Our Towns

The Federal Wins ‘Most Epic Burger’ Contest

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YOUNGSTOWN,Ohio — After two weeks of heavy voting with more than two dozen entries and hundreds of ballots, one burger stands above the rest as The Most Epic Burger in the Mahoning and Shenango valleys.

“We’re excited to announce The Federal in downtown Youngstown as the winner of our first Epic Burger Contest,” said Gail Hettrick, vice president of business development at The Business Journal. “This is the first time The Business Journal has done a Facebook contest and we are thrilled with the response. Congratulations to The Federal.”

In total, 26 restaurants and bars in the area received votes, with The Federal winning by a wide margin, Hettrick said. Votes were tallied by the number of likes for each restaurant in posts on The Business Journal’s Facebook page.

“It’s a great feeling seeing all of our hard work pay off,” said Federal manager Sophia Martini. “It makes us step back, look at each other and say, ‘Wow, look what we did.’ It’s what helps us keep moving forward.”

The Federal was the focus of an episode of Spike TV’s “Bar Rescue” in 2015. The visit from restaurateur Jon Taffer, Martini said, played a crucial role in helping the restaurant improve its burgers.

“We’ve definitely seen the difference over the past year. Bar Rescue came in and gave us up tips on how to make our food better,” Martini said. “We were moving forward and doing well, but they said, ‘Why don’t you try doing it this way?’ It was all little things, but it’s made our food so much better.”

Over the course of the restaurant’s history – it was founded as Martini Brothers Burger Bar – it has won many awards for its burgers, which have played a role in keeping the menu extraordinary, Martini said.

“Being in those contests has made us keep being creative,” she said, noting that many of the specialty burgers on the menu were first tested in contests. “We have a new menu that we’re in the process of putting together,” she said. “It’ll have all-new ideas that works with some of the feedback we’ve gotten from customers.”

One component of the prize awarded The Federal is it being featured in the On The Menu segment in The Business Journal’s Daily Buzz in the coming weeks.

Donna’s Diner in Sharon, Pa., finished second in The Most Epic Burger contest. The restaurant has won awards for its burgers before, but there’s something special about winning a contest centered largely on Ohio, said manager Laura Ackley.

“We love it. Who wouldn’t want to be first? But the fact that we came second in a Youngstown contest while being in Sharon is something to be proud of,” she said. “We’re going to keep trying. We’ll keep on keeping on.”

Finishing third was Cockeye BBQ in Warren, while the Kennsington Grille in Canfield came in a close fourth.

“It’s fantastic for a barbecue place that just happens to do burgers as well,” said Cockeye co-owner Erik Hoover. “It’s very cool and great for a new place that seems to be doing fairly well.”

The Epic Burger Contest is the first of its kind for The Business Journal, Hettrick noted. Because of the extraordinary reaction from businesses and readers, more are planned for 2017, she added.

“Our winners were all very excited when we called to tell them the great news,” Hettrick said. “We’ll be doing many more contests in the future, including a ‘Love Your Pet’ contest in February. These contests are a great way to interact with our readers and engage with new followers.”

Pictured: Sophia and Joe Martini operate The Federal, which won The Business Journa’s Most Epic Burger contest. The restaurant will be featured in the Daily Buzz’s ‘On The Menu’ video series.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.