We ate 15 burgers in 6 days, and we battled throughout.
Before you read this, you should know that A.) Mike is wrong about pork belly. B.) We reviewed these “on a curve.” The field was stellar overall, but war is war. C.) We both agree that structural integrity is one of the fundamental corners upon which is built the awesome pyramid of burgerdom. I hope you all have as much fun disagreeing with our reviews as we had eating these burgers.
BERNARD STANLEY GASTROPUB
MIKE: I thought it sounded like a hot mess but I was wrong. It was sensible, well proportioned, delicious, and the aioli went really well with the apple relish. The pepper jack should have stood out more; could see it, couldn’t taste it.
EMILY: Agree! What sounded like a sauce fiasco was balanced even from a spatial perspective – sweet on top, savoury at the bottom. Easy to eat without being dry, zero structural integrity issues. A well engineered burger.
BLUE ON WATER
MIKE: It looked beautiful, but it was as if three sets of burger parts couldn’t afford their own bun so they all chipped in on one together. A “made by committee” burger.
EMILY: Agree! The egg and pâté were lost in a fug of flavours. The various layers did not coalesce and transcend. The spiced lamb patty tasted nicely chargrilled and deserved more slaw and less pastiche.
MIKE: A straightforward design, and that’s not a bad thing. Reminded me of cabin bbq afternoons, and that’s always a good thing.
EMILY: Agree! Chargrilled patty shot and dressed right for a smooth, slightly sweet flavour. The rhubarb mayo was just enough to compensate for the inherent leanness of moose meat.
MIKE: The Pig Mac really is a larger than life big mac. A little on the high side, it was hard to get a proper bite, but great burger.
EMILY: Agree! I’ve never had a big mac, not because I am a snob and my body is a palace (though that is true), but because I lived in IN-N-OUT territory. The spiced sausage patties were toothsome; one of the best tasting patties in the battle. Big Fun. Very successful!
MIKE: I really like when a burger goes for a theme, and this one is essentially an Indian food burger. I think it all worked wonderfully together. I just wish it had a fistful more cilantro.
EMILY: Disagree! The burger and pakora were both heavily spiced along the same flavour wave whose resulting resonance destroyed the otherwise well designed taste-structure. But, yes, more cilantro or maybe raita, could have separated the spice frequencies with a wash of freshness. The carrot pickle (delicious! not sad!) did heroic work, but he needed reinforcements.
THE FIFTH TICKET
MIKE: As opposed to the Bernard Stanley entry, this one actually worked better on paper. I found the beef rather bland and dry, and the bun didn’t do it any structural integrity favours. Serviceable, but not a lot of flavour going on here.
EMILY: Agree! The bun was good but couldn’t hold up to the very cooked patty. Despite the list of ingredients, there just wasn’t enough there in reality between the burger and bun to brighten it up. Excellent Fries.
MAGNUM & STEINS
MIKE: Pounded chicken in a cheese hole! I love a good crispy chicken burger and this was a great one. The slaw was amazing, I was so happy with this burger. Juicy portion of chicken, perfectly prepared.
EMILY: Agree! And I liked the dipping sauce. The barbecue sauce would have been too sweet if on the sandwich, but as dip it was the bouncy castle at the party in my mouth. Only flaw was the “cheese-jalapeño” bun which had no jalapeño flavour but was heavily/oddly herbed.
MIKE: It’s going for deadly house burger. We had the single. It was well proportioned and all of its parts were great, but it didn’t really seem special to me.
EMILY: Agree-ish. It was delish, as it tasted like a fancy In-N-Out cheeseburger — high praise. The house-made American cheese stood out. If there was a cheese category in the contest, this would take the blue ribbon.
MIKE: Just make your excellent pizza b’ys. A frigid, saucy pool coalesced beneath my burger. The bun ripped in half with gobs of maple goat cheese pillowing out from this sauce monster.“Sweet Jesus,” I cried out, “get this friggen burger off of me.”
EMILY: Disagree! But I will buy your first burgerhorror-novel. The red pepper flakes of the soppressata pricked my palate’s interest, and balanced the sweet maple goat cheese. It was a messy one, but the taste was one of the best, the arugula was generous, and the ciabatta bun wasn’t too chewy.
MIKE: So nice to get out of downtown and up over the hill. This burger worked great! I’m not usually a fan of deep fried things on my burger, but the hot peppers really made the burger work for me, and the onion ring kept them all in place.
EMILY: Agree! Like it’s plebeian name, “The Beefington” was not elegant but it satisfied: good lettuce proportions, good ratios all around. The ranch dressing didn’t add anything other than the requisite lube/moisture.
MIKE: While I appreciate that this entry is one of the more creative ones, I’m not fond of the gobs of fat that come with porchetta, or any pork bellyish things, so I’m biased. I loved the greens and the bun, but I found the entire thing too oily.
EMILY: Disagree! Fat on a fatty food is right. This wasn’t a “put a pork belly on it!” entry. It was authentically itself in its fat and tang. This was pure of heart and taste. The bread and meat and sauce were, literally, made for one another.
MIKE: Amazing. So much care put into this one that it’s hard to find fault. Honey-glazed amazebun, beautiful beef, no unnecessary parts. If it’s in your budget, you have to eat this.
EMILY: Agree! Perfect. Exquisitely cooked, plenty of gorgeous yellow cheese dripping just so down the side. The whole thing glowing power and tenderness; fat but biteable. This burger is Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront. After 15 burgers, I still thought about going back for seconds every night.
MIKE: I really like peas pudding, and jiggs dinner too, but it didn’t work as a burger for me. For one, colossal structural integrity fail. The small-in-diameter rigid bun could not prevent the pea patty from squirting out. And too much salt in the bun too, salt everywhere.
EMILY: Agree! I, too, am a big peas pudding fan. But this didn’t cut the mustard pickle. It was cute, like a round Star Wars droid, but it was all salt and no sauce.
MIKE: One of the best burgers this year. Every ingredient worked together to make this thing delicious. The buttermilk bun makes for some structural integrity issues but I’ll give that a pass because the bun was one of the parts that made it great. I only wish the cheese came through stronger.
EMILY: Agree! The flavours truly cohered and with the added delight of a diverse, but not discordant, range of textures. The onion ring brought crunch and salt and the patty trusted that onion ring to do its job and didn’t bring its own superfluous salt to the fight. The egg and biscuit pulled as a team.
MIKE: The great taste of the mustard with the fresh cucumber made this stand out. However, I am sick of seeing pork bellies where they do not belong. Less is more. Still, a good burger.
EMILY: Disagree/Agree! My burger had only a whisper of the cucumber and sauces, a mere looney sized dab. Unlike Mike, I usually like pork belly, but mine was not tender and it was distractingly sweet