A couple of details as we enter burger battle week:
... is FREE! Park in lots A & B. These are at the front entrance right near the statues of the horses.
- I'll admit, in past years, the gift bag could be a little light. Stickers, keychains, etc, but no real meat. Last year, we had a free burger from Smashburger, which I thought was great and something I would have liked as an attendee. So - this year we wanted to continue in that direction to make the bags valuable and less like an afterthought. Here is what you'll get:
- FREE burger from Larkburger (any burger on their menu)
- FREE cupcake at Happy Cakes
- $10 off at Cholon
- 20% off ANY item at Sports Authority
- Half off any burger at Red Robin's Burger Works
- Dining Out magazine
- stickers from Avery and Great Divide
- metal bottle opener keychain from O'Dell
- fabric bag from Sports Authority (good for groceries)
To us, our test is whether we would use the stuff in the bags. In this case, I've used at least 2 of them even before the event has started. We hope you'll like them - don't forget to grab em on the way out!
- One thing we noticed when we attended burger events like DBB was just how full you get in a short period of time. Like Thanksgiving-Day full. you want nothing to do with food after an hour. So - if not eat, what do you do (besides drink of course)? We attempted to solve that this year with some non-food activities like these:
Football throwing challenge on the field.
I can't say enough about how excited I am for this. Our guests will get to throw a football on one of the best NFL fields in the country! We're having a target built, and if you can throw through the hole in the target, you'll get entered to win a $500 fly anywhere gift card from Frontier! You can play as many times as you want, and each time you "score", you'll get a ticket in the raffle. All of this is completely free with your admission, mind you.
We did this at an event like ours in NYC and we still have the picture. No matter how many times you've had it done over the years, its always fun to see how a professional draws your features. We've got 2 of them for you. Again, free with admission.
The team at The Event Booth do a great job of making this tradition fresh and creative. Free with admission.
WORLD FOOD CHAMPIONSHIPS
The last detail is an interesting one. We got a message a month or so ago that DBB had been selected as the regional qualifier for the World Food Championships. That means our people's choice winner will represent CO to 50,000 attendees in Vegas at the Burger Event in November. We're excited about the affiliation, and will try our best to fly out to Vegas and support our winner!
Things are coming together! We're super-excited to give you the best event we've ever done! See you soon!
Ladies and Gentlemen - below are the 12 competitors in the 2012 Denver Burger Battle! I've also included a little about why we chose each:
- Parkburger. 2010 & 2011 Judges Winner. Consistently in the top 3 of People's Choice as well. Best bun in Denver. Fanatic about quality and ingredients. Same beef as In-N-Out (Harris Ranch). Often at the very top of "Best Burger in Denver" lists.
- Highland Tap and Burger. 2011 People's Choice Winner. Amazing flavor combinations, example #1: Shroom Luvvas burger. Foie gras topping & truffled aioli blew away attendees last year. Countless DBB fans have described serious cravings since.
- H Burger. 2010 People's Choice Winner. Sweet and spicy, salty and meaty. One damn fine burger.
- Mateo. Excellent beef. Simple, delicious combination of herb aoili, freshly baked bun, and seared ground sirloin won us over.
- Madison Street. Troy Guard asked if we wanted to put them in, and originally we were skeptical since we already had TAG in the competition. All affiliation with TAG ends at the door - the flavor of the "Kick Ass Burger" is what put this in the top 12. Simply delicious.
- Row 14. Had this burger while making a video. It was so good, I could barely concentrate on what I was doing or saying. The fried egg was perfection, and spilled its creamy yolk over ham, beef, bun, avocado, and anything else in its way. A total triumph.
- Cholon. Chef Lon knows flavors. The guy was executive chef of Buddakan in NYC for pete's sake. Exhibit A: The bun is buttered with rendered beef fat. Sure, the burger is a little different - it's an asian restaurant. But the twists are comfortable and tasty.
- Larkburger. We've tried to get them in the competition for the last 3 years. Their truffle burger is a thing of beauty. The incredible, earthy sauce drips throughout the burger, uplifting everything from the bun, to the cheese, to the perfectly cooked patty.
- CityGrille - You may have seen their sign "Best Burger in Denver". These guys won it again in 2011 from 5280 Magazine, no less. Add this accolade to the pile of awards their steakburger has won over the last 20 years. It can be inconsistent, but when it's on, it's extremely good.
- Crave - They may have come up short for People's Choice trophy, but Crave captured a lot of hearts last year. Their creativity is off the charts, and each iteration builds on a rock-solid foundation of a well-made burger. I've had at least 6 different burgers, and each time I'm amazed that the combination worked. They earned their way in.
- The Sink - Food Network just recently had their burger on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. There's a reason this has been a Boulder landmark for 89 years. They make one of the best burgers in the state. One of our team commented that it reminded her most of Shake Shack in NYC. High praise, indeed.
