Burger Bash 2016 Winners: David's Cafe and Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer
If you've ever reveled in the smoky air of your backyard while grilling up a burger or two, you can imagine what guests of Friday night's Burger Bash were in for when they walked into Manhattan's Pier 92. Not one but dozens of chefs and restaurateurs came together at this rooftop party to serve up hundreds of juicy, cheesy, piled-high burgers to hordes of hungry fans, all eager to get their hands on the between-the-bun creations.
2016 marks the ninth year of this beloved New York City Wine & Food Festival event, and like in festivals past, the burger offerings put forth ranged from the classic (hello, American cheese) to the downright creative — think lamb-beef-combo patties and lobster toppings, which kept partygoers coming back for more. With so many burgers on display, it was up to both guests and judges — such famous, food-loving figures as Chopped judge Marc Murphy, Josh Capon, Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka — to decide which was worthy of the People's Choice and Judges' Choice awards, respectively. We caught up with judge Josh, who knows what it takes to make a winning burger — he's won a whopping six Burger Bash competitions — and he told us that the perfect burger would have "perfect meat, perfect bun, perfect toppings and perfect execution." Simply put, he said he'd be looking for "balance."
After a few hours of meaty indulgence, some dancing and mingling with returning event host Rachael Ray, it was time to meet the winners. David's Cafe scored the victory in the Judges' Choice category with what was called The Burger Queen, featuring not one but two patties, plus fixings you know and love, like American cheese and tomatoes. Representatives from the restaurant joined Rachael onstage to collect their trophy with obvious joy on their faces.
Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer, known for over-the-top milkshakes adorned with candy and frosting, took home the win in the People's Choice category. The eatery's waygu-based burger (pictured above) was topped with the often-divisive blue cheese, but fans didn't seem to mind the bold flavor.
Last year's champs in the Judges' Choice category attempted to reinvent the burger wheel this time around by skipping the usual burger presentation altogether and instead offering Bacon Cheeseburger Nachos (pictured above). Yes, nachos. Each guest received a to-go burger box chock-full of ideally layered chips, a melty cheese sauce and two kinds of meat: crispy bacon and ground beef. Hearty, flavorful and messy in the best-possible way, this one left us thinking about what else could be turned into nachos.
Iron Chef Marc Forgione was on hand, too, and he wowed guests with the In House Burger (pictured above) from his restaurant American Cut. This moist, juicy burger was layered with tender bourbon-spiked onions.
Though beef burgers may be the most traditional, and indeed the most prevalent among the Burger Bash offerings, a few chefs prepared alternative patties, like 5 Napkin Burger's Merguez Burger (pictured above), which was made with both lamb and beef.
Shake Shack may be known for its classic ShackBurger, but on Friday this hot-spot eatery showcased its BBQ ShackMeister Burger (pictured above), featuring a signature barbecue sauce and crispy fried shallots. Shake Shack was one of the few vendors offering each guest a full-size burger — and we had a hard time not eating the whole thing.
When it came to side dishes, more than a few stole the show for us. Barcade's Homemade Stuffed Tater Tots, packed with bacon and cheddar, were dangerously easy to pop into your mouth one after another. Melt Shop opted for a brighter, more vibrant side dish of Caramelized Corn Salad (pictured above). With so many rich, salty burgers up for grabs, we were thrilled by this bright taste.
It doesn't take much to sell us on french fries — we're pretty obsessed with them — but Black Iron Burger's Loaded Fries (pictured above), which accompanied the restaurant's two-meat, two-cheese burger, were something special. They were topped with bacon and cheese, but we were all about the drizzle of ranch dressing.
Even though Burger Bash is a night of decadence, we couldn't have foreseen lobster as a burger topping, and that's exactly what the folks from Catch dished out. The Catch Surf & Turf Burger (pictured above) was at once indulgent and satisfying. (Plus, they served truffle-scented fries on the side, and of course we were happy about those.)
You know how some burgers are so downright craveable that they leave you wanting more even though you've already had your fair share (and more)? For us, The SCHNIPPER from Schnippers was that. Though it was layered with Taylor ham and featured two sauces, it was classic and wonderfully rich in all the right ways, thanks in large part to gooey American cheese.
Where there are burgers and fries, you can bet there will be milkshakes, and Quality Eats delivered with a thick and creamy Pumpkin Stout Milkshake (pictured above). A few sweet potato fries rounded out the shake, and we can only assume those were meant for dipping, which is just how we ate them.
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More from the 2016 New York City Wine & Food Festival: