Riverwalk Burger Battle IV: the Quest for a Proper Patty

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There are two important things to know about today's Riverwalk Burger Battle.

First, is that this year's winner will be whichever burger induces what Renee Quinn, a consultant for battle organizer Riverwalk Trust, called "Burger Nirvana."

Second, hopefully you already purchased your tickets, because they are now sold out. $40 for general admission will get you 16 burgers and three drinks, anything from Goose Island's pale ale to good ol' Jack Daniels.

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Broward County's top burger purveyors will be judged by John Kane, chair of the culinary arts program at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, along with Burger Beast Sef Gonzalez and other chefs and bloggers.

This year's contestants include returning champion Charm City Burgers, Gimme a Burger and Big Bear Brewing Co.

Gonzalez said Burger Nirvana can be achieved when focus is placed on perfecting the core ingredients, not hiding them behind a landslide of decadent toppings.

"What's going to win a competition is someone knowing how to season and cook the beef," he said. "Sometimes you pick through the toppings and you try the meat itself and it doesn't taste like anything."

That's probably the reason Wilton Manors' Georgie's Alibi won the competition during its first two years.

"It came down to the meat, the quality of the patty and the seasoning," Quinn said. "Anytime the judge takes that bite and there's something missing, that's not going to be a winner."

The roster for this year's competition was dialed back to 16 after organizers tried expanding it to 20 in 2012.

Still, more than 25 applied to be in the 2013 battle, prompting Riverwalk Trust to host "prebattles," which it plans to do in preparation for next year's event.

The main event is the best overall burger. However hardware will also be awarded in categories ranging from "Best Burger Joint" burger, reserved for those on the lower end of the price scale, to "Best Knife & Fork" burger for restaurants above $20 a plate.

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Once the winners' chest pounding subsides, it's all about promoting downtown Fort Lauderdale's Riverwalk district and pushing Broward's burger wizards to take the basics to the next level.

"Timpano has a burger one their menu, but they're going to be adding a burger over the summer that will be their battle burger," Quinn said. "It's exciting the restaurants are starting to look at creating something they can add to their menu."

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