Each year, we've had something new and exciting at DBB that we love to talk about. Year one it was the event concept. Year two it was the enormous tent. Year three... it is the venue. We're about to sign the contract, so I can't say yet, but rest assured it's a BIG announcement. It's an unmistakable icon in our city. Friends and relatives across the country instantly know this place. We're proud to host our participants and attendees here and expect it to be memorable.
Assuming all goes well in the next week, we'll make an announcement in late May. Can't wait! Here's a hint:
The other bit of news is that we have ALL 12 attendees committed! As of this writing, we've announced 5, and we'll reveal a new one every week on our facebook page. Some vets, some rookies, some you may not know of, others you may have known for decades. People often ask how we select the participants (all participants are hand-picked). Here is the criteria:
#1 How do we think it tastes in comparison to the other restaurants we've tried?
#2 Does their burger have a strong local following?
#3 Have they won any awards for their burger?
Big emphasis on #1. Taste is the whole ballgame. If we really believe in a place and the flavor of their burgers, we'll look past awards and buzz. Such was the case with Highland Tap and Burger last year.
For participants this year, we scoured the state, evaluating 80 different burgers. We drove 3 hours into the mountains to have Fatbelly Burger in Carbondale, two hours to Pueblo for a Bingo Burger, a marathon seven burgers in Boulder, and an out-of-the-way joint in Ft Lupton called "Fat Brothers".
The twelve participants that we selected genuinely represent the best burgers we had. Excited for you to try em all!
For us, the time between September and February is generally the "slow period". It's a time for us to gather ideas, explore opportunities, re-tool, and refine the event in order to present something special the next year.
It's also when we get to try a ton of burgers in order to decide who to invite in 2012.
Off the top of my head, here's the list that we've tried so far this year:
- H Burger
- Highland Tap and Burger
- Highland Tavern
- Row 14
- Five Star Burgers
- District Meats
- My Brothers Bar
- Le Grand
- Colt and Gray
- Biker Jim's
- Relish It
- Ale House
Some really fine burgers in that group already. See this this monster above? It's from Highland Tavern, called the "Stupid Burger". Massive
Our goal is to canvas the state this year and pull some favorites from places like Boulder, Ft Collins, Co Springs, etc. Not sure of the logistics with getting them prepped and set up for the event in Denver, but we'll make it work if we find the right restaurants.
Another fun thing in the "slow period" has been the beginnings of recognition for the event nationally. We recently helped the founder of a similar event in Miami after he had researched the event and liked what he saw. We were also approached by a TV production studio about a show on burgers. After a few good interviews, they wanted to see what we looked like eating burgers and describing it - awkward moments later - here's what we made:
Worth noting in the video is a trip to the site where the first ever trademark for a cheeseburger was given to a restaurant - it's right here in Denver. There's a plaque in the middle of a bank parking lot to commemorate it. Can you guess which burger we're eating in the last segment?
Finally, we'd like to wish you a happy holidays and wonderful new year! Fans like you have made our year so enjoyable and memorable, we can't even begin to thank you enough. We sincerely thank you for all of your support in 2011 and we hope to see you in 2012!
I will shamelessly admit to the fact that we totally ripped off the idea of the Burger Battle from an event in Miami called "Burger Bash". Guilty as charged. It's a huge event with thousands of people, lots of culinary greats, and about 25 of the best burgers from around the country (tickets run a cool $225/ person). We'd heard about the event for years, and I loved how focused it was on a single item that's so versatile and familiar to everyone - so, we... adopted it.
Our first trip to see the Burger Bash was last year. We flew to Miami, put our things in a hotel, and headed out to see what the fuss was about. We had a blast - I actually chronicled it in a video here. We also learned what we liked about the event and what we didn't. So, it was with excitement and anticipation that we descended upon the opportunity to go to the NYC "Burger Bash", put on by the same group.
Here were some notes:
- We completely understand the need for more entertainment between eating the burgers and waiting for winner announcements. I inhaled an embarrassing amount of burgers during the first 45 minutes, and then stood around for the next 3 hours holding my stomach and hoping the fullness would subside. Thankfully the event had a few fun activities to keep us occupied during the wait - something we plan on incorporating next year.
- I know I'm biased, but in my honest opinion - the burgers at the '11 Denver Burger Battle would have beaten the lineup we ate at the NYC Burger Bash. Lots of good, but only a few flashes of excellent, and Shake Shack is no joke.
- There really is no great solution for the smoke generated from cooking meat over a fire.
- Whoopie Goldberg was the host and literally said a total of zero words while on stage. Thought that was odd, especially for her.
- Guy Fiery travels with an entourage of 25 people. They all follow him in single file, and it looks a little like a human cape.
- Having a program with descriptions of the burgers and a map of the locations of the booths was helpful. While we waited in line, I plotted my strategy for the order of attack based on that info. For the DBB, we considered doing programs but wondered where people would put them if we handed it out. We try to be conscious of things like hand-space (hence the plates with the cup holder), but it might be something we do next year. At the very least, a few boards throughout the event with that info would be a positive step, I think.
