May 23, 2012 - The queen was forced to abdicate her throne Saturday afternoon as a new king of burgers was crowned in downtown Oxford's Centennial Park.
Patrick Hingst (center), owner of ‘Wiches, was proclaimed winner of the ‘Best Burger in Oxford’ contest Saturday. Victoria Connolly (left), owner of Victoria’s Delights, took second place, while the 24th Street Sports Tavern, represented by cook Joseph Eiter (right), earned third place. For more photos from Oxford’s Backyards & Burgers event, please see pages 18 and 32 in the print edition. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
All hail Patrick Hingst, owner of 'Wiches, who now serves the "Best Burger in Oxford."
Hingst's rich and meaty HammerBurger was the undisputed winner of the Backyards & Burgers event (formerly known as the Hamburger Festival). 'Wiches' burger scored an impressive 354 out of a possible 370 points.
Points were awarded for the burger, bun, toppings and overall combination. Some of the judging factors included taste, appearance, freshness, uniqueness and price.
"It's great validation, but it's a surprise," Hingst said. "I didn't know if the public would go for my nontraditional take on the whole burger idea."
The HammerBurger consists of tender, smoked beef brisket topped with bacon, provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion and a delicious honey-apple mustard barbecue sauce on a homemade bun.
"We wanted to try to replicate a lot of the flavors of a burger without actually making a burger," Hingst explained. "We smoke our own brisket, so you get some of that charcoally-right-off-the-grill flavor with it.
"It's beef, so it's kind of in the ballpark to start with. We just built around that and tried to put together a bunch of flavors that worked."
Maria Martin, a representative from the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), which sponsored the event, noted the purpose of the contest was for each restaurant to "come up with a burger that was very reflective of who they are."
"As a result, we had quite a diverse group of entries from seven of our restaurants," she said.
When asked who came up with the idea for the HammerBurger, Hingst replied, "It was a team effort."
"We actually went through six different variations," he noted. "We kept tasting them, trying them and tweaking them. We worked with pulled pork a little bit, but decided that was too far off base. This is the one we finally settled on."
The HammerBurger is available in 5, 10 and 15-inch sizes and ranges in price from $4.69 to $10.99.
When asked if this award-winning creation will be a permanent addition to the 'Wiches menu, Hingst responded, "Since we won, I'm obligated to put it on (there) for the rest of the summer. If it keeps going well, I've got no problem giving the people what they want."
Earning second place in the Best Burger contest was last year's winner Victoria's Delights, owned by Victoria Connolly.
Her Portobello Mushroom Burger scored 352 points. The gourmet mushroom was topped with caramelized onions, Boursin cheese, roasted peppers, basil pesto and spring greens, all served on an Italian roll.
The fact that he and Connolly earned the top two spots by serving "the least traditional" burgers led Hingst to remark, "Glad to see Oxford's got such good taste."
Taking third place was the 24th Street Sports Tavern, owned by Viktor Paljusaj, with its tantalizing entry consisting of a one pound beef patty topped with American, Swiss and cheddar cheeses, shredded lettuce, grilled onions, jalapenos and Thousand Island Dressing, all served on a toasted bun.
It scored a very respectable 344 points.
This year's competition was judged by a panel of four unidentified individuals, selected by the DDA from amongst members of the public who applied for the job by writing and submitting personal essays. "We had a number of (essays) with a number of amusing explanations as to why people felt they should be our secret judges," Martin said.
The fifth judge was the general public, which accounted for 20 percent of the overall vote. Every time a customer ordered one of the contest burgers served at the seven participating downtown restaurants, they received a ballot and an opportunity to help make burger history.
"Essentially, the whole judging process was done by the public," Martin said. "The public has spoken."
"Come'on down and try the HammerBurger," Hingst said. "Thanks for voting for 'Wiches."
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.