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Burger Bracket 2012: The Elite 8

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Between our last Burger Bracket 2012 announcement and today, we had an interesting development: The owners of H-Town StrEATs welcomed a beautiful baby boy into the world. The team is taking a well-deserved leave of absence, which means that H-Town StrEATs had to drop out of this year's competition.

Never fear: We're saving them a spot in next year's bracket, and our burger judges were quickly dispatched to El Gran Malo instead. The gastrocantina's chorizo-and-fried-egg-topped torta burger stepped in to fill the Extreme bracket.

Did the torta burger advance? Find out below.

Each team also helpfully sent us the tasting notes they used to determine the winners in each bracket. The notes have been transcribed in their entirety -- including one epic burger poem from Team Burgerteers that you simply must read.

Team Burger Addict

Bracket: Fancy-Pants Burgers

Down House - Great use of local ingredients. The cheese had wonderful flavor. It was the meat that was a little bland and not consistently cooked. There are a lot of great things happening for this burger, but the meat fell short.

Plonk Beer & Wine Bistro - Amazing flavor! The mango chipotle salsa with the "panther" sauce was a great balance of sweat/spicy. The meat also did not fall short and was perfectly cooked and seasoned. This burger may not be for everyone because of the spice, but it was tantalizing to our palates.

Mockingbird Bistro - This burger definitely matched up to the wonderful atmosphere of this place. A well cooked and seasoned burger was definitely set-off by the other accoutrements on the plate. The Gruyere cheese in all of its melted glory was just the right touch to make this one of the better burgers.

Block 7 Wine Company - This unsuspecting burger packed a ton of flavor. Though there is a lot going on with this burger flavor wise, (the bacon "relish", the arugula, and the aioli (with a little Dijon)) no one flavor overpowered the wonderfully seasoned and prepared meat.

Team Texas Teachers

Bracket: Fast Food-Style Burgers

Bernie's Burger Bus - The little extras put Bernie's Burger Bus into the next round. The garlic roasted tomatoes, buttery toasted bun and fresh-from-the-garden trimmings made this burger experience noteworthy. The burger was juicy and cooked to a tasty medium-well. Bread-to-Burger Ratio was a little on the high side... but the bread was really delicious, so we could over look that technicality. Overall, a really excellent burger.

Hubcap Grill - The unanimous choice of the group for advancing, this burger came stacked on a sturdy bun, toasted to perfection. Some highs and lows on the toppings - the bacon was not as crispy as other locations, but was delicious; onions were a little overpowering, but the fresh chopped (not shredded) lettuce was a nice touch.

Didn't Quite Make It...

Bubba's Texas Burger Shack and Little Bitty Burger Barn - Both of these establishments posted entries that were clearly worthy of their nomination into the bracket, but were outmatched by the extra effort of those moving on to the next round...although, it is worth noting, LBBB cannot be matched if you are looking to enjoy a burger in an authentic Texas Saloon.

Team Fatty FatBastard

Bracket: Veggie Burgers

First up was Ziggy's Healthy Grill. It took us all about 30 minutes to show up, so we ordered some chips and "homemade" salsa... Tostito's and Pace would have been better. Sadly, this was the highlight of the meal.

We decided to order one chickpea burger, one bean burger, and a buffalo burger. We all agreed that everything was horrid. The buffalo was overcooked and dry, and the two veggie options? We were very worried about the rest of the places we were obligated to go...

Next up was Beaver's. We all agreed that this burger was pretty good, although a slice of cheese would have really added to it. And the $12 price tag was ridiculous. However, if you're going to get this, might I suggest you split a side of mac & cheese? That was the show-stopper. I highly encourage you suggest this to the next team, as well.

Then came Green Seed Vegan. This one we went in pairs on, with wildly different results. The first two sent me texts this week showing they were there. The next pic showed this. (I have the pics...)

They said it tasted like dirt, and found it inedible. Needless to say, my friend and I went for round 2 with very low expectations. We chose to split one, and the lady cheerfully obliged. (She really was sweet.) When we tried ours, we both nodded and shrugged. This was pretty damn tasty. I even envied the fact that his half had more cilantro and avocado than mine. I would recommend folks to try this (at least the one I had) and will be taking the other two back to try this again to see which one of ours was more accurate.

Finally we got to Natachee's. Naturally we ordered one vegetarian sandwich, three chicken fried steaks with eggs and hashbrowns, one open-faced meatloaf sandwich, and a club. This one was also very good, and we all agreed that the cheese made the sandwich. Would we order it again? Certainly, if our doctor said we had to go meatless for a month. There are far too many good items here.

As to the results? Here's the funny part. Even the two who thought Green Seed tasted like dirt preferred it over Ziggy's. Their entire menu needs serious work. Green Seed wins easily.

As to Natachee vs. Beaver's? This was, by far, the hardest to judge, as both were interesting, pleasant and (hopefully) healthy. Major points went to Natachee's for automatically adding cheese. But Beaver's wins by a nose. I also suggest that the next team try one with cheese and one without to see if it makes a difference.

Team Burgerteers

Bracket: Extreme Burgers

We choose The Burger Guys by a hair and El Gran Malo by a mile And let me tell you why in my patented poetical style But first, too bad H-Town StrEATs had to bow out for their baby boy Congrats to them, I'm sure they're happy with their bundle of joy

El Real underwhelmed us all but I'd want to give it another try Flavors were good but the beef was was overcooked and dry Mine ordered medium-rare but came out medium-well The patty, the heart of the burger, just did not compel The extreme toppings on it, we admit, were mostly great The guac, refried beans, poblanos, onions, were pleasures as we ate Others thought the Fritos were a bit much, but I liked the added crunch Plus I always love queso fresco on most anything for that extra punch Maybe the cook had a bad night, I'd be willing to try it once more But the overcooked and dry patty that time was just too much to ignore

The torta burger at El Gran Malo was a different beast And it proved to us to be a quite worthy of our feast The burger was a bit overcooked there too but not as much And the toppings proved to be a complementary crutch Giving it the extra fattiness that chorizo and eggs provide The torta bun might have been my favorite of all we tried Toasted and sturdy, it held up well even with the gooey yolk While lettuce and tomatoes were not too extreme or baroque They complemented everything else on the torta quite well While not factored in here, the beef jerky Bloody Maria was tasty as hell El Gran Malo has more of a torta than burger, but I guess that's extreme In any case, it was preferred to El Real's Tex Mex burger by this team

The Burger Guys versus Max's Wine Dive was the closer of the races We very much enjoyed both their burgers as we stuffed our faces We'd advance both over El Gran Malo if we were able But that doesn't seem to be an option on the table Within our team, it was actually a split decision So let's break this down with more precision The buns at both places were excellent, I'd call it a push Both tasty, slightly sweet, and handled juices without becoming mush Max's wins the toppings, with the avocado and both cotija and brie Toppings were good on the Saigon too, just not quite as tasty The one rare burger eater preferred the juicy beef at Max's Wine Dive While the rest of us preferred the patty at the Burger Guys It was better seasoned and a harder sear gave it a nice crust While still remaining juicy and pink inside, pure beefy lust Push on buns, Max's wins toppings, Burger Guys takes beef, it's a tie As captain, I decided that beef is heart of the burger, I hope you get why So there it was 3-1 for our winner, the Saigon from Burger Guys Can't stress enough that we still loved the burger at Max's Wine Dive

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