After we finished our Final Pho tournament last year in which Edwin, Dave, Shuji, and I subjected ourselves to weeks of pho to determine which was the best in Orange County (Pho Thanh Lich, come on down!), I figured we should do tournos for all the beloved entrees of Orange County. And I figured we should do burgers next.
Southern California might not have created the hamburger, but we have perfected every level, from the the gastropub to the fast food, the lowly to the mighty. But a 16-burger tournament wasn't enough–it had to be 32. And since I'm watching Game of Thrones for the umpteenth time, and the task as epic as one involving a blonde girl and her baby dragons, a heroic little person, an evil teenager, and scores upon scores of plotlines that still somehow make sense and connect, we decided to give our tournament a medieval theme, down to the categories.
So, behold our Game of Burgers, to see who will take the Burger Throne!
The Burger Barons! The Dominion of Diners! The Fast Food Fiefdoms! The Gastropub Gentry! Or something like that…but the breakdown makes sense. Our current burger renaissance features heavy hitters from the world of fast food, from gastropubs and burger-specific restaurants that class up the steamed ham, with the traditional diner-style burger still holding steady. And if you see our picks, you'll find almost all the burger royalty Orange County has to offer, with no easy path to the championship–indeed, expect a LOT of hard-ass decisions in our tournament.
The fun starts this coming Monday. I've got the Fast Food Fiefdom, Edwin gets the Dominion of Diners, Dave chose the Burger Barons, and Shuji gets the Gastropub Gentry. Eight burgers in one week! So we don't all die of heart attacks, the second round will be judged by Michelle, Taylor, Niyaz, and Anne Marie (replacing me, Edwin, Dave, and Shuji, respectively), with Dave, Edwin, Shuji and I returning for the third round until the end. Convoluted? You know it! But this is also a way to ensure our favorites get judged by others–there is no easy way to the Burger Throne.
And just in case you can't read the fine print, here's the breakdown, along with brief thoughts:
FAST FOOD FIEFDOMS
TK's vs. Knowlwood's: Two Orange County mini-chains who have yet to leave our fair land.
The Habit vs. Five Guys: The barbarians from faraway lands who have come to conquer us with their yummy burgers.
In-n-Out vs. Fatburger: Two chains that originated outside OC, but have a rabid following here and in Southern California.
Carl's Jr. vs. Ruby's Diner: Homegrown chains gone national.
DOMINION OF DINERS
Pee-Wee's Famous Hot Dogs and Hamburgers vs. Red Robin: What's a fast-food outfit doing against the Surf City fave. Ask Edwin!
Memphis at the Santora vs. The Catch: Great burgers, great locales, great drinks, great first-round matchup!
Mick's Karma Bar vs. Rider's Club: Probably the most brutal matchup in the first round. Both places offer spectacular burgers and could whip most of the other folks here–but no one said getting to the Burger Throne was easy.
Yellow Basket vs. A's Burger: Two classic diners–one in SanTana, one in South County. The only real old-school places here.
The Counter vs. Umami Burgers: Two outsider chains also set on conquering OC with their gourmet steamed hams.
DG Burger vs. Marc Burger: A mega-chef South Coast Plaza rumble!
Slater's 50/50 vs. 25 Degrees: Huntington Beach smackdown!
G Burger vs. Peter's Gourmade Grill: Consider them the Tyrion Lannister of the tournament.
Playground vs. The Crosby: The other brutal fight in this one. Part of the SanTana New Wave of great food, with killer hamburgers. Sorry, guys: one of you has to lose!
Red Table vs. JT Schmid: Insert description here, folks!
St. Roy Chef's Pub vs. Brü Grill & Market: South County represents!
Crow Bar vs. Haven: The pioneers in the gastropub game go for one last hurrah…or, do they?
The tournament starts on Monday, July 23, and the final winner will be announced at our Good Food Happy Hour at SIP on August 16. Enjoy, and let the second-guessing begin!