Mike Mariola, the chef and owner of two popular Wooster restaurants, recently opened his third concept. The Rail, located in a new exterior section of Akron's Summit Mall, is the latest burger bar to pop up in Northeast Ohio.
"We sell a ton of burgers at our steakhouse in Wooster," says Mariola, whose two Wayne County outposts are South Market Bistro and City Square Steakhouse. "That really reinforced a shift in the marketplace. The younger generation is moving away from fine dining and looking for a more casual environment."
Beneath a massive sign depicting a tipped cow, The Rail seats about 100 guests at communal tables, high tops, traditional tables, at the bar, and out on the patio. The main draw is the burgers, formed daily by hand using source-verified Ohio beef that's custom ground by Blue Ribbon Meats. The six-ounce burgers are grilled over an open flame, giving them that familiar backyard bouquet.
Guests can choose from nine specialty burgers or design their own by mixing and matching condiments. Salads, fries, onion rings, and hand-dipped milkshakes round out the menu. There's also a full bar featuring craft beers.
The Rail is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week at 3265 West Market St.; call 330-864-RAIL for more information.
Craving another burger? Also new to town is Inferno Gourmet Burger Bar, which recently opened in Medina's Liberty Plaza. Launched by Romeo's Pizza CEO Sean Brauser, the specialty restaurant offers flame-grilled Angus beef burgers, hot dogs, and, of course, Romeo's pizza.
Diners can customize their burgers with numerous buns, toppings, cheeses, and sauces, or select from a dozen city-named specialty burgers. The Cleveland, for example, is topped with cole slaw, fries, American cheese, and mayo.
"My goal was to create flavor combinations that you normally wouldn't think about on a burger," Brauser says.
Inferno recently claimed the top prize at Akron's National Hamburger Festival, nabbing first place for "Best Traditional Hamburger in America."
Find them at 1100 North Court St.; call 330-764-4060 to learn more.
Breaking the curse: So much for the so-called "Clifton Curse" that previously claimed restaurants including Wilsher Grille, La Pomme, Jeso, Mise, Giovanna's, and Velocity from handsome space in a tidy retail strip just west of downtown. Not only has the 18-month-old Clifton Martini & Wine Bar outlasted many of its forbears — it's expanding. Owner Jeff Rumplik says that by spring, a new Chagrin Falls location will open.
"I'm doing it again," he says. "We're kicking ass out here. I'm doing like ten times the business I thought we'd do."
The as-yet-unnamed wine bar will take the space of Trifles, a 30-year lunch fixture in the Falls. The thriving catering company of the same name will live on, though from a different location.
Rumplik says he will attempt to duplicate the success of his West Side wine bar and restaurant by offering East Siders a similar mix of small plates, entrées, beer, wine, and cocktails.
The new spot will be at 516 East Washington St. The original is at 10427 Clifton Blvd. For more information, call 216-965-0221 or visit cliftonmartini.com.