- Nothing beats a great location. This one was held at Brooklyn Bridge Park, which is an abandoned building & park on the other side of the bridge from Manhattan. Looking out into the night sky and seeing the glow of NYC from the base of the bridge was spectacular. It is the single most memorable part of the event for me. Back home, I think Do at the Zoo (Denver Zoo) is similarly great because of the uniqueness of its location. It's one of the things we place a high priority on for the DBB event. In 2011, we came within a signature of holding the event inside Coors Field. Logistical issues stunted it, but it's the kind of thing we're aiming for.
At the end of the night, we felt a light sprinkle of rain and thought it might be nice to walk off the calories from the event by taking a long, misty walk across the Brooklyn Bridge back to the city. About 30 steps across the bridge, with no overhangs and cut off from getting a cab, we felt the intensity of the rain start to ratchet up... and up. When we approached the other side, we looked as though we had jumped, clothes on, into the deep end of a swimming pool. A perfectly memorable ending to a delicious night!
Hey there - It's Jeremy Kossler, co-founder of the Denver Burger Battle.
With us only getting to see each other once a year, I wanted to see if we could find a way to talk more often. As it is, I miss out on getting to tell a bunch of fun stories that happen along the way: Disasters averted, cheating scandals, creative successes, and of course, tales of the 70+ burgers we try along the way to getting to the final 12 and the event in August.
My goal is to give you a glimpse inside what it takes to put on something like this. It can be a crazy ride. If you're one of the insane who are inspired enough to put an event on yourself, you can count on my support.
For this entry, a few notes about the recently-completed 2011 Denver Burger Battle:
- I cannot think about this year's event without salivating. The burgers were outrageously good. In my opinion, stronger overall than last year. It's funny, during the 2010 event, I had practically nothing to eat, and months later I was kicking myself. "I love burgers!" I thought, "why wouldn't I try all of them when I had the chance??" This year turned out similarly. I had like 4 tastes of burgers the whole night. It turns out that when I'm nervous and excited, I suddenly lose my appetite. But the 4 tastes I had were ridiculously good. I tried TAG, Parkburger, Elways, and Euclid Hall. All pretty damn phenomenal.
- I liked the band ("Jay-KOH"), and heard a lot of good feedback about them. A little loud volume-wise, but I thought they sounded great and I'm a sucker for covers of radio hits. Have already gotten calls about them for other charity events coming up.
- One of the chefs from the Berkshire caught his hair on fire while cooking over the grill. Pretty sure he's ok.
- Beer and wine. Oh the beer and wine... I have to say we were totally shocked that we ran out an hour before the event ended. In the end, it is my fault. Should have asked for more. It's a tricky deal with the small, indie breweries we all love. Since they're small and numbers are watched closely, they're really strong in asking that we not forecast more than we need. From their perspective, every keg donated is a keg they can't sell. So, we forecasted based on how much the avg attendee drank last year, thinking it would give us an accurate picture. Not so. Not so at all. You guys came to party. My fault, guys - we blew it. We'll tighten it up next year, I can promise you that.
- Mikey from Alice 105.9 told a story on air the next morning of asking one of the restaurant staff on a date during the event. He slipped her a note, saying "Do you want to go out for a night of awkward slow dancing? Check yes or no". Later, our emcee, Howie, came back to get her answer. Not only was it "NO!", but she dogged his clever approach: "what is he - 12 years old!" Poor Mikey.
- Happy as hell for Parkburger. The owner has become a friend and I know he was gearing up for the challenge of cooking 200 perfect eggs for that Croque Burger. He totally pulled it off. Every piece I saw had that perfectly cooked yolk just oozing out of it. That's personally my favorite burger on their menu.
- Hat's off to Highland Tap as well. They arrived to find a grill much smaller than the one I originally ordered for them and didn't complain one bit. Took it in stride and put out some of the best burgers of the night. That's professional. Not many know this, but months ago, it came down to Shannahan's and Highland Tap for the final spot. I was over the moon thinking how great it would be to promote Elway's vs Shannahan's. But... once we tried the Shanny's burger, it was good - not amazing. Next day we re-tried the burger at Highland Tap and even though they were a much smaller name, and we'd lose the cool promotional angle, we just loved the burger. Had to put them in. Glad we did.
- Finally, I have to think one of the biggest winners of the night was Crave. For a restaurant who's closest navigational point is "the outlet mall in Castle Rock", they killed it Wednesday night. They got 98 votes from people who are super familiar with our other competitors, and had never heard of Crave. They were one vote away from 2nd place, and 6 votes from taking home the trophy. For months, they talked about how they were going to bring it - lots of pressure on them to deliver and they did. If the owner were to open another Crave in Denver next week, I think he'd find a whole bunch of new fans waiting for their doors to open.