YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – At the Martini Brothers Burger Bar, familiarity breeds content.
That content starts with a menu of 13 hamburgers. The ideas for their creations -- such as a burger with two grilled cheese sandwiches as buns or a burger that features ham and a pineapple-habanero compote -- begin with familiar ingredients.
The burgers come from the experience and fertile imagination of head chef Joseph Monty who knows the flavors that work well in other dishes. He adapts them to the burger patties the cooks place on the grill.
“There's a lot of taste tests involved,” Monty says. “Obviously, if we don't like it, we're not going to sell it. We want to make sure that it's good-looking and that it tastes good. In the end, it's about good feedback from the customers.”
Since the restaurant moved to 110 W. Federal St. downtown from the main drag of Girard, reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. One happy customer went as far as say on Facebook that his burger “Twas like a heavenly choir singing to my taste buds!”
Reaction like that has only led to increased confidence for Monty and manager Mark Novotny, the two charged with creating new burgers in regional and national competitions.
The restaurant is just as accustomed to winning awards as it is with knowing how to combine ingredients. Five of the 13 burgers on the menu have won recognition, including awards at the National Hamburger Festival held annually in Akron.
Next on the list for Martini Brothers is the Mahoning Valley Battle of the Burgers to be held Aug. 2-3 at the Warren Community Amphitheatre. Monty and Novotny overflow with confidence about their chances. “There's no competition. I think we have it in the bag,” Monty says.
“I feel confident we're going to win,” adds Novotny. “Seeing the other people that we're going up against, we should do very well.”
The pair wasn't ready to divulge much about the burger they're entering, but Novotny says it will be something new, “a spicy ranch burger,” and stops there.
Like the other burgers on the menu, the idea came from other ingredients he had worked with.
“We got the idea just from experimenting back in the kitchen, just trying to figure out a couple things,” Novotny says. “There are things that I know taste good together from the past, but I'm still trying to figure a couple things out.”
Since joining Martini Brothers six months ago, Monty, who grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., has been adding his own twists to burgers.
“We have a lot of experience in the kitchen, a lot of background [in cooking] and we throw our ideas together. I come from Florida, so my ideas are tropical. But we have a lot of hometown and local flavors here too,” he remarks.
For Monty, the opportunity to compete against other burger makers at a national level inspires creativity.
“It's a rush knowing that people have the same fuel and drive for it,” he says. “Knowing that there's actually competition out there that we can learn from, it's a nice feeling and it adds a lot of fun.”
Copyright 2014 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
CLICK HERE to subscribe to our twice-monthly print edition and to our free daily email headlines.