(2) Rodeo Goat, 2836 Bledsoe & Currie streets, Fort Worth, vs.
(1) Chop House Burgers, 1700 W. Park Row Drive, Arlington
After surviving the first four rounds of DFW.coms 2013 Burger Battle including an excruciatingly close Final Four clash with Dallas Hopdoddy we had to wonder: Would Rodeo Goat have anything left for the final showdown?
The Fort Worth rookie had navigated every pothole (Chubbys), landmine (Off-Site Kitchen) and roadblock (Charleys) in its path to burger glory. But it hadnt faced a battle-tested competitor like Chop House, chef Kenny Mills ever-expanding Arlington burger mecca that finished second in our 2011 bracket.
Both places were doing a brisk lunch business on a blazing hot Friday, when our seven judges, split into two groups, dug into their final burgers.
Chop House has always been capable of beefy brilliance, especially when its signature Chop House burger is on top of its game. But its just as likely to deliver a baffling burger that leaves you wondering how one kitchen can be so maddeningly inconsistent. And so it was on this last trip, when we ordered a variety of burgers, including the Chop House (with its beef-brisket mix, house-made steak sauce, smoked cheddar and bacon), the Blacken Bleu (blackened with blue cheese on a toasted bun), the 10 Pepper (loaded with heat, including habaneros and jalapeños, as well as Tabasco mayo) and a mushroom-Swiss burger.
We each asked for burgers cooked medium, but the results were all over the meat map. The Chop House was cooked to order, but the 10 Pepper and mushroom-Swiss burgers came out on the rare side of medium, and shockingly the Blacken Bleu was nearly mooing. It was tough to discern any blackened flavor in the Blacken Bleu, and the oblong bun was unwieldy to eat. The Chop House was rich and satisfying, though one judge noted getting a patty that was punier than it had been on previous visits.
The 10 Pepper burger was spicy but slathered in too much mayo, and honestly, there was no excuse for the condition of the Blacken Bleu burger, which should have been called the Blacken Red and Bleu.
The door was left wide open, and Rodeo Goat strode through, shoulders back and chest puffed out.
For more on Rodeo Goat's road to Burger Battle stardom, click here. Plus: the winner of the Readers' Bracket.
We sampled a cross section of the inventive menu there, and each burger the spicy Hot Bastard, the chorizo-infused Caca Oaxaca, the rugged Cowboy Murrin and the more delicate Oh Whitney was cooked medium as we ordered it. The balance of flavors was there, too, a testament to the funky Fort Worth joints attention to detail and consistency.
The Hot Bastard turned up the heat nicely with its habanero cheddar, spicy pepper blend and roasted Fresno aoli, which was applied judiciously.
The Cowboy Murrin, with its blend of juicy beef, crispy fried onions, thick-cut applewood-smoked bacon and house-made barbecue sauce, provided a classic Western burger experience. John Wayne would approve.
And the Caca Oaxaca, with its outlandish name and ingenious combination of ingredients, showed the Goats ability to stretch the boundaries of what a burger can be. The beef and chorizo mixed patty was topped with a generous portion of fanned-out avocado slices, pico de gallo, queso fresco, Tabasco mayo and a fried egg. The flavor was rich, creamy, spicy and unforgettable.
As our guest judge and self-proclaimed burger fanatic Denise Harris described it: This is the burger you think about when youre eating other burgers. When youre in a business meeting, its this burgers name you doodle in the margins.
Rodeo Goat got the little things right, too. The thick-cut tomatoes and purple onions were bursting with freshness. The bibb lettuce and brioche buns never wilted under the pressure. Only the Oh Whitney, a burger with a mushroom blend, cucumbers, Gruyere cheese and Sriracha mayo, produced a meh from the judges.
But by then, the choice was clear. Rodeo Goat had delivered the creativity, consistency and delicious flavors worthy of a champion.
Congratulations, Goat. You are the new king of DFWs burger barn.
Winner: Rodeo Goat
Click here for our odes to the burgers that left us too soon in the competition; the biennial Burgie Awards; and meet the Burger Battle judges. And just below, check out video clips of the final two contenders Chefs Keith Grober and Kenny Mills in action at the grill.