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By Anthony M. Fuda
The inaugural Battle of the Burgers benefiting Second Harvest was a true slug fest. There were great burgers at every station, and the judging was close.
But before the burgers were made and the judging started, Mother Nature reared her ugly head and beat us all down with a three-hour blanket of rain. We weren’t sure if any burgers were going to make it to the eagerly-waiting, hungry customers.
Those customers finally were able to eat 500 burgers for Second Harvest.
We trudged along, praying for the best, and right before the gates opened, the weather pulled back and gave us somewhat clear skies.
The crowd was sparse, but hungry. At the first sign of a break in the weather, the line formed and the burger festival officially was under way.
The rain may have scared some people off, but the loyal AC/DC and KISS fans were ready to rock and roll and have some great burgers.
While the bands played, the judging began. There were local TV personalities, the Vindicator’s own Barb Shaffer, and the cast of Discover Channel’s Fat N’ Furious: Rolling Thunder -- Tommy, Chuck, Steve and Andy.
The judges had their work cut out for them because we showcased 10 of the best burgers we reviewed since 2009.
And the 2014 battle of the Burger winners are:
1st - Vista Lounge
2nd - Lake Tavern
3rd - YOLO Grille & Taproom
1st - Magic Tree Pub & Eatery
2nd - Bogey’s Bar & Grille
3rd - The New Manhattan
1st - O’Donold’s Irish Pub (Kimchee Burger)
2nd - The New Manhattan (Diablo Burger)
3rd - Martini Brothers Burger Bar (Jalapeño Popper)
Most Awesome Sauce/Toppings
1st - Bogey’s Bar & Grille (Famous Greens Burger)
2nd - Martini Brothers Burger Bar (Johnny Appleseed Burger)
3rd - O’Donold’s Irish Pub (Coffee BBQ Burger)
The People’s Champion: awarded to the restaurant who had the most sales for the two-day event.
The New Manhattan
Each restaurant was allowed to enter two categories, and the quality of the burgers was so close that Crickets finished 4th in both of their entries - only 1 point from third.
The judges were given burgers without the names of the restaurants, so it would be fair to the competitors.
Judge Greg Bartholomew said, “I judged 2 out of the 4 rounds of the competition. I did the classic burger and the specialty burger. Pretty much every burger was fantastic so I was changing my scores after eating each burger to put them in correct order on the score sheet.”
The Fat N’ Furious Guys judged the Classic Cheeseburger category and each commented on how good the entry from the Magic Tree was.
Tommy Christmas said, “These are some awesome burgers.”
Andy Pivarnik said, “It was a lot of fun. Thanks for asking us to take part.”
Steve McGranahan said he had a great time and was ready to walk off all the burgers he just judged before food coma set in.
After finishing the judging, Chuck Kountz said, “It was our pleasure and thank you for asking! It was a great day.”
The Fat N’ Furious members stuck around after their judging to take photos and chat with all of their gracious fans. They were more than happy to accommodate each request, and we were equally happy to have them be a part of this event. As they were leaving we heard Chuck say, “Where’s the ice cream?”
Day two brought another Battle with Mother Nature. We would not let her win and fought through with the River Rock Star singing competition, the hamburger eating contest, and the awards’ presentation.
Pat Tucci Productions ran the River Rock Star, and the contest came down to two competitors - Theresa Lanahan, 16, of Medina; and Edward Desantis, 26. They were both equally good, and agreed to split the money and eight hours of recording time from Mind Rocket Recording Studio.
The John Perdue / McDonald’s hamburger eating competition started off close with each of the five carnivores devouring from the stack of 75 McDonald’s burgers piled in from of them. Joe Martini came out victorious after inhaling 17 of the burgers. He looked like he could have eaten a couple more, but the other four each tapped out as Joe kept motoring along.
The award presentation concluded our event, and as we handed out the final award, the weather taunted us again with another rain burst.
Dan Martini, co-owner of Martini Brothers Burger Bar, said, “Even with the inclement weather this past weekend I think the 1st annual Battle of the Burgers was a huge success. I personally can not wait to watch this thing grow over the next few years. I think if we learned anything it's that the Mahoning Valley has some great locally owned restaurants serving up some even better burgers - and that Mother Nature must be a vegetarian!”
The New Manhattan took home two awards and the People’s Champion award, and owner Al McClung said, “We would like to thank the Burger Guyz. After meeting them, I can tell you they are all the kind of guys I could go out and have a burger, a beer and a couple of laughs with. I can’t imagine the amount of hours they put in to benefit the 2nd Harvest Food Bank, Thanks Guys.”
“As for the People’s Choice Award, all credit goes to our staff at The New Manhattan….kitchen manager, Jason Marsco, Bar Manager, Melissa Orr and all of our bartenders and wait staff. Every one of them participated in preparing for the event and working it. They had fun and enjoyed the crowd. They kept smiling, even in the rainy & muddy conditions, Thanks guys!”
“And our biggest thank you is to every person who bought our burgers…from the little red headed girl to the elderly lady who accidentally gave us tickets to another event…In closing, I will tell you we will be there next year….GAME ON!!!!”
After the weekend event, Burger coordinator JT said, “The burger-loving crowd that braved the rain were rewarded with the best that the Mahoning Valley has to offer. Nearly $3,000 of burgers were purchased in the two days of soaking rain. We want to thank every person that came out to support Second Harvest Food Bank by buying a burger. We also learned that our tastes aren't so different from everyone else's. Fourteen different judges picked category winners that included three of our previous Burger of the Year winners. And this years leaders held their own, taking in five more of the awards. Great stomachs think alike, or something like that!”
We would like to thank all the restaurants who braved the elements, the judges, and all our sponsors (because without them this event would not have taken place. Go to burgerguyz.com for more information.) Hope to see you all again next year - and we will put the order in NOW for better weather!
5 stars for all the restaurants and Burger Crew who fought through the nasty weather
0 stars for the way Mother Nature treated all of us
Keep reading the Valley food section each Wednesday for the best food the Valley has to offer.
If you know of a burger that should be on our hit list, send the info to firstname.lastname@example.org, or on our Facebook page BurgerGuyz