Want to build a crowd-pleasing burger?
Pork is the way.
The Million $ Bacon Burger from Pineville Tavern in Bucks County was the judges' favorite at Sunday's sixth annual Burger Brawl competition, while the Peanut Butter & Bacon Burger from Lucky's Last Chance in Manayunk was the people's choice winner - just as it was in 2013. (A burger that repeats on us. How about that.)
In Burger Brawl's first-ever Taco Takedown, more pork ruled: Lolita in Midtown Village's taco featuring housemade chorizo was the judges' choice. El Vez, just across the way, won the people's choice with the Chino-Latino Taco El Pastor.
Bartender Canyon Shayer from Center City's Fine Palate won a cocktail competition with a drink based on English cucumber. Shayer added Effen Vodka, tequila, and elderflower liquor, shook it furiously, and served it in a martini glass. The English Summer Breeze will premiere on Friday, July 1, discounted to $5 during happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m.
About 2,000 people attended the fundraiser on the parking lot outside Xfinity Live. Nearly three dozen burger-makers and 11 taco-makers competed.
Pineville Tavern chef Anthony Pasceri makes the Million $ Bacon Burger from ground chuck, rib, and brisket, and builds it on a potato roll from Conshohocken Bakery. It is topped with Cooper Sharp American cheese, bacon-onion jam, and bacon made of cold-smoked belly that is then sliced with Aleppo pepper, cayenne, and brown sugar before it is hot-smoked for eight hours. With fries and coleslaw, it sells for $15. On Friday, July 1, it will be discounted to $5, said owner Drew Abruzzese.
Lucky's Last Chance's burger, built on a toasted Liscio's roll, is made with a house blend from Carl Venezia in Plymouth Meeting. It's topped with peanut butter, bacon, and American cheese and is served with a side of house-made grape jelly. It sells for $9.50 and $11, depending on size. Sandra Barnes came up with the burger, and former chef Pat Brady brought it to life.
Lolita chef de cuisine Paul Lyons made his chorizo with pork butt, cheek, and belly, adding cumin, coriander, smoked pimenton, and garlic. He added salsa aguacate, queso fresco, pico de gallo, and pickled onion, and served it on a corn tortilla.
For his Chino-Latino Taco El Pastor, El Vez executive chef Reinaldo Alfonso used pork marinated in a traditional pastor with added soy sauce, Korean chili paste, and pickled pineapple that was deglazed with mezcal. It was served on a white corn tortilla with a fermented kimchee (fermented over two weeks with radishes, cabbage, anchovies, fish sauce, onions and more), and underneath was a layer of crushed Fritos. The taco will be on special this week: three for $11.
Judges included Mike Jerrick and Alex Holley of Fox29, Steve Morrison and Matt Cord of WMMR, Glen Macnow of WIP, Marilyn Russell of Ben FM, Brooke Thomas and Rahel Solomon of CBS3, former Phillies star Garry Maddox, Philadelphia school superintendent William Hite, Roberta Pipito of Homemade Delish, Caroline Russock of Zagat, Danya Henninger of Billy Penn, Kristen Kwiatkowski of the Town Dish, Jacqueline Rupp of Philadelphia Weekly, Howard Gensler of the Philadelphia Daily News, and Lê of Hop Sing Laundromat. I oversaw the judging.
Burger Brawl, created by Rouge owner Rob Wasserman and his wife, Maggie, is a partner with the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia, the Olitsky Family Foundation, AIM Academy (Academy in Manayunk), and the Philadelphia School District to run a four-year pilot program for two city schools to utilize technology to increase literacy for elementary school-age children. A portion of the proceeds will go to Compete 360, an organization founded by Maddox to support the education and development of urban youth.
The amount raised was still being tallied Monday morning.