by Beau Cadiyo
This is just a quick write-up of the National Burger Festival down in Akron this weekend. To save money and stomach space, we ate only at non-chain places or places we wouldn't be able to eat at in Cleveland (Sorry Dim and Den Sum - we still want to review you!). Here's our report. If you go, let us know what you think in the comments!
Menches Brothers Restaurant
330 S Main St
Akron, OH 44308
Menches made a big deal out of how they invented the hamburger and that they'd won a bunch of awards at the festival. We went with the Festival burger.
Meat: VERY greasy, but also juicy. Overall, it was a bit above average for what we sampled.
Toppings: The bacon was the crispiest we had that day.
Condiments: The Menches sauce was excellent. It tasted like it was mustard-based; it added a huge amount of flavor to the burger, and I was tempted to go back with some other burgers to just pour on some of the sauce.
Bread: Average - nothing special.
Overall: A decent burger.
Main Street Burger
I'm not sure which Main Street place this is - I think it just said "Main Street Burger." Therefore I won't put any address or link through to it. We ate here partly because there was a massive man taking orders; it reminded me of Eating Cleveland's adage that one shouldn't trust skinny people to review food.
Meat: Much drier than the Menches Bros burger, to the point where Frank called it tasteless.
Toppings: Excellent pickles in every bite.
Condiments: Mustard and Ketchup were slathered on.
Bread: Average - nothing special.
Overall: This was a classic burger. I'm not sure I could recommend it over others, but it was ok.
57 E Market St
Akron, OH 44308
The people at Crave were the most artistic-looking and the most friendly. It was great to see the two owners behind the booth, taking orders and cooking. They looked happy.
Meat: In my opinion this was probably the best overall burger we had today. The meat played a huge role - it actually tasted like meat, and was just slightly charred.
Toppings: In the four bites I had of this burger I got four distinct, different tastes: peppers, bacon, red onion and barbecue sauce. The chihuahua cheese they put on it was there, but didn't register on my tongue.
Condiments: Barbecue sauce - very good.
Bread: This was one of the two breads that stood out. Normally buns with seeds have the seeds on the top, and the bottom is just ignored and left seedless. Crave's bun had sesame seeds on top and on bottom so that the bun was covered in seeds.
Overall: Very good. Worth an award, actually.
845 W Market St
Akron, OH 44303
This burger was pretty run-of-the-mill. However, they do win the award for the most comely servers.
Toppings: This had the most fresh vegetables of any that we tried today. For this they should be applauded.
Steel Trolley Diner (STD)
140 E. Lincoln Way
Lisbon, Ohio 44432
This is one of those places people go to because it's branding itself as fun and edgy - literally. They char "STD" into each bun, and their shirts say "How about something thick and creamy?" on the back. The Johnny Appleseed was creative, but not great.
Meat: Very bad. Nobody was impressed.
Toppings: This burger had apple sauce on top, which was a really great addition. The idea was excellent - all they need is better meat and they'll be great!
Condiments: Applesauce. Awesome.
Overall: This would be a winner with better meat.
1300 N state Street
Girard, OH, 44420
John Wayne Burger
This was one of the most difficult and entertaining burgers to get. The brothers - I hope they were brothers - argued with each other, were frustrated and overwhelmed, and were slammed with orders. Their stand didn't seem to be set up too well - they were constantly reaching over each other to get things. However, they put out a very high-quality product. Good luck to them!
Meat: This became the best meat we had, I believe. At this point we were a bit full, so that's saying a lot - it wasn't spiced with hunger.
Toppings: The bacon was ok; the onion rings were amazing.
Condiments: There wasn't anything special on this, but there didn't need to be - it was a good combination. They also had a burger with some sort of tomato soup reduction which I wanted to try.
Bread: They used some sort of ciabatta bread which added a lot of texture. I was really impressed, but it struck home how few other places were experimenting with bread at this festival.
Overall: Very good.
1322 E Tallmadge Ave
Akron, OH 44310
We saw this when we went in, and saved it for last - glorious last. We shouldn't have, as it left us with a bad taste in our mouth that only Buckeye Birch Beer could take away.
Meat: Horrible. This was the biggest disappointment of the day, because the actual cooking of the meat was impressive, and the lines for Windsor were by far the longest we saw. However, the meat tasted like it had been frozen for a long time, thawed and then horribly charred.
Toppings: Dismal. The mushrooms were clearly straight out of a can and the onions were completely flavorless. The provalone cheese was about the only thing that made a positive impact.
Condiments: None. They would have helped.
Bread: The bread had a nice swirl on top but was otherwise unexceptional.
Overall: Each of us took a bite of this, the biggest burger we saw at the festival. Then, we put the remainder back on the plate and threw it away. Like models who look good but end up being boring, or actually horrible people, this looked great but wasn't worth a bite.