On Friday, May 23, for the fifth year in a row 1200 burger enthusiasts in search of burger nirvana convened on the privately funded park known as Huizenga Plaza in the Riverwalk area of downtown Fort Lauderdale for the Riverwalk Burger Battle. From those that enjoy the traditional burger to the more adventurous burger lover, all bases were covered at the sold out night of beefy goodness.
Each attendee was presented with a special chip to give to their favorite restaurant for the Fan's Choice Award, and a panel of judges also handed out awards for Judge's Choice - Best Burger Joint, Best Bar and Grill Burger, Best Knife and Fork Burger, and Best Burger.
Sixteen of the area's local restaurants showcased their unique burger recipes and kept your taste buds hopping. Anyone who was worried about the long lines at some of the booths had their fears quickly dashed as the crowds were quickly dispersed by the burger cooks and enthusiastic presenters. You could easily tell that all of the restaurants showcased were passionate about food, but some of the individuals' passion spilled over into a fervor that was, well, almost palatable.
A good example of this was the staff of Rosie's Bar and Grill, who entertained the long lines with servers who were anxious to make sure that nearly everyone standing got "lei'd," as they were presented with a plastic flower necklace that helped to increase the crowd's enthusiasm. Even the bar's namesake, Rosie, was in attendance, and it became clear why their slogan is "you're gonna need both hands!"
Eating that much meat is bound to make anyone thirsty, and the good people at Jack Daniels, Barefoot Wine, and Crystal Geyser bottled water kept the crowd well hydrated. Visitors were entertained not only by the enthusiastic restauranteurs, but also by the musical stylings of local band SOSOS. VIP visitors were also treated to red velvet cupcake pops, as well as Jack Daniel's Honey Whiskey popsicles.
The night provided not only a good public relations experience for the restaurants involved, but helped to give prospective patrons an idea of where to go in South Florida for the best in hamburger goodness.
The event opened to the public shortly before 7:00 p.m., and each of the assembled restaurants had their own booth set up serving the hungry crowd their wares.
The Alibi burger featured bacon, BBQ sauce, cheese and potato sticks, and although it had a mildly sweet flavor, it was a generally yummy burger.
The people at Hollywood Prime offered up a ground short rib burger with foie gras, sautéed mushrooms and onions. It had a unique texture, and was just OK.
American Social offered up a burger composed of short ribs and brisket all wrapped in bacon and stuffed with Boursin cheese, coated in a spicy sauce. This one was one of the best of the night, by far! The judge's agreed, and awarded them with the Best Burger trophy.
The Hard Rock Cafe presented just what you'd expect from them; an all American bacon cheese burger with spinach in place of lettuce. It was not as special as some of the others, but was a good burger.
At Burgers & Suds, the Escobar burger was cooked in butter and combined 2 blue cheeses, bacon, red onion, lettuce, tomato, and grenadine. It was a burger that is well suited for blue cheese lover, but if you aren't fond of this fragrant and flavorful cheese, stay away! The restaurant was awarded with the Judge Choice trophy for Best Burger Joint.
Big Bear Brewing Company featured a burger crafted with prime rib, horseradish, cheddar cheese, and caramelized onion. The flavors complimented each other well, and it worked.
If you're in the mood for a run of the mill classic cheeseburger, then Burger Zone is the place to go. Their cheeseburger featured ketchup, pickle, and American cheese, and was just a normal burger.
Newly reopened Shooters Waterfront Cafe offered up a burger cooked in duck fat with tomato, sweet spicy pickle, onion and mozzarella cheese. The duck fat changed the texture of the meat in a way that was not entirely expected, but wasn't all bad. The unique texture and flavor obviously got the judge's attention, as they were awarded the Best Knife and Fork Burger trophy.
At Timpani Italian Chophouse, a red wine infused burger with garlic, oregano, thyme, and smoked Gouda cheese topped with maple Cajun bacon, balsamic onion jam, and basil aioli on challah was very sweet, and left you wondering if it was possibly too sweet for what should have a savory flavor.
At Whiskey Tango, the Hangover Bangkok Burger featured and Angus patty topped with cheddar, pepper encrusted bacon, an over easy egg and sriracha sauce. It was a very sloppy burger with sneaky heat, and the bun was almost dissolved from the egg yolk. Though flavorful, it was not an easy to eat burger, especially in a competition such as this.
Gimme A Burger featured certified Angus beef infused with bourbon garlic tomato jam and bacon, topped with balsamic onion reduction, asiago cheese, exotic chips and Orleans bootleg sauce. It was truly sweet smoky crunchy goodness!
At Sweet Nectar, they combined prime, chuck, and short rib into a juicy burger topped with bacon, sweet onion sauce, and coleslaw. It was the juiciest burger of the night, and had a truly nice sweet flavor.
Tucker Duke's Lunchbox offered up a burger topped with bourbon pimento cheese, crispy onion, and homemade tucker sauce all ingredients were sourced locally within 50 miles of Deerfield Beach. It had a salty undertone, but appealed to the local foodies in attendance. Because of this fact, as well as the combination of flavors and energetic staff, they also received the Judge's Choice trophy for Best Burger Joint.
The Downtowner offered up a burger covered with sweet chutney and bacon. It was a good overall burger, but nothing to write home about.
Rosie's Bar and Grill featured a unique burger with sriracha mayo, panko fried cheese, and smoked bacon. Unlike the burger from Whiskey Tango, Rosie's made a much better use of sriracha which provided a little kick but was not over powering. Their tasty burger took home a trophy in the Fan Favorite category. They also were awarded with the Best Bar and Grill Burger trophy.
Shula Burger is new to the area, with four locations in Florida. Their French Onion Burger featured caramelized onions, double Gruyere cheese, garlic mayo, and crushed garlic croutons. For a chain burger, albeit an upper echelon chain, it was very good!
Each burger had it's good points and bad points, but there wasn't a truly awful burger in the bunch. Some of them were much better than others, but each one brought something different to the palate that, although not always as enjoyable as you might hope, definitely provided a unique dining experience. With less than a year until the Riverwalk Burger Battle VI, let the salivating begin!