Yesterday I learned some interesting things about Best Memphis Burger Fest this year that I thought I would share.
The story behind the winning hot dog
I had heard that championship hot dog team Squeal Street had hand-made their hot dog, but yesterday I found out the full story. It was made by Mike, the Wednesday-Sunday night bartender at Max’s Sports Bar. After Burger Fest Squeal Street took the giant check down to Max’s and they had a big celebration. “If you had any doubt Max’s has the best hot dogs in town, now you know,” one of my teammates who was at Max’s Saturday night told me. They have a new hot dog menu that I have got to try soon.
In second place in Specialty Burger with a score of 155.1434, Bluff City Burgers. In third place with a score of 155.1433, the Moody Ques. That’s right, we missed second by a ten-thousandth of a point. Seth said he had never seen a top-three finish that close before.
Two weeks before Burger Fest there was a breakfast festival out at the Med Center. We were invited to compete but chose not to, believing that we needed to focus on burgers and get a third practice cook in that day. It was absolutely the right move – our third-place Specialty Burger would not have scored so high without that third practice.
“For every team competing in both the breakfast festival and Burger Fest, that’s one spot we’re going to move up in the overall Burger Fest standings,” I commented the week before the breakfast festival. Sure enough, that week people were talking about omelets, breakfast sandwiches, breakfast sweets. I smiled and thought, “You’re not talking about burgers. We’re talking about burgers.”
After the breakfast fest was over, members of one of the teams were up at the Silly Goose telling the bartender about their winning omelet. I smiled and took a sip of PBR as I thought, “You’re still not talking about burgers. And there’s less than two weeks until Burger Fest.”
Yesterday I was at the Blind Bear with team president John D, and he said we need to find something to compete in this spring. I was very happy to hear his next words… “a regional, maybe?” YES! Not the Pineapple Lovers Fest, not the Vienna Sausage Fest, not the Chicken Necks Fest or some other festival that would distract us from our main mission. A BBQ team practicing for BBQ Fest by competing in a regional BBQ festival – well, that sounds like a good idea.
We got 3rd in Bloody Mary, getting on stage to collect a trophy.
We finished 12th in Veggie Burger. That result absolutely shocked me, because our Veggie Burger entry was the best meatless burger I have had in my life. Pretty much everyone else on the team agreed. We were sure that was the burger that was going to get us on stage to collect a trophy. I find it really hard to believe that 11 teams turned in something better than we did, and I feel horrible for head veggie burger cook Staci who poured her heart and soul into the burger. I wonder if it got jostled on the walk to the judging building and messed up our presentation.
The Classic Cheeseburger was the one where I had no idea where we would finish. At the first practice cook there was a suggestion that we keep it simple. “I think the judges would appreciate that,” said a team member.
As a former judge, I knew that while the judges may appreciate a simple burger, it won’t get 9s on their scorecard. I advised the team if they wanted to keep it simple, that’s fine, but have an angle – have one or two things about the burger that stand out and command attention. Thus the Fontina Brioche Burger was born. It apparently didn’t command attention enough though – it finished 18th out of a field of 26 teams that turned in entries, our only bottom-half finish. So clearly we need to re-think things there. Perhaps it is time to abandon “keep it simple” and push the boundaries as hard as we can given the rules of that category.
We got 3rd in Specialty, and another .0001 of a point would have tied us for second.
In the overall score, we finished 12th out of a field of 26 teams. Top half – happy enough with that, although the goal I had in mind was top 7. We were surrounded by familiar teams – Flying Saucer finished one spot ahead of us at 11. Dirty Crow Inn finished one behind us at 13. In 16th place was championship hot dog team Squeal Street.
The winning Specialty Burger
The Flying Saucer made its 1st-place Specialty Burger its burger of the day yesterday, and we got a list of the ingredients: Mushroom truffle aioli, bacon onion marmalade, whiskey cheddar, bib lettuce, and heirloom tomato
Air fryer on sale today
Half the team wants an air fryer after seeing Staci’s success cooking curly fries with one Saturday and at the practices. Kinja Deals posted that there is one on sale for $40 today.
On to the news
A building next to Sun Studio is being redeveloped. It will hold five studio apartments and three retail bays. The developer is looking to recruit retailers that are “very Memphis” and which will attract attention from tourists next door. This is certainly good news for The Edge neighborhood.
Max’s Sports Bar will open at 3 this afternoon for the Cubs game.
The SMA’s monthly meeting is tomorrow evening (social at 6/presentation at 6:30) at Ghost River Brewing at Main and Crump. Chuck Mitchell, RiverArtsFest director, will speak about the logistics of South Main’s largest event of the year. Wine and catering courtesy of RiverArtsFest, and there will be a cash bar in the Ghost River taproom. There will be a drawing to win a bottle of wine from The Corkscrew. Free for members, $10 for non-members.
The Grizzlies play an away pre-season game tonight at Atlanta. Tip-off is 6:30 and the game will be on Fox Sports Southeast.
B-RAD, the Sunday bartender at Blind Bear for the past 2 1/2 years, is moving back to his original day, Saturday, starting this week. This will allow him to have two days off in a row. So D-RANKS with B-RAD will be on Saturdays now. He was the Saturday bartender from the time he was hired in 2013 through January 3, 2015. If you’re wondering how I remember that exact date, his last Saturday shift was the day he told me I had an “admirer.” (no, not Rahul or Tony)
Bardog: Don’t worry, I will still lead off there on Saturdays. That’s a tradition I refuse to mess with.
I have a feeling Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker is going to be one of the most quoted politicians the next 15 months. Yesterday he said that the White House has become an adult day care. LOVE IT.
Probably going to head to the Silly Goose after work and tell Monday bartender Brittani about our adventures at Burger Fest. Members of championship hot dog team Squeal Street hang out there too, so perhaps she’ll get to hear the stories of two teams. Back tomorrow with more news.