke.

“I tell them I’m going to buy a bar,” he says.