Things got pretty heated up in Boca, and the steaks have never been higher as nearly 20 area restaurants got their grill on and finally settled the score on one of man’s most introspective, primal questions — who’s got the best burger?
On July 16 in Sanborn Square Park, it was settled.
As the smoke cleared and the embers cooled, more than 1,000 hungry guests gathered among the grease, condiments and smack talk to sample the competition and vote for their favorite burger.
As well, a panel of judges consisting of familiar foodies, bloggers and cooks including: Rey De La Osa from Publix Aprons Cooking School; Jan Norris from JanNorris.com; Jamie Frankel from Burgers by the Beach and his new blog, Floridian Beer Society; Alex Callegari from The Firefighter Foodie; Rob Adler from Weekend Broward; Boca City Council Member, Robert S. Weinroth and Danny Rivera from BIG 105.9 were also on hand to give their expert opinion. In the end, three establishments were entitled to bragging rights. Ready your napkins — and the winners are…
And now a little about each of the winners — please, try not to drool on your keyboard.
M.E.A.T. takes the Judge’s Pick for Best Grill Master for the second year in a row. For Chef George Patti, (yes, Patti’s the name and apparently grilling is his game), it was game on for the competition where his skills netted him the title, again.
“We’re excited to win,” said Patti. “It’s really humbling and exciting. We had a lot of fun — it was hot, but it was fun.”
Sweating it in the July heat Patti said keeping up with demand wasn’t easy.
“I mean we just tried our best. It was a rough start; you never know what’s going to happen it was hard to keep up — we gave out almost 700 burgers, and it definitely wasn’t cool out.”
This year chef George nailed it with an ode to the King – Elvis who was a big fan of fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches.
Their creation — Mr. Sticky Fingers.
“It’s got blueberry chipotle jam, a potato bun toasted with bacon fat, of course. Smoked Gouda cheese, housemade bacon, tempura-Fried bananas, on top of a mixed burger patty, a brisket-burger blend, and spicy peanut sauce.”
Chef George said the tasty concoction is on the menu now, until it gets boring, then it’s onto the next.
As for next year, Patti hopes to win big, as in winner take all top secret strategy.
“We’re hoping to sweep them all,” said Patti. “We figure we can win People’s Choice by giving out drinks – Guinness Nutella milkshakes.”
The restaurant is Sommelier Thomas Smith and Patti’s pride. The first restaurant was opened in the keys on Islamorada five years ago. It gained popularity for their unique take on preparing food — smoking all of their meats on-site, making their sausage in-house, creating their own condiments from scratch and blending their specialty adult milkshakes. It also captured the attention of Celebrity chef, Guy Fieri. M.E.A.T was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives this past April.
Winning best alternative burger for the second year in a row was thrilling for Patricia and Rahein Jones, but the moment of real affirmation came when they took third place overall, holding their own, on taste alone, among their meatier competitors.
“When we won this year for alternative burger that was cool,” said Rahein Jones. “We were celebrating, then we got called again — we weren’t even expecting to win in that category. There’s not one vegan judge on the panel.”
For the Jones’ it’s about giving people a new experience.
“We want to show people that there’s more beyond meat,” said Patricia Jones. “That’s one of the things that made us stand out. We weren’t in our own element. We were with meat eaters. For them to give us their vote, for them to love us the way they did, it took us to another level — it’s part of our mission to educate.”
Their winning burger has been named Corey’s Grilled Master Burger in honor of the couple’s cousin, Corey Jones.
“It’s actually a brand-new exclusive burger that we did specifically for the judges,” said Patricia. “A double patty teriyaki burger and it was not only 100 percent plant-based but also gluten-free, soy-free and no GMOs. It’s made from our own mix creation, so it’s all organic. We loaded it up with vegetables, grilled onions and peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, vegan mayo, pickles and we also had vegan cheese in the patty, with a side of our Boom-Boom Sauce, TNV’s sweet and spicy sauce.”
The New Vegans are new vegans themselves adopting the lifestyle four years ago.
“We’ve been vegan for four years,” said Patricia. “We opened the restaurant two weeks after we became vegan. We never ate at another vegan restaurant, never went online for recipes, we just used natural vegetables and learned over the years how to change the texture to a more familiar texture we’re used to. Just a typical American basic menu, but no processed food or processed sugar, no refined sugar.”
The good news, if you love the burger, you can buy the mix and create your own version.
Always a bridesmaid, never a bride?
Not exactly – The people have spoken, and Tucker Duke’s Lunchbox has earned the People’s Choice award in this competition for the third straight year.
Tucker Duke’s winning creation, The James Beard Burger is a mushroom and beef patty burger with smoked Gouda pimento cheese, hoisin glazed bacon caramelized onions, roasted garlic aioli, housemade ketchup, Owner and partner John Cortes said that the winning burger was going to be done in August, but since winning it’s on the menu for foreseeable future.
For Cortes, the competition drives everyone to reach higher. As for loosing the Judge’s Grill Master Award to his frenemy, chef George, Cortes minds his manners.
“Well our mamas taught us, if you ain’t got nothing nice to say, don’t say nothing at all,” taunts Cortes. “We will say these burger battles are fun and we love competing.”
As for next year — once again, it’s on.
“Of course, we want to win, and we have won the people’s choice award in Boca three years in a row, but have lost the judges award two years in a row to M.E.A.T, so we have some work to do,” said Cortes. “The competition with M.E.A.T is real, and it pushes us to be more creative and to be better overall, and we all win because of it – We are coming for ya George and M.E.A.T.”
The competition included gallant efforts by Boca Raton eateries: Morton’s Steak House; Shake Shack; Zinburger and Saquella Cafe. Representing Coconut Creek was BRGR STOP. Delray Beach contenders: Salt 7; Cabo Flats; second place winners, Deck 84 and Burt & Max’s. Fort Lauderdale’s Bite Gastrotruck; Munchie’s Snack Shack of Greenacres; Hollywood’s Atlas Meat-Free Delicatessen; Sweetwater’s 109 Burger Joint and South Florida Caterers: Gilbert’s Rib King BBQ.
Visit the 5th Annual Boca Burger Battle for more information.
-by Michelle Kaplan