May is National Hamburger Month here in the U.S. What better way to celebrate than with a burger festival? This year, renown South Florida food blogger, Burger Beast, decided to organize the first ever Burger Brawl. For Burger Brawl 2014, he invited 20 restaurants from all over South Florida to showcase their burger-making craft, and let the public vote for a winner.
If you’re been following this blog for a while, then you should know that I am no stranger to burger competitions. However, this is the first time that such an event was put together with restaurants that were hand-picked by a reputable and influential blogger.
I have to hand it to Mr. Burger Beast. At the entrance, you were handed one of these:
This checklist listed all of the restaurants that were in attendance, and what they were serving. For the first time, I didn’t have to struggle to feverishly scribble down the burger descriptions as I tasted each one. I just had to mark it off the list, and number them in the order that I tasted them. Pure genius!
Ten minutes before the event was scheduled to start, quite a few people were already eagerly awaiting entry. And, oh man, did the smell of beef make our mouths water!
We were let in promptly at 7pm, and the madness began…
There were 20 competitors. I tasted each and every one. This is a personal account of my own experience and opinion on each of the burgers that I tasted. It is completely biased, so take with a grain of salt.
Note that every section will contain 4 burgers, listed clockwise from the upper left. Thanks again to Burger Beast and the participating restaurants for making the descriptions of their burgers readily available to the public.
- Burger 1: The Rolling Stove’s Bacon Chipotle Burger
- Blended patty with American cheese, grilled onions, chipotle sauce and jalapeño jelly on a toasted bun
- I liked this burger. I was worried about it being too spicy, but it wasn’t spicy at all. It worked out for a lightweight like me, but might have been too tame for someone that was expecting a kick from their burger.
- Burger 2: OTC’s New Mexican Green Chili Cheeseburger (3rd Place)
- Flatiron-cooked burger with cheddar cheese, green chili relish, and sweet onion jam.
- With my first bite of this burger, there were so many flavors bursting through. The meat was so tender and juicy that just this tiny little slider left a trail of juice running down my fingers. This one was my favorite. And, again, it was not as spicy as I expected it to be.
- Burger 3: Bread + Butter Counter’s Unincorporated MD Burger
- Burger patty topped with homemade American cheese, jamon dulce (sweet ham), house-made pickles, onions, and special sauce on a chicharron studded Cuban sesame roll
- I didn’t like this one. There was something weird about that American cheese, and I am not a fan of ham. It wasn’t working for me.
- Burger 4: Swine Southern Table and Bar’s Swine Burger (2nd Place)
- Short rib, brisket, and smoked pork blended patty with homemade pickles, smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, American cheese, and special sauce
- This burger got my vote at Burgerliscious last year. It was still as good as I remembered, and was easily one of my favorites of the evening. They know how to make their patties extra juicy and flavorful, and that bacon is serious business.
- Burger 5: Charm City Burger Company’s “The Forager”
- Blended patty topped with white American cheese, jowl bacon, pickled tomatoes, and charred ramp aioili on an everything bun with a side of chicharron
- It looked a lot like the burger that they had at last year’s Burger Battle, but I liked this one a little better.
- Burger 6: Shake Shack’s ShackBurger
- Angus beef cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, and “ShackSauce” on a buttered toasted potato roll
- Most of my experiences with Shake Shack at other competitions have been unremarkable. This burger, however, finally explained why Shake Shack is a fan favorite. Bonus points for using a soft, pillowy potato roll. Perfect for soaking up that tasty burger grease.
- Burger 7: A&G Burger Joint’s Colombian Burger (5th Place)
- A patty made of 50% Angus beef and 50% Colombian chorizo and topped with queso blanco, potato sticks, kamikaze mustard, kalamata garlic aioli , cajun ranch, and jalapeño cream. The bottom bun was toasted brioche, and the top “bun” was a cheese arepa.
- Well now! This burger was calling out to my Colombian roots! I really appreciated that you could actually taste the Colombian chorizo in the patty, including the hints of cilantro. Using a cheese arepa as a bun basically made this kind of like a double decker burger. Although mine was a little cold when I ate it, the flavors were definitely there.
- Burger 8: Tucker Duke’s Lunchbox Burger Brawl Burger
- American and cheddar cheeses, crispy onions, mixed pickles, mixed greens, and ketchup leather on a crunch bun
- This was a decent burger, but nothing in particular stood out to me.
- Burger 9: Gilbert’s 17th Street Grill’s Pesto Burger
- Burger patty with sun-dried tomato pesto, fresh mozzarella cheese, olive oil, and served on a sweet egg bun
- That pesto sauce on the burger wasn’t working for me. It would probably be great on pasta.
