Pickle Region contenders
(1) Charleys Old-Fashioned Hamburgers vs. Toms (8)
(1) Charleys Old-Fashioned Hamburgers: Opened in 1991 by a truck driver named Charley Bell, this unassuming shack on Granbury Road slowly but steadily built a following through word of mouth. Charleys old-school, griddled burgers like the fire-breathing Project X have been serious contenders since our first biennial Burger Battle in 2009. In 2011, Charleys went all the way to the Final Four, falling to Chop House burger in a ferocious, hotly contested race. It also performed well with nonjudges: in 2011, Charleys was voted Readers Choice. So, look out, Toms of Arlington. You have some hard-core competition from a beloved burger shrine. 4616 Granbury Road, Fort Worth. www.facebook.com/ CharleysOldFashioned Hamburgers
(8) Toms Burgers and Grill: The gleaming chrome diner just off I-30 in Arlington, in a converted Dennys, is the dream of Tom Jones, a former engineer who has turned his talents toward engineering a great burger. He constructed a wood-fired grill that infuses his creations (1/3- and 1/2-pound patties) with an old-fashioned flavor that one burger judge last time around said tasted like July Fourth at the lake. Yum. Though it didnt advance in 2011 losing narrowly to Kincaids in Round 1, it could turn out differently for Toms this year. If it serves a stellar burger, and its fellow old-fashioned adversary makes one slip, it could mean a refrain of: Sorry, Charley. 1530 N. Cooper St., Arlington. tomsburgergrill.com.
(2) Rodeo Goat vs. (7) Chubbys Burger Shack
(2) Rodeo Goat: When it comes to brash new burger players in Fort Worth, the buzz (the bleating?) has been loudest at the Goat, which trotted into town in late 2012 and dazzled right out of the gate. The patties are ground in-house, resulting in a full-flavored, vibrant beefiness. It has a few relatively basic burgers, but the menu is largely filled with wildly imaginative creations that sometimes work (the Caca Oaxaca, a chorizo-infused patty with a fried egg and Tabasco mayo) and sometimes leave you scratching your head and reaching for a Wet-Nap (the Sugar Burger, with grilled peaches, caramelized onions, bacon and arugula). This Goat has the potential to play the long game, but theres also a danger in trying too hard to be different. 2836 Bledsoe St., Fort Worth. www.rodeogoat.com
(7) Chubbys Burger Shack: From the Living Up to Its Name Department comes this pleasantly plump 1/2-pound patty. The brainchild of two buddies, Chubbys sits in a far west Fort Worth roadhouse, and features all sorts of temptations to add to your burger, from queso to guac (or both!), and pizza toppings. Alas, in our last Burger Battle, Chubbys couldnt quite hold its weight against the masterful Dutchs. This year, competitor Rodeo Goat might have the edge on newfangled innovation, but Chubbys old-school juiciness and crazy concoctions (a Chicken Fried Chubby!?!) cant be discounted. 7618 Camp Bowie West Blvd., Fort Worth. www.chubbysburger shack.com
(3) Off-Site Kitchen vs. (6) H2 Burger Co.
( 3) Off-Site Kitchen: And the Dallas foodies rejoiced. Restaurateur/chef Nick Badovinus and chef Dan Riley toiled away at their menu, and the burgers shone. Some, like D Magazine, called Off-Sites Do It Murph-Style one of the better new burgers in town. Earlier this year, the Eater blog named the Locals Only (mustard, bacon, American cheese and jalapeño, no mayo) one of the Hottest Hamburgers in the country. We say all the buzz, and talk of quarter-pound patties of Angus chuck and shoulder, ground on-site, make this cheffy burger an exciting new player this year. 2226 Irving Blvd., Dallas. offsitekitchen.net
(6) H2 Burger Co.: Still tucked away inside the dark, divey Red Goose Saloon in downtown Fort Worth, H2 is still cooking up scrumptious gourmet burgers. Angus beef half-pounders are topped with fancy twists like cremini mushrooms, tarragon mustard and balsamic caramelized onions. In 2011, H2 cut down a mighty foe in Pappas Burger in Round 1. Will this hidden gem have what it takes to conquer Off-Site, a burger dripping with hype? Anything can happen in the burger bracket format. 306 Houston St. (inside the Red Goose Saloon), Fort Worth.
(4) Five Guys vs. (5) In-N-Out (5)
(4) Five Guys Burgers and Fries: The popular Washington, D.C.-based chain moved into DFW and expanded with a vengeance, now at about 15 locations here. On the strength of its uncommonly juicy single or double-patty burgers (customizable with a variety of fresh toppings), Five Guys made it all the way to the Final Four in 2009. But two years ago, the fast and furiously expanding burger chain stalled in Round 2, losing to Fort Worth mom-and-pop M&O Station Grill. Pitted against another chain with a fanatical following this time around, Five Guys hopes it can be the comeback kid. Multiple locations; judging at 242 State St., Southlake. www.fiveguys.com
(5) In-N-Out Burger: The tearful frenzy and milelong drive-through lines that followed the California chain to DFW in 2011 have died down. But the cult favorite is still a behemoth in the burger chain gang (with 17 North Texas locations and counting). That, and its Double-Double, thin-patty, Animal Style goodness combine to make it a contender yet again. In 2011, it fell to a Texan Grumps in Burleson. This year, by happenstance, In-N-Out goes up against another member of the burger chain royal family. May the best patty reign. Multiple locations; judging taking place at 4620 S. Hulen St., Fort Worth. www.in-n-out.com