Pickle region results below. Click Ketchup, Bacon and Mustard for those Round 2 results in the judges' bracket.
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Charleys vs. In-N-Out
(1) Charleys Old Fashioned Hamburgers, 4616 Granbury Road, Fort Worth vs. (5) In-N-Out Burger, 4620 S. Hulen St., Fort Worth
The burger bracket format can lead to an existential crisis. We thought Charleys a southwest Fort Worth institution as well as the 2011 Burger Battle readers favorite and a final four contender would win in a walk over In-N-Out, which may be a superior fast-food burger but is still a fast-food burger. And that feeling continued with our first nibble of the Tabasco-soaked patty on Charleys Project X, with the spicy flavor almost leaping off the meat. Everything about this burger stood up the bun held that jalapeño-loaded mess inside, all the vegetables were fresh (it was the first time in this Burger Battle that this judge encountered lettuce that wasnt pointless) and the heat was good without frying our taste buds. The only complaint was the grated cheese, which seemed a little skimpy.
But In-N-Out, the California cult fave, wasnt going down without a fight. Skimpy cheese wasnt a problem on the double-double, ordered animal style, with mustard cooked into the patties, extra sauce and grilled onions. With two slices of wonderfully melty American, cheese was the dominant flavor, and the first bite made for a pleasing mouthful. As usual, the freshness of the vegetables separated In-N-Out from other fast-food chains, and the bun was so beautifully toasted it was almost artful. But the two thin patties, while nicely cooked and flavorful, couldnt quite cut the mustard against Charleys more potent and peppery combo. Hats off to In-N-Out, though; coming this close to beating Charleys is an accomplishment all by itself.
(3) Off-Site Kitchen, 2226 Irving Blvd., Dallas vs. (2) Rodeo Goat, 2836 Bledsoe St., Fort Worth
Off-Site Kitchen is a legacy burger grill for the ages. Built to look like a 1970s grill down to the 1970 on the trucker caps, it is a faithful re-creation of the burgers of yesteryear, only better. There were defenders who argued the west Dallas spot, run by restaurateur Nick Badovinus, should be a No. 1 seed in the Burger Battle, simply on quality, and the Do It Murph-Style jalapeño-bacon relish burger steamrolled Fort Worths gourmet H2 Burger Co. in the first round. But the Murph was less appealing this time around. The finely chopped jalapeño-bacon relish had almost a sweet, candied flavor that didnt match this otherwise sound burger with heavily peppered, soft beef, a tight little red tomato, shredded lettuce and American cheese. A Double Delux secret-sauce burger with first-rate bacon made up for Murphs shortcomings, but Off-Site had met its match.
Rodeo Goats Steve Murrin burger, named for the iconic Stockyards cowboy, is bigger and brawnier. Built on Rodeo Goats custom bun, the Murrin is a fresh-ground, mildly seasoned half-pounder with robust flavors of bacon, jalapeños and barbecue sauce. The applewood-smoked bacon was just as good as Off-Sites, but what really made the Murrin shine was the smoky sauce and soft, lightly breaded fried onion strings. On the other hand, the Goats blackberry compote burger with cheddar and candied bacon tasted too little like a serious burger and too much like an IHOP pancakes-and-bacon platter. But by then, the Murrin had roped and tied the Murph.
Winner: Rodeo Goat