A sudden downpour couldn’t dampen the hopes of cooks at the 20 restaurants who entered their burgers in the first Boca Burger Battle held July 14 in downtown Boca’s Sanborn Square.
A team of judges munched their way through all 20 burgers in two categories – traditional and alternative. Burgers were built with savory and sweet ingredients; among them, knockwurst, turkey sausage, fried eggs, cucumber salad, roasted pear, grilled eggplant, pickled onions, pickled tomatoes, stouts and ales and Jack Daniels – one of the big sponsors at the event.
Contestants from burger joints and other restaurants from Boca Raton and surrounding cities vied for the title of Grill Master’s Choice, serving a presentation plate and smaller samplings of the same burger to the 10 judges. Chef Lee Blakley coordinated the judge’s table and scorers; Denise Righetti and her team were runners. Burgers were presented to the judges every six minutes and until the rain, remained on schedule.
Judges (full disclosure – I was among them) agreed on the top three - Gimme a Burger’s Prime Angus burger, stacked with applewood smoked bacon, pepper jack cheese, fried egg, prime beef mixed with turkey sausage, Howling Wolf sauce and set on a challah bun; the Rebel House’s Tuscan burger made with Charm City Sauce, pickled tomatoes, crispy onions and a toasted sesame bun; and Big Joe’s Burgers & Wings’ Big Joe burger, a thick patty with house-made tangy blue cheese and bacon.
Winning burgers were clear standouts – and the voting was close among them. The most flavorful burgers with expertly cooked fresh meats, and fresh, creative condiments that presented well drew favorable comments.
Flaws included over-grinding meats, skimpy meat-to-bun-to-condiment ratio, unbalanced flavors, lack of creativity, and not following the rules. Some cooks clearly over-reached, with too many competing flavors that overpowered the meat or alternative.
The judges would have awarded prizes to at least two burgers that dropped to zero in part of the scoring – the cooks did not deliver the same burger to the judges for tasting as submitted for presentation.
Prizes for Traditional burgers were awarded in this order:
- 1st place - Rebel House
- 2nd place - Gimme A Burger
- 3rd place - Big Joe’s Burgers & Wings
For alternative burgers, (contestants could submit their burgers in either category), judges liked the 4th Generation Market’s American Cheeseburger made with and served alongside an English beer; the English Tap and Beer Garden’s Ahi Tuna Slider, with wasabi mayo, seaweed salad on a baguette slider bun; and Chef Irie Spice’s Turkey Burger with a cilantro-lime sauce, tropical slaw and mango dressing.
The Alternative burgers ranked:
- 1st place - The English Tap & Beer Garden
- 2nd place - 4th Generation
- 3rd place - Irie Spice
- 1st place - Rebel House
- 2nd place - Super Dave’s Diner (a traditional diner burger made with a special sauce.)
- 3rd place - Red’s Backwood BBQ (a burger made with two barbecue sauces, bacon, blue cheese and a homemade onion sauce)