- Burger 10: MEAT Eatery & Taproom’s Thee Southern Belle
- Wagyu burger with aged cheddar cheese, smokey serrano, and bacon and tomato jam
- The burger looked pretty fantastic, and was one of the burgers I was looking forward to the most. Then, I took a bite, and my mouth set on fire. Too spicy!
- Burger 11: Burger and Beer Joint’s Midnight Rider (4th Place)
- Short rib patty topped with bacon, arugula, goat cheese, red onion marmalade, and truffle aioli on a brioche bun
- I was super excited to see the large strips of bacon poking out of the sides of the burger. In fact, my first bite was just a mouthful of the salty, smokey goodness. Then, my next bite was a punch in the face of tangy goat cheese. I couldn’t even taste much of anything else.
- Burger 12: Vega’s Burger Bar’s The Fireman
- Homemade chipotle bbq sauce, pepper jack cheese, fresh jalapeño peppers, and homemade onion strings on a brioche bun.
- One bite set my mouth ablaze. I couldn’t bring myself to take another. Not when I still had 8 more burgers to try.
- Burger 13: Cheeseburger Baby’s Keepin’ It Classic
- Angus beef patty sprinkled with secret seasoning and topped with sharp cheddar cheese, fried egg, and honey-smoked bacon on a buttered bun
- This was the very first time that I ever enjoyed a burger with a fried egg on it. That alone earns this place an honorable mention in my book. Another extra-juicy patty.
- Burger 14: Latin House’s Mad Love with a Twist (Burger Brawl Winner)
- A patty made of sirloin, chuck, and brisket that was topped with provolone cheese, Swiss cheese, Mozzarella cheese, BellaVitano Gold cheese, applewood smoked maple glazed bacon, Irish butter grilled mushrooms and onions, Hass avocado, avocado lime and crema Mexicana sauces, and candied jalapeño.
- Latin House was really in it to win it. Considering the were the winner’s, I’m sure this was a great burger. Sadly, mine was so raw that I really didn’t get to enjoy it. Had the patty been properly cooked, I probably would have loved it.
- Burger 15: Eating House’s Carbonara Burger
- Black Angus beef patty topped with applewood smoked bacon, fried egg, black truffle, fontina cheese, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
- Truffle is such a finicky ingredient to work with that I always shudder when I read it on a burger competition roster. Between the taste of the truffle and the cheese, any hint of burger was completely lost. Truly, you CAN have too much of a good thing.
- Burger 16: Pincho Factory’s Toston Burger
- Chuck, brisket, and short rib patty topped with lettuce, tomato, jack cheese, and cilantro sauce and served between two tostones.
- My burger came fresh out of the fryer, and I burned myself the first two times that I tried to grab it to take a bite. Once it finally cooled off enough to eat, though, it was worth the wait. I cannot remember the last time that I had tostones cooked so perfectly. It was a momentous celebration of Latin and American flavors. This was another favorite of the evening.
- Burger 17: Graziano’s Graziano Burger
- Chorizo burger topped with grilled red peppers, cherry tomatoes, shallots, and chimichurri aioli on a homemade potato bun
- Something about this burger just didn’t click for me.
- Burger 18: Jefe’s Original Fish Taco and Burgers’ Jefe’s Cheeseburger
- A beef patty topped with American cheese, grilled onions, and Jefe’s secret boss sauce
- Simple, but delicious. A little too safe for a burger competition, though.
- Burger 19: Jersey Dawg’s Jersey-Style Slider with Cheese
- Ground beef, steamed onions, and American cheese served on a potato roll
- I didn’t like the patty on this one. It was kind of dry and bland. A bit of a letdown.
- Burger 20: Josh’s Deli’s Pastrami Frita Burger
- Pastrami spiced and smoked ground beef patty, latke crisps, and Russian dressing
- This burger was just okay.
A little over an hour and 20 burgers later, I was ready to wander around and check out the other offerings.
Cupcakes and tarts from Sugar Yummy Mama. That chocolate mini tart was fantastic.
El Rey de las Fritas, winner of last year’s Cuban frita showdown, was also serving up tastings of their award-winning dish.
Sakaya Kitchen’s Chunk’d Tot Bar was making spicy tater tots with cut up sausage. They looked really good, and I REALLY wanted to try some. Unfortunately, I was just too full. I flagged a man down and asked him to let me take a picture of his serving, though.
I am so happy that, despite it only being 2 weeks before Burger Battle, I still decided to attend Burger Brawl 2014. This was a Friday night well-spent, and I hope to see this event come back for next year!