Critchley’s Thunderlips, Weiss’s Ramsay Bolton Win Big at 1st D.C. Burger Throwdown
In the end, it was Thunderlips and Ramsay Bolton who reigned supreme.
When the grease and the smoke cleared, the burgers from Brine Restaurant’s John Critchley and The Commodore’s Travis Weiss were the big winners at the first annual D.C. Burger Throwdown on Sunday. Critchley’s creation – full name: Thunderlips, the Ultimate Male – took home the judges’ award for top burger, besting the field of seven chefs with a Honeysuckle cheddar-covered smoked rib cap atop a seared Roseda beef burger plus Napa cabbage kraut served on a custom-made pretzel roll garnished with a bourbon-pickled Rappahannock Oyster skewer. “I run a seafood restaurant so I had to have that in there,” he said. Along with a burger-topped trophy (“My son is going to love this!” said Critchley), he also nabbed the chef side wager: a bounty of seven bottles of whiskey.
Weiss’s winning burger, earning the People’s Choice award, was a nod to the reviled Game of Thrones character (“It’s so messy, disgusting and wrong but you still have to like it,” he said.) The crowd favorite Ramsay Bolton featured Weiss’s-own, proprietary Rebellion beef blend patty along with Cabot white cheddar, spicy bread and butter pickles, bacon bits, smoked foie gras mayo, 1000 Island and shredded iceberg on a sesame seed brioche.
The two winners didn’t have it easy on the day, facing stiff competition from a lineup of the D.C.-area’s top chefs including Osteria Morini’s Matt Adler, Scott Drewno of The Source, Bibiana’s Ryan Hackney, Harvest Wood Grill + Tap’s Keith Long and Alfie’s Alex McCoy. Throwdown judge and food writer Laura Hayes says she’s used to seeing one or two duds in a competition like this but on Sunday “there were no duds.” Also bringing their refined burger palates to the Throwdown judging panel were Mike Dee of 3 Stars Brewing Company, Patty Ferris and Range executive chef Jeremy Waybright.
The hotly contested, inter-competition rivalry featuring weeks of pre-Throwdown trash talk between Adler and Drewno came to a head Sunday, when the two chefs went toe-to-toe, cooking alongside each other in the first heat. Morini executive chef Adler’s White Label burger – a dry-aged beef blend topped with fennel, pickled fresnos, Emmentaler cheese and rosemary mustard aioli – faced off against Drewno’s double-pattied, Chinese-spiced, American cheese-covered entry dubbed “When Matt Adler Cries.” And throughout the heat, The Source executive chef provided constant reminders of the moniker to his rival, calling out its name each time the burger went to the pass (“Two Matt Adler Cries coming up!”). In the end, it was indeed a teary day for Adler, with Drewno’s burger prevailing between the two in the judges’ vote. (It also probably didn’t hurt that Drewno’s white-gloved presentation to the judges included hot hand towels and a round of Bloody Marys.)
Heat two featured Brine executive chef Critchley and his winner, along with Annapolis’s Long, executive chef of Harvest Wood Grill, who presented the pimento cheese-covered Southern Swine, featuring a chuck roll-country ham-and-bacon ground patty topped with smoked tomato relish and onion-jalapeño hay. Hackney was on the grill next with a nod to his Italian-themed restaurant, Bibiana, and came to the plate with double beef patties, pancetta marmalata, a Milanese gorgonzola crema and balsamic pickled red cabbage.
As Hackney was wrapping up, Weiss took to the tent with The Ramsay Bolton and, then, rounding out the competition was McCoy and his burger dubbed, Girl, Shake That Daffy Patty. The Alfie’s executive chef’s Peking duck-inspired entry featured a ground duck patty with Ilchester smoked cheddar, peppered bacon, a hoisin and prune ketchup, the Japanese mustard karashi, rice-pickled cucumbers and fresh herbs.
Perhaps best of all, the ridiculous amount of burgering and boozing (thanks to Denizens Brewing Co., Fair Winds Brewing Company and Right Proper Brewing Company) that went down Sunday was all for a great cause. Proceeds from the D.C. Burger Throwdown, presented by Capital Meat Company and Burger Days, went towards D.C-based Deaf-REACH, an organization seeking to maximize the quality of life of deaf and hard of hearing individuals and families. In addition, all this week, many of Sunday’s burgers will be available at the competing chef’s restaurants with additional proceeds benefiting Deaf-Reach, as well. Complete details on Burger Days’ Burger Week will be posted later today.
It’s two days later and we’re still wiping away meat sweats and – to be honest – we’re still probably a little drunk, too. But, after Sunday’s rousing greasy success, we’re already thinking about D.C. Burger Throwdown 2017.
Start preparing now.