Sacramento’s top restaurants — think The Waterboy, Magpie, Canon and Empress Tavern — competed Thursday night in the seventh annual Sacramento Burger Battle. But it was neighborhood spot Pangaea Bier Cafe that took home both top prizes for best burger in the city.
The sold-out showdown in downtown’s Cesar Chavez Plaza attracted hundreds as chefs prepared thousands of patties and buns. Winners are feted with two accolades: Judges' Pick and People's Choice. And Pangaea, which won the burger battle in 2015 and 2016, is the first restaurant to win both awards in the same year since the festival’s inception in 2011.
“I mean. I think it’s official,” Pangaea executive chef Brett Stockdale said after taking both awards and winning for the third time.
What’s the secret to making the best burger in town? “Don’t tell him that,” Pangaea owner Rob Archie said, interrupting. “It’s passion. That’s all you need to know. It’s passion.”
“It's love, man,” Stockdale added. “You gotta make sure every burger is exactly how you want it every time.”
Empress Tavern nabbed second place after winning last year’s competition, and first-time entrant The Waterboy landed in third. Dawson’s Restaurant and South rounded out the people’s choice category.
“The best burgers focused on the meat, and the burgers that faltered generally had one extra, fussy element that marred the whole experience,” said Janelle Bitker, a staff writer at Eater.com and one of Thursday night’s judges.
She says she’s had the Pangaea burger many times. “But it was even better than I remembered at the battle: insanely juicy, simple and satisfying. It was the one burger that I immediately wanted to finish,” she said.
Other judges included Rick Minderman of Corti Brothers, chef Billy Ngo from Kru, and Jeremy Kossler, founder of the Denver Burger Battle.
The Sacramento Burger Battle was founded in 2011 by Rodney Blackwell, of @burgerjunkies fame on Instagram, and is a benefit for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.