Sunday, August 16, 2009

Battle of the Burgers: and then there were two. Which patties made the cut?

Fred’s (Fort Worth) vs. 1. Pappas Burger (Chain)

The winner: Fred’s

Honestly, we thought it would be closer: Pappas Burgers moved through the early rounds with its exuberant, often messy, but flavor-packed burgers. Judging on the basis of the patty alone, we still regard it as the finest in the competition. Like all great champions, Fred’s showed occasional cracks along the way — a hint of dryness in the meat one visit, a burger that almost fell apart in another — but always managed to come out ahead.

In this Final Four matchup, however, Fred’s ended up leaving its stellar competitor in the dust. At the legendary Fort Worth cafe, we ordered four different burgers — the Diablo, which comes topped with Swiss cheese and roasted chipotles; the blue cheese burger; the classic Fredburger; and Fred with bacon and portabella mushrooms — each one more assured and memorable than the next. Everything clicked this time, from the exquisitely juicy meat, to the surprisingly sturdy bun, to the boffo combination of hot and creamy on the Diablo. (If there is a National Burger of Texas, it should be this one.) Sure, we could quibble with things here or there (the portabella and bacon slightly overwhelmed the burger; our tomato slice was a tad underripe). Yet the overwhelming passion that gets poured into these burgers is undeniable.

No such luck at Pappas, which seemed to be having an off day: One cheeseburger arrived with far too much mayo and barely any cheese. The bacon blue cheese burger, a stellar performer in the previous round, arrived medium-well, despite a requested medium. Only one of our five panelists — she ordered the Hickory Bacon Cheddar Burger — felt that Pappas deserved the nod. The rest of us lined up for Fred’s. If it performs as ably as this in the finals, it stands poised to win the entire battle.


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