Festival organizer Lee Schrager and host Rachael Ray share a moment on the stage before the awards are announced.
American cheese, applewood smoked bacon, cherry pepper relish, and ShackSauce graced this juicy, savory burger. Same moist potato bun, same perfectly melted cheese, same great seasoning, same butteriness (yes, the bun buttering machine was there), but now taken up a notch with crisp bacon strips. It definitely could have won and few could have argued against the decision.
This strong entry featured a housemade bun, The Little Owl's scooping sauce, and Guss' half-sour pickles — good even after sitting under a heat lamp.
The winner, chef Michael Symon's Porky Burger, featured a pork and bacon burger topped with pulled pork and slaw, with a side of pork cracklin'. This was the kind of burger that when you picked it up, it gushed with juice into the container.
Bulldog Burger's "Luther Burger," their homage to the Krispy Kreme bacon cheeseburger named for R&B singer Luther Vandross, represented the genre just fine. The doughnut was very sweet and not as soft as Krispy Kreme, but you have to give Bulldog credit for going there. The award that they should have won, one that doesn't exist, is for best side. The chili cheese tots were covered with melted cheese and dabs of chili. Crispy, golden fried tots with thin crunchy exteriors covered by melted cheese — good enough to go back for seconds.
The Daily Meal's Award: Best Side
Bobby Flay's Bobby's Burger Palace has continued to expand. There are currently nine locations spread out in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, D.C., and Maryland. Shake Shack, which granted has drawn considerably more press, currently has 14. But these are some strong burgers, they're moving into similar markets, and they're demonstrating that the idea of the chef burger joint has some strong legs. The Crunchified Buffalo-Style Burger featured Red Hot sauce with blue cheese dressing and potato chips. It was wet with a zip that grew.
NoMI's "800" burger was perfectly acceptable: ground wagyu mixed with Nueske's bacon and onion topped with smoked aioli, comté cheese, watercress, pickled shallots and garlic, and tomato confit on a rosemary ciabatta bun. And it should have won two awards, both made up.
One would be for presentation. Kitschy? A bit. But when was the last time you were served a burger on an iPhone case? And, at 28 words, it wins the award for longest burger description.
The Daily Meal's Awards: Best Presentation, Longest Burger Descriptions
This burger was a hot mess. It was a bit hard to even tell what was going on. What was going on? "S.M.C. and L.T.O.P.," which you can go out on a limb as interpreting as sauce, mayo, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickle. There was also a bacon patty and a liberal slathering of "donkey sauce." For those out there who are curious, no, donkey sauce isn't something eaten on Fear Factor, but as Serious Eats reported, it's a sauce made with horseradish, mustard, capers, mayo, and garlic. The patty was moist and cheesy, and all that business garnered Guy Fieri the Heinz Best Dressed Burger Award.
Whisk won the judge's award, and it almost won a second award, this one made up: longest burger description. The "sirloin patty, melted Swiss cheese, buttermilk-marinated crispy shallots, pecan wood-smoked bacon, tangy horseradish sauce, ripe Florida tomatoes, and watercress on a toasted bun," weighed in at 25 words.
Brendan B. Connor of Miami's Whisk raises his trophy on the stage.
The chef of Good Stuff Eatery and We, the Pizza in Washington, D.C., never lacks for showmanship. He can almost always be counted on for showing up in a costume and with pretty servers who solicit votes. Last year's Hamburgler outfit was eschewed for a simpler outfit — fake sideburns and moustache to go with his bistro-inspired steak frites burger. Since his win in 2009 when he took three of four prizes, Spike hasn't had much luck. And this year, he lost out on The Daily Meal's made up award for best outfit as well, to the folks from The Meatball Shop.
Co-owners Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow took Meatball Madness in New York City at last year's festival, and really began demonstrating their own brand of baller showmanship. This year, they and their crew showed up wearing tight pink wifebeaters proclaiming: "I'm sexy and you know it." They don't lack for confidence.
The Daily Meal's Award: Best Outfit
The Meatball Shop skirted the problem that many other burgers face — an unnecessarily thick bun — by serving a thin, toasted sesame seed bun.
"The Hangover 2" featured prime hanger steak, aged Cheddar, and onions. A solid burger.
Zak Pelaccio was the event's Amstel Light Chef, and he seemed to be having fun — doing shots of bourbon with festivalgoers when burgers were a little slow coming. His lamburger, served with Lady Jayne's salted chiles and Rye Barrel Aged Worcestershire Sauce was a strong contender, but the true genius here was the side of sweet and spicy black kale. It's not often that you see kale as a side at a burger event and this was something you wanted to pick up and pop. It was even more addictive than some of the fries featured at the event.
The Daily Meal's Award: Best Use of Vegetable