Battle of the Burger 2012
Summer means sun, outdoors, grilling, burgers and beer. Put all that together and you have the first annual Battle of the Burger. Hosted by Boston Magazine, twenty local area restuarnats competed on Tuesday for voters choice and, most importantly, bragging rights to cook Boston’s Best Burger.
I am not going to bore you with a detailed critique of all twenty burgers. This would be an unfair task for several reasons:
- I could not possibly eat twenty burgers in a short time frame and live to write about it. So I only had 1-2 bites of each.
- A mini burger cooked for hundreds of people is not the same as a regular burger for just for you at a restaurant.
- How different cam 20 burgers be? (Turns out some very different, but some kind of similar.)
- Most burgers were miniature.
- Most burgers were (surprisingly) cooked to a nice medium – medium-rare.
- All were good, some just stood out more than others.
Most Fun: The Boston Cream Burger by Cafeteria: Grass-fed beef, cheddar cheese, caramelized onion, habanero-radish cream cheese, griddle bun
Check out their swag! I loved the cream cheese idea, but on such a little burger, it caused the top of the bun to slip right off.
Prettiest: All American BBQ Bacon Cheddar Burger by Joe’s American Bar & Grill: Fresh ground chuck, BBQ basted crispy pork belly, two-year aged Vermont cheddar, maple Cajun bacon jam on a griddled poppy bun with house cured pickles
Leave it to Joe’s American Bar and Grill to come up with a classic. And how gorgeous are those little green tendrils!?
“Insert Foot in Mouth” Burger: The Tuna Burger by Legal Sea Foods: Ground yellowfin tuna with chili sauce and a crumb mixture of oyster crackers and spices, grilled and then served on a buttery brioche bun with roasted red pepper mayo
Being a “burger” competition, I had automatically assumed beef burgers. But still, I wasn’t surprised by the two turkey burgers in the competition, but for some reason I was surprised by the tuna burger. One bite and I realized why: delicious and moist! Who knew a delicious “burger” could actually be healthy?!
Most Deconstructed Burger: The 80 Thoreau Burger by 80 Thoreau: Grilled PGA beef, brioche bun, Grafton cheddar, assorted house pickles, “Thoreau sauce”
Each ingredient on the plate was great by itself, but when you’re juggling a beer in one hand, and a plate in the other, you don’t have the luxury to construct the burger yourself. Everything together would have been perfect!
Most Savory: The Saloon Burger by Saloon: Grass-fed Maine ground chuck, roasted bone marrow, pickled shallots and hen of the woods mushrooms
After our experience at Saloon, I really wanted to hate this burger. But after one bite, I just couldn’t. After several burgers too sweet with BBQ, the pickled shallots and minimal breading were a welcome treat!
Messiest: The Hillbilly by Olde Magoun’s Saloon: Topped with house smoked pull-pork, North Carolina coleslaw, American cheese, pepper veingar BBQ sauce served in a buttered and grilled artisanal brioche roll
I think the picture is pretty self-explanatory.
Most Unique: The Bahn mi Burger by BOND: Angus beef with Vietnamese flavors of nuoc nam, soy, slivered garlic, scallion, jalapeno and lime zest; served on a black sesame roll with Vietnamese pork pate, srirachi aioi, cilantr leaves, basil, mint and pickled vegetables
After reading that description, it should be no surprise that I found this was the most unusual burger. It was a fun burger, cooked by an equally fun crew, who were more than happy to pose for the cameras. The cook basting the burgers insisted I take his picture, and was really getting into it! I always appreciate when chefs and cooks take opportunities like these to just go out and have some fun.
Most Decadent: The Fois Gras Mushroom Ragout Burger by Smith & Wollensky: Hand ground burger made fresh on premise from steak trimmings and served on a brioche roll with a foie gras mushroom ragout
With foie gras on this burger, I expected decadent. But I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. It wasn’t as messy as it looked like it would be, with a creamy texture full of savory flavors.
Most Unexpected: The Twin Peaks by Brew City: Black angus burger with braised short ribs, Amstel wheat braised onions and berkshire blue aioli on a ciabatta roll
When I looked at the list of competing burgers, this one failed to grab my attention, yet was easily in my top three. The blue aioli was a lighter version of a heavy blue cheese dressing that, like Saloon’s burger, was a welcome change from the caramelized onions that seemed to dominate the competition.
Best Lived Up To My Expectations: The Sin Burger by The Blue Ox: 1/2 pound USDA prime beef burger, applewood smoked bacon, Swiss cheese, truffled mayo, lettuce, tomato on a brioche bun
Now this was the burger that on paper I thought would be my favorite. And it was spot on, definitely my runner-up choice for favorite burger. It was so good, and the staff so friendly, I want to head up to Lynn to check out the rest of their menu.
Best Sponsor: Amstel Light
I was so excited to make the board!!
And last but not least… drum roll please…
My Favorite: The Fireplace Burger by The Fireplace: Shelburne Farms cheddar, stuffed grass-fed Vermont burger with thick cut bacon, caramelized onions, lettuce and tomato on a homemade English muffin
I loved everything about this burger. It was simple concept, no over-the-top ingredients, and if I was looking for a burger to order off a menu to satisfy a craving, this is the one that would do it for me.
Of course these are just my opinions. The people of Boston voted Boston Burger Company as their favorite! Congratulations to Chef Paul Malvone and his team on the big win!!
Tickets for this event were $75, which included unlimited samples of the twenty competing burgers, as well as an “open bar” of sponsor Amstel Light. It was hosted outside at the Black Falcon Terminal, which I always see as being difficult to get to, but it’s a really easy trip on the silver line. There was also an option for $15 parking across the street, with complimentary pedi cab from the event entrance to your car. I do not know the number of tickets sold, but it was a good-sized crowd without being overcrowded. There was no elbowing and hip checking; I only had to wait once for a fresh batch of burgers, and even then I just went to the next table while I waited. Speaking of tables, there weren’t many, so be prepared to eat standing up (not my forte). If you are a huge burger fan, I think the price is definitely worth it. Never mind the free beer. Definitely wear your elastic waste pants, and I would challenge anyone to eat all twenty burgers in full! If you are curious about the full burger lineup, you can find it on Boston Magazine’s website for the event. And at the time of the event, all burgers were available on the restaurants’ regular menus.
Full Disclosure: I was given a complimentary press pass for this event; all opinions are my own.
What is your favorite burger topping?