For five years, we’ve had high concept and low concept burgers. Joey Campanaro once presented a luau burger, complete with pineapple. Lockhart Steele, winner in year one thanks to Dave Chang throwing the whole thing for him, won with meatloaf. Michael White’s huge, fatty white label burger got close last year. Wylie Dufrense’s seaweed burger with homemade American cheese is my all-time favorite, because it mixed a crazy intellectual idea with a burger that actually just had these incredibly vivid and simple flavors layered exactly right. And, of course, the Momoburger, which is now on the menu at Jeffrey’s, won three times and is the most straight forward burger that’s ever been in the contest.
And this year’s field is in my mind by far the most competitive. The simplest burger this year is Jesse Gerstein’s Beach Bacon Burger, which was runner up last year and might have won on better execution (it was over-cooked for the judges). If they were pros it’d be the favorite. I’m calling it Top Three for that burger right now. It’s the burger that the judges have in their heads as a great beach burger.
Mullen, Stupak, Mehdi BB and Moore all have a real shot, too. Moore’s “Bread & Butter Burger” is the most down-the-middle, and he’ll get an edge from the many house made ingredients he’s putting in play. If the smoke on Mullen’s doesn’t prove too novel, it’ll place well. That it has the one-slot is absolutely gargantuan. And White’s Butterfly Burger is very promising. Mustard, garlic pickles, onion, American cheese is the right idea and a great, simple burger in the 10-slot for judging could be a killer combination. I’m concerned about the BBQ mayo on Mehdi BB’s burger, because that flavor profile could be too strong for the six-hole judging slot. Being up at the top helps Stupak in a big way, as refried beans in the middle of the pack might overwhelm the judges.
Solien, repping the Montauk Yacht Club, and Pelaccio with a lamb burger are the long shots. Solien is going high-concept with avocado, provolone and lardo. That’s just crazy, but I can’t wait to try it. And I don’t know that a lamb burger can play, although Pelaccio is a guy who could make it work.
The wild cards this year are Simmons, with her “Montak Super Slider,” and Ramsey-Willson, who are amateurs but who have a great concept of short rib, american cheese, a special sauce, and onions, pickled and shaved all on a Martin’s. If they get the temps right, they’re going to be in the mix. Back to the slider, we’ve never had a slider the competition and, frankly, I always advise against it. Just doesn’t show as well as a half-burger. But she has the 11 hole for judging, so maybe the judges find it a welcome relief having just had 10 other bigger burgers.
With that said, here’s the line, in judging order.
MULLEN — 2-1
PJ CLARKE’S — 6-1
STUPAK — 5-1
GERSTEIN — 4-1
PELACCIO — 15-1
MEHDI BB — 4-1
SOLIEN — 19-1
MOORE — EVEN
RAMSEY-WILLSON — 7-1
BUTTERFLY — 3-1
SIMMONS — 8-1
While I’ve got your attention, we’ve got a few tix left at eater.com/superburger. Tickets will be available at the door while capacity allows for $150 cash money.