Hundreds of burger enthusiasts made their way to Sanborn Square in Boca Raton on Saturday, July 11 to experience the fourth-annual Boca Burger Battle, where a total of 19 establishments from Miami to West Palm Beach battled it out for the title of "Grill Master."
The event pitted restaurants, chefs, and even food trucks against one another for the judges' choice of Best Burger, and the crowd's selection of People's Choice. In return, participating vendors pulled out all the stops to show foodies of South Florida what it takes to be make a killer burger.
As smoke filled the air from the dozens of flaming grills, hungry attendees wandered from tent to tent on a lazy, hazy summer afternoon, queuing up for the next hot-off-the-grill hamburger. Lines were particularly long for Delray Beach's Salt7 (the 2014 Grill Master winner) and Boca Raton's M.E.A.T Eatery & Taproom (New Times' choice for the 2015 Best Burger).
Luckily, there was plenty of craft beer to wash it all down. This year the selection was solid, including picks presented by Funky Buddha Brewery and Brown Distributing — everything from Cigar City Brewing's Maduro brown and Delray Beach-based Saltwater Brewery's Screamin' Reels, to a Founder's Brewing red rye ale and a truck serving California-based Lagunitas Brewing Company.
The line was long for a taste of the 2014 Grill Master champs, Salt 7, who returned to the Boca Burger Battle with a new showstopper, a brisket and short rib blend mixed with bone marrow and duck fat, and topped with provolone cheese, fried goat cheese, smoked tomato, and a dijon aioli on a brioche bun. Totally drool-worthy, it earned them the second place Grill Master award.
Who says a fast-casual burger isn't up for a little competition too? That was the case with Boca Raton's outpost for Shake Shack, which offered up a full-sized version of its signature Shake burger for event-goers, an Angus burger with melted American cheese, Shack sauce, tomato, and lettuce. It might not have won the competition, but it gets our vote for best fast-food burger in the area by far.
Some of the more overbuilt burgers being presented included the Nica, a multi-layered burger by 109 Burger Joint in Miami with everything from fried Nicaraguan cheese, fried sweet plantains, and a Nicaraguan cole slaw paired with an Angus beef patty, jalapeño cream sauce, and a Brioche bun.
Last year, South Florida's Bite Gastrotruck took second place for both the judge's Grill Master pick and the People's Choice. This year, they hit a home run with a simple — yet tasty — compilation dubbed the "Bad Ass Mother Fucker" — a double cheeseburger layered with American cheese, chipotle mayo, and bacon-onion jam on a brioche bun. The burger, which won them the third place in both the Grill Master judge's pick and People's Choice, was paired with samples of Funky Buddha Brewery's seasonal Blueberry Cobbler ale.
Newbie competitor Zinburger Wine & Burger Bar , the chain burger joint with a location in Boca Raton, participated with its namesake burger. The signature Zinburger was a combination of zinfandel-braised onions, Manchego cheese, shredded lettuce, pickles, and mayonnaise.
The New Vegan in Delray Beach competed for the first year, offering event-goers a meat-free alternative to all the beefy goodness. Their entry included their own meat-free, gluten-free mushroom and chickpea "burger" blend topped with Vegenaise, vegan cheese, sautéed onion, pickles, and organic condiments presented between two slices of organic millet and flaxseed bread. The tasty combo earned them the "best" alternative burger category pick.
Tucker Duke's Lunchbox took the 2015 first place People's Choice win — now two-years running — nabbing the top spot with its Gran Dada, a Tucker Duke patty topped with house-cured pork belly, smoked Gouda cheese, a bourbon bacon chutney, crispy fried leeks, Roma tomatoes, and a charred fresno aioli on a Challah onion bun.
In the end, a new king of burgers was crowned: M.E.A.T. Eatery & Taproom took the top spot at the official 2015 Grill Master (and second place People's Choice) with its specialty burger created just for the Boca Burger Battle. The winning combination (pictured above) featured a sesame seed bun slathered with a homemade blueberry-blackberry chipotle pepper jam, paired with a smoky fresh blend of brisket and top sirloin topped with butter lettuce, sliced banana, a cherrywood-smoked bacon, and beer battered onion ring.
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Grill Master's Award (Judge's Choice)
1st: M.E.A.T. Eatery & Taproom, Boca Raton
2nd: Salt 7, Delray Beach
3rd: Bite Gastrotruck, South Florida
Community Chip Tally (People's Choice)
1st: Tucker Duke's Lunchbox, Deerfield Beach
2nd: M.E.A.T. Eatery & Taproom, Boca Raton
3rd: Bite Gastrotruck
Best Alternative Burger
The New Vegan, Delray Beach
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.