By now you know — and if you don’t, spoiler, duh — that Fat Jack’s BBQ was named winner at yesterday’s Burger Brawl, the third annual fundraiser for Philadelphia public schools that was founded and hosted by Rouge owner Rob Wasserman and his wife Maggie. The panel of 16 judges assembled picked the pulled pork and beef brisket-topped burger as their favorite. The People’s Choice award went to Lucky’s Last Chance for its peanut butter and bacon burger. As one of the judges for the competition, Grub was on hand, tasted all of the burgers, and used the opportunity to take the temperature of our local burger culture. Keep reading to see what we learned.
1. There’s no shortage of burger love; the annual fundraiser drew a crowd of more than 900 eager mouths.
2. Hulking, haute burgers that require two hands to eat appear to be waning. Many of yesterday’s competitors, like The Industry's Pat Szoke and London Grill's Michael McNally, shied away from serving unwieldy monsters, and instead delivered more mannerly, and modest portioned patties than in years paste.
3. Though fashionable labels Creekstone Farms and Pat LaFrieda were attached to several entries, a surprising number of burgers served were wrought from custom, housemade ground beef blends that incorporated everything from dry-aged beef, dry-aged fat, strip steaks, brisket, deckle and short ribs.
4. As a returning judge, State Senator Larry Farnese proved once again that he’s a formidable force to be reckoned with when staring down more than 20 burgers.
5. Ham on hamburgers makes perfect sense, as South Philadelphia Tap Room’s Scott Schroeder and Mark Regan demonstrated with their entry
7. Hop Sing Laundromat’s Lee making an appearance under the blazing midday sun dispels rumors that he’s some sort of vampire bartender.
8. The brioche bun’s reign as the preferred burger base and lid is fast coming to an end. Yesterday saw a surprising number of entries plated with English muffins, sesame seed and other more pedestrian rolls. George Sabatino’s much talked about sous-vide burger with housemade American cheese was sandwiched within a Martin’s Potato Roll. What’s more, it was untoasted.
10. In our little burger microcosm, pork belly is losing market share as a topping. Though two entries, including the winning burger, came adorned with smoked brisket, none were topped with pork belly.