Chicago Gourmet, Hamburger Hop | Photo gallery
The Hamburger Hop, if you didn't know, pits more than a dozen chefs against each other in a burger battle to the last bite. The event kicked off Bon Appétit presents Chicago Gourmet 2011 on Friday, September 23, 2011 at the Harris Theater Rooftop and, as usual, it sold-out with nearly 800 attendees showing up to bite and cast their people's choice awards at the stand of their choice.
Creative, gourmet takes on the burger ranged from aria's curry burger to a brisket-burgerlike entry from Jake Melnick's and our favorite burger joints jazzed up their entries with spices and various meats. But the quest for burger essence often led our TOC tasting team to the tried-and-true combination that makes burgers work. In 2010, Thomas Keller told us he prefers American cheese on his burgers and Art Smith told us he liked a burger that tasted like a burger. Those words rang true for me where the Henri burger and Edzo's tasted like slightly elevated versions of what you'd call a brilliant execution of an iconic burger. Burger Bar's burger with the most 2011 of 2011 meats, pork belly, was a formidable entry as well—if a bit over the top. But the judges thought differently, awarding Bandera Executive Chef Colleen McHugh the Allen Brothers Award for the "Bandera Burger," (prime ground chuck topped with homemade hickory sauce, Ding's Pickled Relish, lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, cabbage, mayonnaise and mustard on a homemade poppy seed bun).
Chef Steven Lawhorn of Palmer Place took home the People's Choice Award for his "Benchmark Burger." Comprised of Allen Brothers short rib, brisket and prime chuck, chopped pepper-cured bacon, Wisconsin cheddar, sliced heirloom tomato, crisply pickle slaw, roasted red pepper remoulade and smoke picante ketchup on a toasted onion brioche bun.
Hamburger Hop participants included Bandera, Palmer Place and Steve Coppolillo, Rosebud Steakhouse; Meg Colleran Sahs, Terzo Piano; Dirk Flanigan, Henri; Rick Gresh, David Burke's Primehouse; Roger Herring, Socca; Kevin Hickey, Seasons, Four Seasons Hotel Chicago; Tim Hockett, M Burger; Ryan Kikkert, Jake Melnick's; Beverly Kim Clark, aria restaurant; Eddie Lakin, Edzo's Burger Shop; Jonathan Lane, Benny's Chop House; John McLean, Burger Bar; Ryan Pitts, RL; Jeff Starr, Build a Better Burger; and Rey Villalobos, Table Fifty-Two.