Eric Tranovich, John Dunn, Scott Long, Anthony Fuda, JT, John Spatar
by Anthony M. Fuda
Do it for the children.
With each bite of the more than 30 burgers we judged, we kept hearing in the back of our minds -- “Do it for the children!”
As we sampled burgers with everything from cream cheese and bacon, to onions rings, a marinara sauce, cole slaw and everything in between, we kept in mind that the National Hamburger Festival, held Aug. 17-18, benefits the Akron Children’s Hospital.
Since 2006, Lock 3 Park in Akron has been the venue which decides who has the best burger for the NHF.
A two-block section of Main Street by lock 3 Park is roped off and lined with Burger trucks on one side and other various vendors on the other. There really is something for everyone -- especially if you are burger fanatics like us. As you walk down the road, you smell something tantalizing from each vendor.
Everything you buy at the festival is through a ticket system. You buy tickets and you can sample fries, drinks, and any of the burgers on Burger Row for anywhere from 3 (half burger) to 7 (full burger) tickets. There are even a couple of veggie-type burgers if that is to your liking.
Event coordinator Katie Buseck ran the judging remarkably. She kept all the burgers in order and made sure they didn’t sit too long so each burger had a fair shot at the top spot.
As for the judging, there are four categories, with three winners in each: Traditional Burger, Traditional Cheeseburger, Creative Burger and Creative Sauce / Toppings. We were put to the test this year with many great entries. We unloosened our belt buckles, turned on our taste buds and got down to business.
We had our favorites, but this was a blind judging, so even we didn’t find out the winners until they were announced later in the day.
Max & Erma’s
1 Legend’s Sports Pub & Grill - Traditional
2 Stray Dog Cart - All American
3 Menches Brothers - Traditional
1 Eat n’ Park - Bistro Burger
2 Smoke, the Burger Joint - Classic LA Burger
3 Menches Brothers - Traditional Cheeseburger
3 Green Machine - Cheddar
1 Max & Erma’s - Meatball marinara
2 Legend’s Sports Pub & Grill - Buffalo Burger
3 Green Machine - Coban
3 Barley House - Philly Burger
1 Smoke, the Burger Joint - Texas Triple J
2 RetroDog - Hula Ghost Burger
3 Bob’s Hamburg - The Undefeated
I really enjoy this competition each year. It’s a great way to sample a variety of burgers from different restaurants in a short period of time. There might be a burger that stands out for me, but the other judges might not have the same feelings about it. There are a number of quality burgers that travel across our palates, and in the end we come to a consensus, and the winners walk away with bragging rights and a trophy for their accomplishments. Of the categories I judged, Menches Brothers Cheeseburger in a wrap had a great, spicy flavor, and really pleased my taste buds. Another that stood out was a blue cheese with a berry sauce -- I am not a big fan of blue cheese, but that burger had a creamy berry flavor with just a hint of the blue cheese.
John feasted in both Creative categories and said, “The National Hamburger Festival was a fun and family friendly outing that everyone can enjoy. While judging I came across many unique toppings that I never thought would pair well on a hamburger. I was wrong. Things such as raisins and strawberries actually paired well. I think the topping that did it the most for me was the blueberry cream cheese topping,I know it sounds wrong but don't knock it until you try it!”
Eric was in the Creative Sauce /Topping category and said, “For a creative toppings category, the entrants really stepped up to the plate. Some combinations I don't think most people would think to put together, but all of them worked. Because who really thinks of strawberries and cream on a hamburger? Whoever did is onto something.”
Spatman participated in both Creative Burger categories, and outside of being overwhelmed by the heat of one of the burgers, noted, “After sampling 24 burgers in the most creative categories all I can say is it was a fantastic ‘feastival’ and a fun time was had by all. All the burgers were great, but I must say only one stood out and it had an olive taste that really sparked.”
JT said, “It's like the Super Bowl, the World Series, or March Madness in one afternoon! It's August Madness! An afternoon of charbroiled fun. The pinnacle event for a hamburger reviewer, and it's the second year that we have been fortunate enough to participate as judges in the National Hamburger Festival's Ohio Burger Cook-off. We can't thank Katie (Buseck) and festival officials enough for inviting us. Even though right now we're all a little uncomfortable from chowing down dozens of burgers, and probably won't eat anything else for a good day and a half, we are honored to be a part of an event that raises so much money for a great cause."
There are activities throughout the day for children, and different bands play during the two-day event.
The Festival also has other burger events and competitions: Cheesiest Couple Contest, Cheesy Dance Off, Hamburger Eating Contests, Festival Queen, a Baby Burger, and a Bobbing for Burgers event.
One of the highlights of the Festival is the burger eating contest, which is open to anyone who thinks they can can devour the most burgers in a 10-minute period. Also, the Akron Police and the Akron Firemen compete against each other to see who can eat the most burgers.
For more information on those events and to see the complete results, check www.hamburgerfestival.com, and also think about entering some of next year’s competitions.
We are always more than happy to lend our stomachs and burger expertise to such a great cause -- and we look forward to seeing some of you out there next year!
Keep up on all our burger news at Burgerguyz.com, and keep reading our Burger exploits on Vindy.com. Also, pick up your Vindicator every Wednesday to find out where the best food and drink is in the Valley.