Wednesday, July 26, 2017
IF YOU GO
Where: Emerald Diner, 825 N. Main Street, Hubbard
Monday - Thursday: 8 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Friday - Saturday: 8 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Sunday: 8 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Menu: Slider, 3 regular menu burgers and a weekly feature ($3.50 - $9.99)
Grade: 4 1/2 stars
By Anthony M. Fuda
People say some of the best diners in the country are in the New England states.
Well, what if someone (J.P. Marsh) purchased a New England railroad dining car and brought that New England diner feel to the Mahoning Valley?
J.P did just that, but in the process, the Emerald Diner went through two major renovations. The original box car was built by the O’Malley’s Dining Car Co. in Elizabeth, N.J., in 1939, and turned into Burt’s Diner in Norwich Conn.
Years passed, and J.P. Marsh bought that diner, brought it to Hubbard in 1995 and transformed it into the railroad themed Emerald Diner – the first restoration.
Everything was going well until 2012, when a fire destroyed much of the interior. J.P. spent the last five years rebuilding the Emerald Diner - the second restoration.
And on May 3, the Emerald Diner was reopened and ready to serve the hungry people of Hubbard, and whoever else passes through town.
Asst. Manager Alana Kilgore said what makes the Emerald Diner unique is that “it’s a diner with a twist.” The twist is the different ingredients they use, such as meatloaf with bourbon gravy instead of ketchup. You can see this looking through the menu. She added, “All the ingredients are fresh and, in fact, the juices for the different drinks are all freshly hand-squeezed.”
We were ready to dive in, and in keeping with the railroad theme, our conductor, Vinnie Propst, directed us to the burger section of the menu and kept our meal on track.
There are three burgers on the menu (one a weekly feature), and a slider:
American Slider (grass-fed beef, sharp cheddar, lettuce, tomato and red onion on a country potato bread)
Home run Burger (ground beef, lettuce, tomato, cheddar cheese, bacon and fried egg, on a brioche bun)
Emerald Burger (ground beef, Monterey jack cheese, greens, hot peppers in oil, on a brioche bun)
Boursin Cheese Burger (Boursin cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, brioche bun) – weekly feature burger
All the sandwiches are sided with french fries, and you can substitute the bread for a spinach wrap.
The menu also offers a nice selection of craft beers.
I went rogue this trip and saw the toppings I like on the Portabella sandwich. So I asked for those toppings on a medium cooked burger in between a brioche bun. And it came out great. The meat was seasoned and cooked to perfection. It was moist and had a great flavor all through the meal. The toppings were as if they picked them from the garden as my burger was being made. The roasted red peppers, tomato, zucchini, poblano goat cheese spread and balsamic aiolo melded well together between the brioche bun. Goat cheese is one of my favorite toppings on a burger, and the flavor was prominent and delicious. The combination of all these toppings kept me wanting more and more, until I held the last morsel in my hand hoping it would multiply if I thought about it long enough. Head chef Eric Kilgore did an excellent job turning the portabella sandwich into a burger. In fact, he is now thinking about adding it as a burger to the menu.
Scott went with the Boursin Cheese Burger and after testing the beef and finding it cooked just the way he ordered, he dove straight into the burger, saying, “The boursin cheese gave the burger great flavor. It has a creamy texture, and combined with this perfectly seasoned beef, made for a great meal.”
JT remarked, “There aren’t too many places around that, when you pull into the parking lot, you feel like you’re in a railroad museum. The diner had already won me over with Mr. Marsh’s fascinating, authentic railroad memorabilia, which includes an old-time locomotive and several train cars. Inside, the diner is even more impressive; reminiscent of a 1940s first-class dining car complete with a full service bar! And the burger itself was also first class. I enjoyed the Home run Burger and found it near perfection in flavor as well as every other aspect of it. If there was one shortcoming, for me, it would be the shredded lettuce. I much prefer crisp whole leaves, but I have to confess, I loved this burger so much that it was easily overlooked. Definitely an A-list burger for me!”
Eric went with the restaurant favorite, saying, “I elected the Emerald Burger for my meal as yet again, my eyes fixated on the inclusion of hot peppers with its toppings. As expected, I was not disappointed. Outside of my own canned hot peppers, these were some of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure to indulge. Also on this burger were some very enjoyable Italian greens, the kind you would expect to find in a high end, five-star restaurant in Venice. All this combined with some expertly seasoned fresh beef and a bun that withstood the onslaught of flavor and you have yourself a great burger experience. But don’t worry loyal fans, I did amp it up this outing as usual with a slathering of Sriracha as I neared the end of my burger.
Pairing this meal with some great micro-brewed dark ale, and you can bet I’ll be making my way back to the Emerald Diner. You should too.”
Our newest BurgerGuy, Ken Phillips, dipped his foot in the burger pool also with the Emerald Burger, and added, “What a great burger to wear the badge as the Emerald Diner’s signature burger. There was nothing disappointing about this burger from start to finish. The meat was well-seasoned, and cooked to a perfect medium. The dinner was a great experience along with the burger. The staff was very friendly, outgoing and more than helpful to answer any questions related to the menu or history about the diner.”
If you’re stomach is grumbling and looking for a good diner burger, then head to Hubbard and look for the emerald green lights, hop on the train and follow the instructions of your conductor, where one of the best burgers in town is waiting for you.
Keep reading the Valley food section each Wednesday for the best food the Valley has to offer.
If you think you know where the next Burger of the Year is, send the info to BurgerGuyz@hotmail.com, or on our Facebook page BurgerGuyz.