From Corky & Lenny’s to Fire Food & Drink to Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse, if you’re craving a burger in Cleveland, you can have it. And this spring, the burger battle was on.
The members of Cleveland Independents, a group of 80 locally owned and operated restaurants, put their burgers to the test by launching the Burger Battle. Consumers were asked to visit their favorite independent restaurants and try out the burgers. They then had the opportunity to visit the Cleveland Independents website and post their comments, with the chance to win some prizes along the way.
The idea for the battle came about when the organization began to focus more on involving itself in social networking, says Myra Orenstein, executive director of Cleveland Independents.
“We’ve done a lot of things in the past involving local produce, and we wanted to do something more interactive,” she explains. “We decided it would be a great way for us to get the whole breadth of membership involved.”
With 80 restaurants ranging from small restaurants and bars to full-service, high-end restaurants, it can be difficult to find a concept that each dining location can participate in, Orenstein admits. “But over 90 percent of our restaurants have burgers in one shape or another,” she says.
Word about the battle got out quickly, Orenstein says, from traditional print media to having some of the chefs on local radio stations. Chefs even competed in a “burger-off” on local morning show “Good Company.”
“It came out as a tie,” Orenstein laughs. “(The hosts) felt both burgers were so good.”
A contest participant will be awarded $250 worth of gift cards good at any of the Cleveland Independent restaurants. The winner will be chosen by a random selection, and although there is no official burger champ, all of the dining locations have been happy with the results, Orenstein says. The random selection for the winner was decided on so diners weren’t discouraged from saying whatever they wanted, Orenstein explains. “But we haven’t had any negative comments,” she adds.
Although for dinner fare John Q’s is known for their steaks, they serve a lot of burgers during lunchtime, says Rick Cassara, owner of the Cleveland establishment. They were excited to be a part of the battle.
“It’s a fun event and a fun promotion for everybody,” Cassara says. “There’s no real tally so to speak, and it made for a very friendly type of competition.”
The local steak house has had many diners mention that they were there to try the burger for the battle and have offered their opinions on John Q’s burger. Thus far, the restaurant has been getting many positive comments, and Cassara couldn’t be happier.
“We’ve been doing burgers for years here; I would never take it off the menu,” he says. “I think we have a great burger, and I’m glad we’re getting some nice comments.”
American Tavern & Eatery in Solon has a loyal clientele who comes back again and again for the restaurant’s burgers, but since the start of the contest, the tavern has noticed more diners sinking their teeth into a burger.
“It’s been wonderful to have people talking about the burgers,” says Linda Pickel, owner.
The small burger joint has gotten many mentions on the site, Orenstein says.
Putting their burgers against 80 different restaurants from bars to the high end doesn’t phase the small eatery, Pickel says. “It really shows the diversity of Cleveland Independents and what we stand for.”