Members of the Mahoning Valley Burger Review Board traveled to Akron recently to participate as judges at the National Hamburger Festival, which was a benefit for Akron Children’s Hospital. They are, from left, Steve Murphy, Anthony Fuda, Scott Long, John Spatar, Eric Tranovich, Jerry “J.T.” Tranovich and John Dunn.
At burger festival, reviewers relish lots of fun on a bun
The breakdown of the burger winners, and the reason we lent our expertise to the festival, are as follows:
Festival Spirit Burger
Max & Erma’s.
Best Traditional Burger
First place: Eat’n Park.
Second place: Primo’s.
Third place: Menches Bros.
Best Creative Burger
First place: MotorMouth Food Truck.
Second place: Bob’s Hamburg.
Third place: Max & Erma’s.
Best Creative Toppings/ Special Sauce
First place: Max & Erma’s.
Second place: Eat’n Park.
Third place: Steel Trolley Diner.
First place: Barley House.
Second place: Menches Bros.
Third place: MotorMouth Food Truck.
By Anthony M. FUDA
It was a lot of burgers — a lot of burgers — but it was all for a very good cause.
For the past seven years, Lock 3 in downtown Akron has hosted the National Hamburger Festival. The event was started to find out who has the best hamburger, but more importantly, to raise money for Akron Children’s Hospital.
Each year the organizers try to add something new and exciting. This year (Aug. 18-19), that something was adding the No. 1-ranked professional female eater to compete in the Hamburger-Eating Challenge and asking the guys from the MVBRB to be judges.
Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas accepted her challenge, and of course, we were more than happy to participate in this large-scale burger review.
We arrived a little early to prepare ourselves for the day. A two-block section of Main Street was shut down for the festival, where tents were lined up on one side of the street. Inside, the restaurants were setting up and preparing the burgers. You could smell the various seasonings and fresh toppings in the air, and we were salivating from the smoke emanating from the grills.
There were six categories for the burger judging, and we put two to three members in each category. Event Coordinator Katie Buseck ran the day with ease, smoothly passing out the burgers until all the winners were determined.
This was a blind judging, so we had no idea who made the burgers or what the burger’s names were.
As the burgers were brought to us, we knew some of them were going to be good just by the aroma of the spices and the perfectly cooked beef. These being the best of the best, it took only one or two bites to taste everything the cooks were trying to convey.
The burgers included a simple bacon cheeseburger, a bruschetta bread and balsamic burger, a habanero cheeseburger, a raspberry barbecue burger, one with avocado, another with egg, a couple with feta cheese, and many other combinations that kept us on our judging toes.
I thought it was great to be a participant in a burger extravaganza like this, especially with the proceeds benefiting the Akron Children’s Hospital. With all the good-quality burgers we rated, it was hard to pick just one, but hopefully our expertise helped sort it out a little.
Board member and first-time festival attendee John Spatar said: “I had a great time at the National Hamburger Festival as a visitor and as a judge in the burger cook-off. Many great burgers were judged. I found most to be very tasty and well put together with excellent toppings and very creative styles. I couldn’t have asked for a better time.”
We all had a great time. JT reaffirmed that, saying: “Being invited to judge in the Ohio Burger Cook-off was a great experience! It was much easier comparing the burgers all at once instead of doing one per month as we normally do. It was sort of like doing a whole year of burger reviews in one afternoon.”
After eating that many burgers in such a short time span, JT added: “I have to admit, I had to loosen my belt and was moving kind of slow the rest of the day! And I won’t be ready to look at another hamburger anytime soon! But it was great fun and all for a great cause, the Akron Children’s Hospital. I think I speak for the rest of the guys in saying it would be an honor to be invited back next year!”
The Black Widow ate 15 burgers in 10 minutes during Saturday’s exhibition, and during the official professional eating challenge Sunday she beat Eric “Badlands” Booker 161/2 burgers to 16.
There were bands and family/children’s programs throughout the days. Other competitive events included “Bobbing for Burgers,” a dance-off, a Cheesiest Couple contest, and a couple hamburger-eating challenge.
If you would like to find out the winners in all the categories and read about the other events, go to www.hamburgerfestival.com. And we look forward to seeing you there next year.
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