How the burger joints were chosen
When you love burgers as much as we do, it's not easy to settle on just 32 to compete for the title of Best Burger in DFW -- and inevitably some will argue a worthwhile competitor was left out.
But to assemble our list, we began by looking back at our 2009 bracket: Which places performed ably and deserved a repeat invitation? Which spots disappointed and might have to be left off this go-round (see ya, Goff's and Trailboss)? We also took note of some buzz-worthy new burger joints (Maple and Motor, Chop House) that have opened since 2009, as well as places we might have overlooked in our first battle (Grumps, Chubby's).
Eventually, we settled on a list of 28 patty palaces that we believe deserved a spot in the final 32, and then asked you to vote online for four from our list of "bubble burgers" -- 20 or so that also deserved consideration. Many of you suggested even more. Ultimately, four of these "bubble burgers" (Nicky D's, Mooyah, Heart Attack Grill and Tom's) earned a spot via the play-in rounds that were judged in June.
How the seedings/matchups were determined
Seeding is based primarily on past performance and overall reputation. In some cases, burgers that performed poorly in 2009, such as Wingfield's, maintained a relatively high seeding because of their widespread popularity among foodies and tastemakers; in other cases, an eatery may have faced uncommonly tough competition in 2009 -- such as Charley's, which lost in the first round to Dutch's -- also held onto a high seeding.
In 2009, burgers were divided by region -- Dallas, Fort Worth, Mid-Cities and chains -- but this year we decided to randomly divide them to create a fairer bracket. We chose four No. 1 seeds, four No. 2 seeds and so forth. Then the regions -- Bacon, Pickle, Mustard and Ketchup -- were determined by assigning each of the seeds, at random, to one of four condiment-coded corners of the bracket.
How the burgers are judged
This is a careful and rigorous process designed to give each burger the best opportunity to shine.
For each matchup, judges are asked to eat at both competing burger spots on the same day, usually within a few hours' time frame. So as not to give the first place visited the competitive advantage, judges are instructed only to consume half of their burger (which is hard sometimes) so that they won't leave the first place too full.
Judges dine at the competing establishments anonymously and pay for their own burgers.
Judges are given discretion in choosing the burger they order. Our general philosophy is to allow the individual restaurants to put their best burgers forward. If there's a house special of which it is proudest, or one that is advertised on the menu as the most popular, we'll usually go with that. Sometimes we'll ask a waiter or waitress to make a recommendation. Beyond that, judges are encouraged to let their taste buds guide them.
Judges do not take into consideration the quality of side items (such as fries or onion rings), service or atmosphere. Sides can be ordered, but the only thing that matters is the burger.
In tasting the burger, judges consider the individual elements and how the burger works as a harmonious whole. Judges taste the patty itself: It is too dry or greasy? Does it rely on condiments to carry it home? Judges can also consider the bun, the veggies, toppings and cheeses. Finally, does the burger hold together as a whole or does fall apart when bitten into (bun breach!)?
Past experience does not count in the battle of the burgers. Judges are basing their decisions only on the burgers placed in front of them on that given day.
For the first three rounds, no judge repeats a restaurant that he or she has already judged in the previous rounds. In the semifinals and finals, all judges dine together.
For the sake of consistency and fairness, in the case of burger joints with multiple locations, we have designated one location where all of the burgers are judged throughout the tournament. Where possible, we chose the location that was the original location in North Texas. In the cases of the largest chains, such as Whataburger, Fuddruckers and Steak 'n Shake, we chose the ones closest to our downtown Fort Worth offices.
Who are the judges
There are eight people judging, four of them with past experience judging the Battle of the Burgers, and four newcomers. All have extensive experience eating burgers. To preserve anonymity, we're keeping their names secret for now -- though all will be revealed when we name the champion of the Battle of the Burgers in early August.