Burger & Barrel, Ai Fiori Reign Supreme at NYC Burger Bash


For three hours last Friday, we stuffed our faces with burgers and washed 'em down with a near-endless supply of beer. And it was good. Oh-so-very good. Twenty-eight burgers were on the menu at New York City Wine and Food Festival's Burger Bash, the fifth annual event sponsored by Blue Moon and Pat LaFrieda. This was a much smaller (and colder) affair than the South Beach version we attended back in February, but that didn't do anything to dampen our appetites. Being a LaFrieda sponsored-event, all burgers in the mix were made with the NYC purveyor's meat.

Ai Fiori and Michael White's White Label Burger made with Nueske's bacon, white American cheese, McClure's pickles and mustard was the judge's top pick and took home the appropriately named Burgermeister Award, while Chef Josh Capon of Burger & Barrel won the night's big prize, the People's Choice award. Capon's Bash Burger with caramelized onion and bacon jam, shaved pickles, secret sauce and American cheese netted him his second consecutive and third overall NYC Burger Bash crown (and $5K). And the guy certainly knows how to celebrate. During a raucous acceptance speech, Capon thanked host Rachel Ray and the crowd, called out Michael Symon (the reigning SoBe Burger Bash winner) and whooped and hollered while jumping around on stage waving his giant prize check. We'd like to party with that dude.

Capon after his big People's Choice win.

The Burgermeister award went to Ai Fiori's White Label Burger.

D.C.'s Chef Spike represented Good Stuff with his Brit Burger (smoked English cheddar, caramelized onions, horseradish mayo) that was available for a limited time during the Olympics. Spike doled out the grub while draped in the Union Jack assisted by buxom ladies done up like sexy Buckingham Palace guards. We had nothing to complain about there. And the burgers were  pretty good too.

Spike slingin' some Brit Burgers.

Bobby Flay offered up the Napa Valley Burger, crunchified of course, straight from his Burger Palace menu. The burger, with goat cheese, watercress, Meyer lemon honey mustard and potato chips, was solid and the goat cheese, which we noted as an excellent topping back on Burger Days 5, was really, really good. We don't run across it very often, but when we do, it's hard to pass up.

The bacon-topped SmokeShack from Shake Shack.

Of course we got our fill of Shake Shack, which was the only spot (by our watch) offering up full-sized burgers at the Bash, and the SmokeShack did not disappoint. Having said that, we have to admit we were most blown away by the offering from another D.C. joint in the mix, The Capital Grille. Their cheeseburger, made with Wagyu and topped with crispy onions and a quail egg, was good, but the thing that had us standing in line for seconds was their side-- a tater tot filled with white cheddar cheese and chives. It was about the size of a golf ball and it was amazing. The bad news? We scanned Capital Grille's Tysons and D.C. menus and found no trace of them.

Capital Grille's Wagyu, quali egg-topped burgers and amazing cheese and chive-filled tater tot.

Other want-but-you-can't-have grub (unless you go to NYC) we loved was Schnipper's Classic Burger with a special cheese blend, caramelized onions, thick cut bacon, baby arugula and Schnipper sauce, North End Grill's Short Rib Burger with pickled grilled onions and chipotle mayo and Neely's BBQ Parlor's chargrilled burger topped with pepper jack, American, smokehouse bacon, pulled pork, chipotle BBQ sauce and coleslaw. And whoever signed up Doughnut Plant to the Bash deserves a goddamn medal. The stuff they served up was beyond delicious-- a doughnut covered in crunchy peanut butter with blackberry jam in the middle was a sweet and sticky ball of awesome, but the most ridiculous creation was the Tres Leches- a circle of heaven that was amazingly creamy and had us doing double takes because a doughnut this good SHOULD NOT BE POSSIBLE.

Doughnut Plant's silly good stash.

Our only real disappointment on the night was the burger we got from Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien. This was one of our bucket list burgers and we were so excited about trying it but we left completely underwhelmed. The hooked up their cheeseburger with "The Works," but there was just so much going on there with the cheddar, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, ketchup, mustard and mayo,we could only taste the toppings.  It's a shame but with so many rave reviews of the joint out there, we're willing to chalk this one up as an away-from-home fluke and give it another go on the joint's home turf.

Burger Joint's The Works.

With a final Bash tally of a rather meager 10 out of 28 burgers, we didn't come close to the numbers we wanted to reach (@burgerconquest did it up right, knocking out 14 in the first 45 minutes!), but we did not leave disappointed. At the end of the night, back at our hotel, the sweet smell of burgers continued to envelop our beings and we were sent off to sleep with visions of beef patties dancing in our heads. Operation NYC Burger Bash was a success.   A whole hell of a lot of photos from the Bash are below:

More SmokeShack.

Schnipper's Classic burger.

North End Grill's short rib burger.

Spike's Brit Burger.

Romeo shows his burger excitement.

The Champ is here!

Bobby Flay's Napa Valley Burger crunchified.


Ai Fiori's judge's choice winning White Label Burger

Adam Richman makes an appearance!


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