Think about the last time you went out to dinner. Do you know where the ingredients in your food came from?
Mike Mariola wants you to be able to answer yes.
Mariola is the owner of The Rail, the newest restaurant at .
The Rail, a burger bar, aims to do everything local. The hamburger beef comes from Ohio farmers, the milkshakes come from Smith Dairy and even half of the beer menu is from area breweries.
Mariola believes going local is good for everyone.
“If you’re not transporting food across the country, it’s better for the environment,” Mariola said. “And when we buy local ingredients, the money the community spends on us goes back into the community.”
The chef said the most important part of buying his ingredients local is this: “Local food always tastes better, without question.”
Mariola has been in the restaurant since age 14. “I realized in college that I’m happiest working in restaurants,” Mariola said. “I’ve had many smart older people tell me life is too short to not do what you love, so that’s what I try to do.”
Mariola decided to drop out of Kent State University to work as a chef in many restaurants throughout northeast Ohio. He also studied cooking in France and Washington D.C. before opening The South Market Bistro in Wooster with his wife Emily in 2002.
Six years later, Mariola opened a second restaurant, The City Square Steakouse, also in Wooster. “At the Bistro, we served a lot of steaks. It was obvious that people like the traditional, midwestern meat and potatoes,” Mariola said.
So he opened The Steakhouse to give them just that.
One restaurant inspired him to open another. “The Steakhouse got started in the middle of the recession,” Mariola said. “People were looking for a less expensive option, so they ordered a ton of burgers.”
Mariola said he realized that burgers, along with “brews and camaraderie” would always be in demand. “Burgers have been a staple of the American diet forever,” Mariola said.
The burgers at The Rail aren’t just normal cheeseburgers. Mariola said. He wanted his chefs to get creative, so he granted them freedom in the menu.
“Anything you can do to chicken or steak you can do to a burger,” said head chef Gary McNeely. “Plus, it’s all local, so it’s all better.”
The Rail is the only restaurant where Mariola does not do double duty as owner and chef.
As a 33-year-old who owns three restaurants and has four children, Mariola says that’s enough to keep him busy. “I’m not incredibly smart or talented. I work hard, I have a lot of people that help me and we have a lot of luck behind us,” Mariola said. “I’m blessed to have this opportunity and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I make the most of it.”