In a city that spells festival "f-o-o-d," it was only a matter of time before burger blogger Seth Agranov came up with the Best Memphis Burger Fest. On September 30th, all burger lovers — not only chefs and caterers, but backyard grillers as well — will head to the parking lot at Minglewood Hall for a chance to compete for the title of Best Memphis Burger.
For the past year, Agranov has been reviewing Memphis burgers, in all their variety and splendor, on his blog BestMemphisBurger.com. He says the idea of hosting a festival sprouted from a Twitter conversation during the spring festival season. (Agranov competes on both a hot wings and barbecue team.) After selecting Mid-South Spay and Neuter Services to receive festival proceeds, Agranov began planning the city's first burger-based celebration.
As many as 20 teams will have a chance to compete in four different categories: Best Memphis Burger, Veggie, Anything But (geared toward fish or fowl burgers), and Extreme (in which burger entries must weigh a minimum of two pounds). From there, the guidelines are more or less nonexistent.
"They can go nuts," Agranov says. "They can do whatever they want. But anything that goes between those two buns is judgeable."
So far, Agranov has received considerable support from restaurants, purveyors, and farmers. Claybrook Farms donated four to five pounds of beef to each team; Bluff City Coffee has donated 20 homemade buns per team; green-friendly boxes, the same kind used by Project Green Fork restaurants, have been donated by Mac Edwards of Elegant Farmer.
Bleu, BGR The Burger Joint, Café Eclectic, and Owen Brennan's have all entered teams in the competition.
"The rest are just kind of backyard guys," Agranov says. "I know a few of them from different barbecue teams. One of them is a finance guy at Smith & Nephew during the day, and he's working on a burger spice business in his free time."
A team of judges — composed of foodies, bloggers, and journalists — will do a blind tasting to decide on the winners of the four categories. (Agranov is using a separate group of solely vegetarian judges for the veggie burger.) Not surprisingly, the Best Memphis Burger is the focal point of the competition. The winner of that category will earn a cash prize, trophy, and an invitation to Adam Richman's World Food Championships in Las Vegas this November.
While judges determine the winners, festivalgoers will get a chance to taste burgers as they are available, on a team-by-team basis.
"We're going to encourage teams to cook some extra burgers throughout the day and cut them up for donations," Agranov says. "You know, pay a dollar for a quarter of a burger or something like that."
If you like your dining plans a little more definite, Fuel Food Truck, Rock 'N' Dough Pizza, and others will be on site serving food as well. Admission to the event is free, but donations are welcome and proceeds from all beer and soft drink sales will benefit Mid-South Spay and Neuter Services. The all-ages festival will also feature live music, games, and pet adoptions.
Best Memphis Burger Festival, Sunday, September 30th, 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. at Minglewood Hall • bestmemphisburgerfest.com