Picking the places
Assembling 32 burger joints to compete for the title of Best Burger is a greasy job, but somebody’s gotta do it. Naturally, some will argue a worthy contender or three were left out. But to assemble our list, we began by looking back at our past two brackets, from 2009 and 2011. Top performers earned a repeat invitation. Some poor performers didn’t (see ya, Wingfield’s and Fuddruckers). We added buzz-worthy new joints (Rodeo Goat, Off-Site Kitchen) and got tough on the chains (Steak ’n Shake, Red Robin and Mooyah all got booted).
Eventually, we settled on 30 patty palaces, and asked you to vote on Facebook from our list of “bubble burgers” for the final two. Grumps and Burger Xtreme earned those spots in a play-in round judged earlier this month.
Building the bracket
Seeding is based on past performance, reputation and our bracketologists’ firsthand knowledge of each place. We chose four No. 1 seeds, four No. 2s and so forth. Then, as in 2011, we randomly divided the burgers into four regions — Bacon, Pickle, Mustard and Ketchup — to create a balanced bracket.
Judging the burgers
For each matchup, judges are asked to eat at both competing burger spots on the same day, within a few hours’ time. So as not to give the first place an advantage, judges consume only half of a burger (which is hard sometimes) so they won’t leave the first place too full.
Judges make every effort to let the restaurants put their best burgers forward. If there’s a house special or “signature” burger, we’ll go with that. Beyond that, judges let their taste buds guide them.
Quality of side items, service or atmosphere don’t matter. Only the burger. Judges consider individual elements — patty, bun, veggies, toppings, cheeses — and how the burger works as a whole.
Who does the judging
There are eight judges, six with past Burger Battle experience. We’re keeping their names secret until we name the champion in early August.