Burger Bracket Update 2: A report from the trenches
We sent our intrepid interns to visit the final eight contenders in the second round of the City Paper Burger Bracket (you have until 9 a.m. tomorrow to vote on who gets into the Final Four) to see how they feel about their chances and who they think is their beefiest competition. This is the second report. (The first is here.)
Alonso’s head chef Sebastian Trossbach has no reservations about his predictions for City Paper’s burger bracket.
“We take a lot of pride in our burgers,” the two-year veteran confidently proclaims. “I’d like to say we’re going to win just for that.” If Alonso’s, the Roland Park bar which shares its space with Loco Hombre, a Tex-Mex restaurant, does win the tournament, it will be in no small part to the sheer variety of burgers on their menu—at least 20, one of which, the “Elvis,” features peanut butter and bacon. The more creative entrees are “surprisingly successful”—especially on Mondays, when Alonso’s offers their full pound burgers for five dollars less. Residents of Roland Park and beyond come to try out one of the seemingly infinite options.
“I hardly have space up in the grill for anything else on a Monday,” says Trossbach. “It’s all burgers.” And for a restaurant so serious about burgers, Alonso’s has no other strategy other than the one they’ve been using all along. “I can’t say there’s a specific strategy to it,” the head chef admits. “Alonso’s basically started as a burger place. That’s what people have come to expect and want here.” -Mike McGurk
Situated at the intersection of Remington Avenue and West 30th Street near Wyman Park, The Dizz has all the trappings of Baltimore’s typical corner bar: the bar’s name spelled out in neon on the brick exterior, vintage tin beer ads and Christmas lights adorning walls, a large flat-screen TV looming over the bar. But The Dizz’s dive aesthetic belies its spacious and comfortable atmosphere; besides a well-lit dining room next to the bar, the restaurant also offers outdoor seating. Most importantly, though, no neighborhood bar can serve a burger like The Dizz. The restaurant’s most successful strategy in the tournament is keeping a devoted fanbase.
“People love our burgers,” says general manager Elaine Stevens, who claims to have gotten into the burger game twelve years ago when a customer requested a “black and blue burger.” Nowadays, Stevens says, The Dizz keeps about fifteen specialty burgers in rotation as daily specials, including “the brandy pepper, the bourbon pepper, the black and blue, [and] the Mediterranean.”
Her cooks know the secret to success lies in the essentials: fresh Angus ground beef and delicious spices. No one can resist a burger at The Dizz—except Stevens. “I’m a vegetarian,” she admits. -Mike McGurk
Who does Ross Carmen, a manager at Hamilton Tavern, think is the restaurant’s biggest competition was in City Paper’s Burger Bracket?
“No one,” he says. “We feel we have the best burger.” Under further questioning, Carmen admits that The Brewer’s Art and Alewife also have good burgers, but he has good reason to be confident: By 5:00, thirty minutes after the restaurant opening, three of their famous Crosstown Burgers had already come out of the kitchen.
It was too much for this reporter, a first-timer at Hamilton Tavern, to resist. The actual patty is great, made from Roseda Farms beef and grilled to perfection, and the toppings are just as delicious. Horseradish cheddar, onion and iceberg lettuce come with the burger, but diners can add sticky-spicy bacon and a fried egg as well. All of this is stuffed between a fresh brioche roll from Stonemill Bakery. So what’s the best part about the jam-packed burger and the Tavern’s weapon in the competition?
Definitely the sticky-spicy bacon. Carmen said that customers “crave and love the bacon.” When mine arrived, I scarfed it down and told my friends where they would be eating dinner on Saturday night. -Marisa Hill Dunn
The Brewer’s Art
The Brewer’s Art only opened a few minutes ago, but it’s already crowded. People are waiting at the bar to get into the dining area and admiring the crown mold that devours most of the room. The staff are busy preparing for the dinner rush, but I got a quick word in with manager Ari Magwood, who thinks the Burger Bracket is a really fun idea.
“It’s always good to see people going out to support their favorite place, whether it be burger, beer, or anything,” he says. It’s always nice to be included in something like that.” Magwood wasn’t overly competitive about the bracket, and said it’s always good to see friendly people in a world of competition. He even said that he wishes his competitors the best. “A fair fight is a fair fight.”
After beating McCabes in the first round, The Brewers Art is up against Hamilton Tavern in round two. “We actually are close with the people over at Hamilton Tavern, and they are probably our biggest competition,” says Magwood. “They have really a great burger and I’ve eaten there many a time. ”
As for strategies against their competitors, Magwood said it’s simple: “We just want to make good burgers every night and make sure we send them out right.”
Stay tuned to citypaper.com for more updates.