It may be tough to imagine in Texas, but beef isn't always king. That was the lesson learned at the 3rd annual Burger Bracket this past Saturday at The Refinery, where Rainbow Lodge took home first place with a blended burger patty so good that it won with a landslide of plastic silver voting tokens.
Host restaurant The Refinery placed second with its perfectly cooked sliders (a triumph in and of itself, considering how many the icehouse turned out) topped with Cheddar, jalapeños and jalapeño-spiced bacon. Miller's Cafe took third place with its mayo-slathered, classic diner burgers on poppyseed buns.
And although the Rainbow Lodge wild game burger ultimately won by a large margin, it was a hard-fought battle.
"It's such a hard choice," said Burger Bracket judge Ryan Ngo as he deliberated over the crumbs of the three competing burgers. "The entire bracket shocked me, though." Ngo admitted that he was surprised to see fan favorite Stanton's City Bites ousted in the Elite 8 round by newcomer The Refinery.
"But right now," Ngo admitted, "it's a toss-up between Rainbow Lodge and The Refinery."
Jim Rassinier -- who was an official judge in last year's Burger Bracket, and an attendee at this year's Grand Championship -- was similarly surprised by the quality of The Refinery's beefy patties and sweet, eggy hamburger buns. Still, Rassinier said, "Rainbow Lodge is, in my opinion, right on par with Mockingbird Bistro, the burger that won last year."
Burger master and Rainbow Lodge manager Miguel Hernandez grinned as he described the blend of meats that went into this competition's burger. "Antelope, boar, buffalo and venison," Miguel named off. Plus, he continued, "roasted garlic mayonnaise, house whole-grain mustard, housemade pickles, three Cheddar blend and Slow Dough buns."
"I made sure to tell Slow Dough to make them extra good today!" Hernandez laughed.
Rainbow Lodge started offering its special wild game burgers on Fridays at lunch as a creative way to use up delicious, leftover wild game scraps. At first, the restaurant only made a dozen each Friday. But as demand for the burger grew, Rainbow Lodge quickly increased its output to 60 burgers every Friday.
"After this," laughed Hernandez, "we'll have to make at least 80."
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