VOTE in our READERS' CHOICE bracket, and be entered to win a grand prize! NOTE: To vote in this round, click on the "FINALS" tab. For a breakdown of what happened in the Readers' Choice bracket, click here.
"You can't fool the bracket."
It should be a slogan printed on T-shirts and bumper stickers, every bit as famous as whatever it was Benjamin Franklin said about death and taxes.
Yes, sometimes luck of the draw is important: In a weaker corner of the bracket, a lesser competitor might go farther than it deserves. And, yes, sometimes simple luck plays into it -- especially if a normally strong competitor is having an off day.
But if a burger house wants to make it into the Final Four, it's going to have to deliver the goods and silence its critics once and for all.
Consider this week's Elite Eight round, which saw two relative newcomers -- Chop House Burgers and M&O Station Grill -- squaring off against better-established and more highly regarded burgers -- respectively, Love Shack, and Charley's Old-Fashioned Hamburgers.
We had heard skeptics grumble that neither newbie deserved to get this far. More than once, the phrase: "What the heck is Chop House?" was uttered in our offices. But take a closer look at the bracket, where Chop House had already vanquished a local legend (Tommy's) and the 2009 runner-up (Jakes) and this week defeated Love Shack (which in turn had knocked out Dutch's and Smashburger). That should be all the proof you need: Chop House hasn't been allowed to coast for a second.
On the other hand, we, too, were skeptical about the performance of M&O. In 2009, it won the readers' bracket but was eliminated by the judges in the first round. This year, its competition seemed weak (Fuddruckers) and woefully off its game (Five Guys). Was this supposed Cinderella run really just a case of an unusually lucky and easy draw?
Well, along came Charley's, and -- as you'll see below -- M&O got leveled.
Elsewhere this week, our defending champion, Fred's, showed a few cracks in its seemingly impenetrable armor but still managed to eke out a victory, while another newcomer, Pop's, flexed its muscle and advanced relatively easily.
That leaves us with a Final Four that should make your mouth water: Two new kids on the block (Pop's and Chop House) and two legends (Charley's and Fred's); old-school-style burgers (Pop's and Charley's), alongside chef-driven burgers (Fred's, Chop House); three restaurants representing Fort Worth, one in Arlington. (Sorry Dallas -- and sorry to Keller's and Maple and Motor, both of which made impressive runs this year -- but Tarrant County claims hamburger supremacy.)
Oh, and eight hungry judges who can't wait to see how this all cooks out.
Of course, before one of these joints can triumph in the Battle of the Burgers, it will have to make it through two more ferociously competitive rounds. Once a champion is crowned, all doubt will be quelled, and the best burger in the Metroplex will have rightfully earned its title.
As we said before, you can't fool the bracket.
Keller's vs. Fred's : Click to find out the winner.
Chop House vs. Love Shack: Click to find out the winner.
OC Burger vs. Pop's : Click to find out the winner.
Charley's vs. M&O: Click to find out the winner.