Orlando Burger Battle – page 2
Okay, so the Burger Battle pitted eleven Orlando eateries against each other as they competed to win the title of Best Burger. There were two separate awards – one given based on a panel of judges, and one given based on the popular vote. We wanted to make sure we provided an informed vote, so we planned to hit every table (sample burgers were part of the ticket price, as were a fry bar and a milkshake bar).
We started with the stand closest to the door: the Planet Hollywood Observatory over at Disney Springs. As you may or may not know, this location had their menu overhauled by Guy Fieri, he of the Donkey Sauce and infamous reverse eating videos. Well, his influence is all over their burger, with its bacon and mac & cheese topping. I believe this is a smaller version of the burger that won the NYC Wine and Food Festival Burger Bash. But the smaller size actually worked against it – the mac & cheese just slid right off the burger, requiring either a fork or a lowering of standards (I went with the latter). I was okay with that, but I was really put off by the quality of their meat here. I don’t know enough about the specific types of ground beef to critique it with confidence, but the bottom line is it tasted cheap.
Next up was a burger from Artisan’s Table. We’ve actually been meaning to check this place out for a while, so it was nice to have a little preview of what kind of quality we can expect from them. And oh yes, the quality was there. They were calling these garlic-butter burgers, and all the flavors were on point. The burger was perfectly cooked and the bun was a great match. If that wasn’t good enough, they were offering out shots of coffee-flavored tequila (I think they actually make it themselves). It was too early to be calling favorites, but we were both very impressed with their burger.
Next up is a local chain named Jimmy Hulas, and we found ourselves with a bit of a dilemma. First, let’s discuss the burger – if it’s not clear in the image, they’re rocking some nice pineapple pieces on top of an already great burger. Now, let’s ignore the ethical questions about whether or not pineapple belongs on a burger (after the kerfluffle raised up on Reddit about pineapple on pizza, I think we should tread lightly here).
Here’s my problem with Jimmy Hula’s burger. We’ve eaten at Jimmy Hulas before, and the burger that Karen had there (the Santa Barbara) blew this one out of the water. I can understand and appreciate that a burger with pineapple on it is one of the signature things Jimmy Hula’s provides, but that Santa Barbara was so much better… I’m afraid that tainted my opinion on this otherwise-perfectly good burger.
Heh. I said taint.
Next up is a place called the Taproom at Dubsdread. For their entry, they went with a burger variant of “The Rachel.” No, we’re not talking about that damn haircut – the Rachel is a variation of the Reuben where the corned beef and sauerkraut are replaced by pastrami and cole slaw. Anyway, Taproom’s version was really tasty, though it was extremely difficult to catch all that flavor in one bite without dislocating my jaw. Challenge accepted.
Also, I totally love the name of that place. It just reminds me of the Clash at Demonhead.
White Wolf Cafe was next up – there was a lot going on with this burger. Roasted red peppers, cabbage, crispy onions – all competing with a nice dose of goat cheese. Now, I like goat cheese, but I’m not sure if I really liked it here. It was just a bit too overpowering for my taste. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t toss it in the trash or anything, but the flavor there was really strong. Karen disagreed with me, as you’ll see below.
Next up was Hash House a-Go Go. I’ve never been to the Orlando location, but I have been to one of the locations in Vegas and I had a really fantastic breakfast scramble there. I had no reason to doubt them in the burger department.
Which is why I found this burger to be so damn disappointing. There’s a lot going on here – bacon, dual patties, lettuce, tomato, and a bit of mashed potatoes. The problem, similar to the problem Planet Hollywood had, is that there’s only so much real estate you have with a slider bun. When I tried to pick it up for a second bite, there wasn’t much there to work with and I ended up lifting it up with a tomato as a bun. The burgers were also slightly underdone, and it’s hard to let that slide when you have two patties. They should have just gone with the one. The mashed potatoes were actually a quite pleasant addition, but they were kind of lost in it all. I actually ended up throwing this one away altogether. It probably all gels better on the full size version, which is on their regular menu.
While this one was disappointing, please please please don’t let that deter you from going to Hash House for a meal. Like I said up top, their breakfast was outstanding.
