Blue-ribbon burger

The award-winning burger features the diner's own gourmet barbecue sauce.
LISBON -- Grilled onions dangle from the bun with every bite and strands of melted cheese tag along, yet neither of the toppings nor the key condiment overpower the sweet and juicy -- but not greasy -- 1/2 pound of ground beef.
The Steel Trolley Diner's BBQ burger features the diner's signature gourmet BBQ sauce that the owners bottle and sell here.
Located on U.S. Route 30, the historic Lincoln Highway that runs through downtown, The Steel Trolley Diner -- one of the 2,000 trolley-style diners that remain in the United States, "Home of the Basket of Real Fries" (cut fresh every day), "open most of the time" and featured by the Food Network and Ohio magazine -- now also boasts it is home to the nation's top specialty burger, according to the National Hamburger Festival at Canal Park, Akron.
The BBQ burger is one of several gourmet burgers that will be featured on the diner's new menu, which will be unveiled Labor Day weekend.
Invited to festival
Earlier this month, owner Jacki Hersman and her son Ryan Hillman, the diner's general manager, were invited to the National Hamburger Festival, a new event this year, after one of the owners of Menches Brothers, a restaurant already chosen as one of the 15 local and national competitors for the festival, stopped in the diner while touring U.S. Route 30 with an antique car club.
"He ate one of our burgers and got on the phone right away," said Hersman. "He called the event organizers and said we had to be invited."
The National Hamburger Festival, first of what is intended to be an annual event, was organized in Akron by Drew Cerza, president and chief executive officer of RMI Group in New York, which five years ago organized "Wingfest," the National Chicken Wing Festival in Buffalo, N.Y.
Hersman and Hillman took the ingredients for the BBQ burger and two other of the restaurant's new gourmet burgers to the festival and sold about 5,000 among a festival gathering of about 40,000 visitors.
Off the menu
Hillman said they prepared the diner's BBQ burger, the Chili burger and the All-American Red, White and Blue burger at the festival. The Chili burger features chili and chopped onions, while the All-American burger gets its red, white and blue from tomatoes, horseradish mayonnaise and blue cheese.
"We were very, very busy," Hillman said. "It was a fun event, and we are always happy for a chance to bring some positive recognition to the Mahoning Valley. When people asked us where Lisbon is, we just said 'south of Youngstown!'"
Hersman said she was pleased to be invited not only for the recognition for the restaurant, but because the festival was a benefit for Akron Children's Hospital.
Hersman and other family members spent a lot of time there over the years with Hersman's daughter, Kendra, who was born with spina bifida.
Now 24, Kendra is doing well and has her own signature burger on The Steel Trolley menu.
A double-decker burger with cheese, lettuce, tomato and Thousand Island dressing is known as "Kendra's Thunder Burger."

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