A Look Back at the 2014 SoBe Burger Bash [SPOILER: It Was AMAZING]
Over 8,500 pounds of ground meat. More than a half-ton of bacon. Fourteen-thousand bottles of beer.
And 31 different burgers.
Yeah, that was our kind of party.
The SoBeWFF Burger Bash, the burger-eating event of the year, rocked our greasy socks off once again last Friday, filling us with beef, booze, indigestion and we’re pretty sure enough red meat to block our colons well into next year. In other words– it was everything we hoped for and more.
One of the big winners on the night was Michael Symon and his joint, B Spot Burgers, who took home his fourth –FOURTH!– People’s Choice award in five years with the Fat Doug topped with coleslaw, pastrami, aged havarti and stadium mustard. And –surprise, surprise– Shake Shack and the BurgerMeister, a dry-aged ShackBurger topped with crispy, ale-marinated shallots, swept the judging quartet of Andrew Zimmern, Geoffrey Zakarian, Anne Burrell and Trisha Yearwood off their collective greasy feet to take home the Judges’ Favorite. Also, The Burger Dive out of Billings, Montana took home the “Best of the Bash” award given out by Red Robin.
Now, we’re not saying we know burgers but goddamn it, WE KNOW BURGERS. Not only did Shake Shack, the burger whose fucking amazingness we trumpet on the regular, win the experts’ pick, but we also dubbed Symon the odds-on favorite to take home the popular vote last week. If people ever decide to start laying loot down on burger competitions, we’ll be the beefiest bookies on the block.
D.C.’s lone burger slinger in South Beach, Chef Spike Mendelsohn of Good Stuff Eatery, had a bit of an identity crisis during the Bash, deciding to do a Bobby Flay impression at his burger stand. With balloons spelling out “BOBBY,” a Bobby’s Burger Palace t-shirt-clad crew, a display of Bobby Flay cookbooks and even a giant Flay head (along with a giant Spike head for good measure), it was one of the
weirdest most unique presentations we saw on the night. We’re not sure if it was an homage to the absent reigning Bash champion or if Spike was just going after the Flay vote but whatever it was, it was….interesting.
As for our evening tally, we ended up downing 13 out of the 31 participants for a healthy .419 average (but still falling two shy of our goal of 15). We tossed back the two winners, a Cuban favorite, two burgers featuring beef cheeks, a burger served between two of the smallest pizzas we’ve ever seen, a sweet and salty combo, a burger held by noodles and a handful of others.
Here are some highlights and thoughts of our 2014 SoBeWFF Amstel Light Burger Bash experience:
1) Perhaps the best news of the night came from 5 Napkin Burger Senior VP Bill Brayer. At the 2012 Bash, Brayer first told Burger Days that the NYC-based joint was interested in the D.C. market and last Friday, he gave us an update saying 5 Napkin has been looking at potential locations in DuPont.. He told us nothing has been finalized at the moment but the news certainly has our burger juices flowing.
2) The whole Spike as Bobby thing was strange. We got the joke but we think it was lost on most of the attendees. Also, we’re big fans of Good Stuff but were disappointed in the entry at the Bash. The Colletti’s Smokehouse we got had the greasiest of greasy sliver of onion and tiny squirt of BBQ sauce on top of a meat wad. More effort was put into Spike’s Flay impression than into his burger presentation.
3) BURGER PRO TIP: While the Judges’ Favorite ShackMeister Burger is not on the Shake Shack menu, we have it on good authority that you can order the crispy-onion-topped cheeseburger, any ol’ time you want.
4) It was the reasoning behind our Symon title prediction but we want to reiterate how the People’s Choice award has almost nothing to do with burger quality but everything to do with chef popularity. We picked Symon to win because 2013’s winner, Bobby Flay, didn’t show this year. Flay and Simon are two of the Food Network’s biggest stars and THE biggest names in the SoBe Burger Bash. Out of eight years of South Beach Bashes, a TV chef has won the popular vote six times including the last six in a row. Symon has won four times (three straight from 2009-2012), Flay, once, and Spike, once. Shake Shack won the first crown in ’07 and Michael Schlow took it home in 2008. Don’t get us wrong, we thought Symon’s burger was deserving of high praise (and he is our favorite Iron Chef) but there’s no way in hell a chef who doesn’t have a TV contract wins the People’s Choice award.
5) We absolutely loved The Filling Station’s Nutella and bacon burger. We didn’t know what to expect of the Gabby’s D’Lorean after reading the description, but the peppered bacon, caramelized onion and hazelnut spread came together for a damn tasty sweet-and-salty combo that left us wanting a full-sized burger. And their pulled pork cheese tater tots were the best side dish of the night.
6) Another novelty burger surprise was Luzzo’s Neapolitan Pizza Burger. Complete with two pizza ovens on site, the Luzzo crew was hand tossing and rolling out freshly-made dough, then using a cookie cutter to make the tiniest pizzas we’ve ever seen. A dollop of marinara, sprinkle of mozzarella and a quick toss in the oven and out came a pair of piping hot pizza “buns” which went to hold the meatball-ish patty. It was an impressive feat of burger construction. And unlike the boring pizza burger attempts we’ve seen around D.C., this one tasted amazing.
7) We finally got a taste of the NYC cult-hit The Original Ramen Burger and it was…different. It was definitely an interesting creation, though not quite burger-y enough for us. The double Wagyu patties were covered in a soy sauce-glaze and surrounded by a not-soft-but-not-crispy ramen-noodle bun. The noodles held together surprisingly well but since the burger was served in quarters, the beef kept slipping out from between the two buns and made for a difficult meal. We ended up just eating the three pieces separately. The flavors were great, going together perfectly and while we dug the ingenuity and creativity, if we’re craving a burger, this won’t satisfy.
8) The Frita. This regional burger is hard to find outside of South Florida (though there is a slider version at Banana Cafe) but lucky for our faces and bellies, one of Miami’s top purveyors of the Cuban delight was at the Bash. El Rey de las Fritas hooked up La Original Frita Cubana, a flat, smash-grilled, seasoned patty topped with a heap of shoestring potatoes. Simple. Flavorful. Delicious.
9) We hear brand-new burgers have already been selected for next year’s competition. Well, if they can start preparing this early, then so can our bellies. The training for 2015 SoBeWFF Burger Bash begins now.