Luckily the fine gentlemen from Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers brought some of their amazing frozen custard with them. In addition to being delicious, it also helped settle things down a bit. It actually made up for never really taking advantage of those free milkshakes (supposedly there were free boozy milkshakes, but it seems like we were always in the wrong place at the wrong time. We did sample one or two non-alcoholic ones, though, and they were quite tasty).
As we reached a bit of a mental halftime, we watched some folks goof around with some of the goofy inflatables.
As we felt the burgers battling it out in our tum-tums, we realized we were going to have to change our strategy. Clearly we’d have to split burgers instead of trying to eat one each. What the hell were we thinking snarfing down on the catered stuff in the VIP area earlier?
So we grabbed a few burgers and headed back up to the VIP area to chill for a bit. Pictured here is the entry by the Ace Cafe. Unfortunately the angle here is a bit crap – in a perfect world you’d see that their contribution had some mushroom action on it. A welcome flavor that no one else seemed to mess around with.
The other burger we had up in the VIP area came to us from Liam Fitzpatrick’s Restaurant and Irish Pub. Yes, that is an ashtray. I freaking love the attitude these guys are giving out. The burger was really tasty as well, and do we need to talk about that cheese action?
And now for the large chain restaurant. The burger from Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers was absolutely no-frills. It was literally exactly what you would get if you went to the location and ordered a burger. There’s nothing foo foo here. No goat cheese, or aoli, or mashed potatoes, or ashtrays. Just a good, no-bullshit burger.It’s a bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off.
I have to admit that I was completely unimpressed by it. It just tasted overseasoned to me (and by overseasoned, I mean “salty”). I don’t know if that’s an accurate assessment or if maybe my taste buds were just completely burned out at this point. I plan on hitting up a Freddy’s at some point in time and seeing how I feel about it. But don’t be surprised if I wait about eight months. I may be burgered out for a while.
We’ve reached number ten – “The Southerner” from a place in Dr Phillips called The Whiskey. This burger (which I’m sorry to say photographed poorly) featured pimento cheese, a fried green tomato, and some bourbon bacon. I feel like I would have ranked it a lot higher if I had sampled it earlier in the competition. In my head, I know it was delicious. But at that point in time the burn out was strong.
Seriously, I had zero interest in getting that final burger. Our eleventh burger came from Raglan Road at Disney Springs (well, more specifically the Cooke’s of Dublin takeaway counter that’s attached to Raglan Road). I’ve eaten at Raglan Road before. I thought it was nice, but not really anything to write home about. I couldn’t imagine that their burger was going to be anything special.
Holy crap, I was wrong. Their burger was battered, something I didn’t realize until it was literally in my mouth. The batter holds in some very impressive flavor, which is then supported by garlic mayonnaise and some kind of tomato chutney thing. It was a very good burger, and I absolutely plan on hitting up Cooke’s to try the full size version (but again, not anytime soon).
There was a bit of a misstep at the end, unfortunately. When we went down to cast our votes, we discovered that they had already collected all the buckets. As a result, we were unable to cast our vote. I’m sure a hacky comedian would find a good joke about Florida voting here, but whatever.
Here’s how we ranked them – but do bear in mind that the rankings here are really tight. Nine out of the eleven burgers we had were absolutely outstanding and I would be more than happy to go to any of the establishments to have another. Of the remaining two, one was just a bit too ambitious for its own good, and the other one… well, I’d just order the Chicken Crunch instead.
1. Artisan’s Table
2. Raglan Road
3. The Taproom at Dubsdread.
1. Artisan’s Table
2. White Wolf Cafe
3. Liam Fitzpatrick’s Restaurant and Irish Bar
1. White Wolf Cafe
2. Liam Fitzpatrick’s Restaurant and Irish Bar
3. Jimmy Hula’s.
1. Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers
2. Liam Fitzpatrick’s Restaurant and Irish Bar
3. Artisan’s Table
Yes, apparently Freddy’s gambit paid off with the critics…
Well, that was the Burger Battle. It ended up being a pretty damn fun event for a good cause. I really hope this becomes an annual event, and if so that it spurns on similar type events around the area (assuming they don’t already exist and we just don’t know about them yet). If someone does an Orlando Epic Pizza and Beer Battle, I’m going to have to start training months in advance.
Incidentally, we also ran a 5K the next morning. I don’t know if I recommend doing that the morning after eating that many burgers…
But hey, no one puked so I guess everyone’s a winner!