Men aspire to do great things:
to be president, to cure cancer, to redevelop downtowns.
Five post-office workers from Niles are just as ambitious – but they are more focused on basic needs.
They want to find the best hamburgers in the Valley, and they’ve made it their job to find, eat, rate — and tell.
They are the Mahoning Valley Burger Review Board.
“The burger is the perfect meal,” said Anthony Fuda of Niles. “You can doctor it up any way you like it. But in the end, it all comes down to the burger and how the beef is cooked.”
Tony Krusely of Lordstown said this is the postal workers’ special delivery to the Valley.
“This is our thing. It’s supposed to be fun – but with a little service,” said Krusely.
The MVBRB was the idea of Jerry Tranovich of Niles and Scott Long of Austintown.
They were having a beer last summer when they saw a fun food show on TV. They decided they should try something similar here.
“We opened membership to whomever at work. These five stuck,” said J.T., which is how everyone knows Tranovich.
“Mike’s still on probation — permanent probation,” said J.T. about the final member of the review board, Mike Flarey of Austintown.
As this project involves burgers, beers and buddies, smack talk is common at their monthly sessions, and Mike’s role is to take most of it.
The boys call him “two-meat Mike” in that if there’s a burger with bacon or ham or some other meat, Mike scores it “the best” regardless.
Mike generates his own abuse, too. Asked what his wife thought of the new hobby, he said: “She called me disturbed and stupid — like always.”
I met them at the 10th stop on their quest — the MVR in Youngstown. All of their reviews are posted on the Web at myspace.com/mvbrb.
That’s not to say every place they visit gets a review. There are two places not on the blog as the burgers did not muster any excitement.
Not wanting to dump on a restaurant is among a handful of food-critic rules they eschew.
They are not discreet when they enter a place. They make everyone know their presence and their role.
“We want their best burger,” said Anthony, on why they don’t just sneak in, do their deal and leave.
They take restaurant requests.
All places they go must also serve beer. Period.
The owner of the Top Notch Bar and Grille made a big deal about MVBRB and wanted photos with the guys. A customer, seeing the hoopla, wanted a photo of the guys, too, apparently sensing he was among celebrities.
“Boy, will he be mad when he figures this out,” said J.T.
Their favorite burger so far has been from O’Donold’s in Austintown.
At MVR, all kidding took a break when the food arrived. The burgers got a good looking over. The guys picked and plucked around the edges, then dove in.
“Pretty good, huh?” said Tony with half of the burger still in his mouth.
Talking with your mouth full is part of the job.
“Just don’t spray,” requests Scott.
The MVR burger is good, they concur.
Not the biggest they’ve had. But it’s also about $3 cheaper than most places. The lettuce was salad-size lettuce, not sandwich-size lettuce that it should be.
But the meat is tender and tasty, and the bun is grilled.
They are pleased, and the burger scores a 3.5 out of 5. Go to my blog on vindy.com to read their full review.
They’re tough on scoring and for good reason: There are a lot of burgers out there.
“Once you find the perfect burger, it’s done,” said Scott on why they work hard never to give a perfect score.
“We’re always looking for a better burger.”