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BurgerBusiness.com’s 2009 Burger of the Year: Mini Sirloin Burgers, Jack in the Box. A tough call, but these little buggers hit four of the year’s burger hot buttons: mini size (like an appetizer!); high-quality beef (sirloin here; many others went Angus); value price ($4 was the ceiling for the year; Jack intro’d these at $3.89); and edge-of-taste advertising (a TV spot with “little people” on little ponies herding little cattle). We’re happy Jack survived his Super Bowl accident to see this win.
Burger Build of the Year: Cuban Burger, BGR: The Burger Joint, Bethesda, Md. A beef patty topped with slow-roasted pork, Serrano ham, sweet pickles, Dijon mustard and Swiss cheese piled on brioche bun and grill pressed. Count the trends: multiple proteins; upscale toppings; bakery-style bun and global-cuisine influences. Want a forecast for the future of burgers? This is it.
Topping of the Year: Applewood-smoked bacon. Wendy’s has made it the linchpin of its financial rebound; everyone else just likes the sound of it. If your palate is finely tuned enough to discern applewood overtones, you’re wasting your time eating burgers.
Non-Beef Burger of the Year: Farmhouse Veggie Burger, The Farm Cafe, Portland, Ore. Made with eggplant, bread crumbs, cheese and spices and served with caramelized onions, tomato, zucchini pickles, Dijon mustard and lettuce on a rustic bun. Nothing’s missing.
Burger Chain of the Year: Burgerville. Not just because it continues to prove that chains can buy locally, support smaller producers and menu more healthful food but also because this year it figured out how to print detailed nutrition info for your order right on your receipt. Bigger chains don’t do that because….why?
People’s Choice Award: Twisted Root Burger Co., Dallas (and now Richardson and Roanoke, Texas, too). Visitors to BurgerBusiness.com clicked the link to Twisted Root’s fabulous burger menu more than any other single link this year.
Burger Name of the Year: Mega Angus XT Furioso, Burger King/Mexico. Sounds like the name of a Mixed Martial Arts badass. You’d have to order it.
Best Burger Marketing: CKE Restaurants’ Big Carl/Big Hardee burgers. You can let the McDonald’s marketing juggernaut roll over you, or you can stand and fight…and have it roll over you. But props to Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s for yelling that their burgers are bigger and cheaper.
Best Burger Advertising: “Honor Angus” billboard campaign, McDonald’s. Almost every other chain went the “Make a video and send it to us!” route, and those videos are largely unwatchable. McD’s went old-school, invited customers to submit two-word billboard headlines and actually used the best of them (but not our “Dr. Fill” suggestion).
Dumbest Burger of the Year: BK BBQ Double Stackticon, Burger King. The PR release said it “allows guests to stack multiple burger patties, bacon, sauce and cheese similar to the construction-themed ‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’ robots.” We’re going to be charitable and assume you laughed as you wrote that.
Worst Burger Marketing: “Woody,” T.G.I. Friday’s. Yeah, Woody got his 900,000+ friends on Facebook. But go to the Discussion section of his page and you’ll find many of those “friends” there, whining endlessly that they didn’t get their coupon for a free hamburger. Promo over; Woody goes silent. True relationships are built on more than the shared desperation of coupon distribution.