At 5pm the burgers started floating into the VIP tent to the judges table and the carnage began. Having attended the Burger Bash at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival last year, I knew that I had to pace myself in the beginning stages in order to make it to the end. With 22 burgers to sample, any overindulgence would be sure to bury me. I stuck to that plan and survived. The Chowfather did not have a game plan and, against my warning, went heavy on the first burger. By burger #9 he wasn't looking too good. By burger 15 he was banged up bad. After burger 22 let's just say some Magic City palms got some angus-filled fertilizer.
The quality of burgers ranged from awful to awesome. My qualifications for a great burger start with the patty. It's gotta be fresh and seasoned. That Sysco crap doesn't cut it. Matter of fact, it's pretty disgusting. After that, the bun has gotta be solid. If the bottom bun can't handle the juicy burger and becomes soggy, that's a partial fail in my book. With patty and bun out of the way, it's all about the toppings. If the toppings provide good flavor enhancement without getting too crazy and/or sloppy, we've got a winner.
Here's a look at the contestants. First up, the restaurant entries:
|Burger & Beer Joint - Judges' Choice for Restaurant Best Burger|
|Charm City Burgers|
|Gilbert's 17th Street Grill|
|The Local - Judges' Choice Runner Up for Restaurant Best Burger|
|La Camaronera's Lobster Burger was a waste of time and lobster. It was a burger competition.|
|Dim Ssam a Gogo|
|Jefe's Original - Runner Up for Judges' Choice Food Truck Best Burger|
|gastroPod - Judges' Choice for Food Truck Best Burger|
|Latin Burger was DQ'd for delivering their own burgers. Don't worry, they didn't go to waste. I hooked up some homeless folks on my ride home.|
|Latin House Grill|
|El Rincon del Coqui|
|Purple People Eatery|
|The Rolling Stove|
Burger & Beer Joint - burger patty seasoned beautifully. Worthy bun. Bacon, pickle, and just a touch of bbq enhance the flavor. This is the one to beat.
The Local - tender patty cooked to a nice medium-rare with bacon flavor present. Nice bun. Went a little overboard with the mustard but not too bad. Cheese and onion added nice flavor. Side of crunchy fries flecked with salt were fantastic but did not factor into the scoring plus I only had two to save room.
Sakaya Kitchen - toppings rule this one with green onion, tots, cheese, and ssamjang (a thick, Korean spicy dressing) combining for an interesting flavor combo. Just wish the patty wasn't lost in all of that.
Gilbert's 17th St Grill - this one was huge. Patty had a great char on it but wasn't seasoned enough to survive without the nice slab of bacon on top. English muffin was an interesting choice for a bun but worked for me. Egg and cheese rounded out the flavors
My top burgers in the food truck category were:
gastroPod - perfect size, seasoned patty, perfect med-rare. Runny egg, spicy mayo sauce, and thin sliced homemade pickles had this mouth party rockin'. Potato bun held it all together. Kickass burger.
Jefe's Original - All-American burger with decent patty flavor. A replica In-N-Out burger with lettuce, tomato, cheese, and secret sauce. Clean fresh flavors here.
The Rolling Stove - nice char makes the bun nice and crisp. Equal char on the patty provided good flavor and seasoned well too. Sauce a little strange, slightly sweet but not bad. Onions were a little strong here but overall a standout burger.
Purple People Eatery - great med-rare temp on this one. I disagreed with some judges who didn't like the blue cheese. I liked it and on my burger it wasn't overdone but added nicely to the sprouts and tomato. Seemed to have a sweetness there which after further inspection may have been onion jam but can't be sure.
Dim Ssam a Gogo - Kinda dumb to have this one again as it's the same as Sakaya Kitchen but regardless where they make the burger it's still a pretty good one.
I will admit it was rough getting bites from all of these burgers down the hatch and after the competition was over it was even harder to stand amongst the food court smelling nothing but burgers. Luckily, a buddy had brought some Maker's Mark which aided the digestion process. In the end, I was happy to have participated in my 3rd consecutive Burgie Awards ceremony (2nd straight live). It was a great event and much congrats due to the Beast himself for putting it all together. Another victory in his battle to raise more awareness to the American food that he loves best - the burger.