Who makes the best burger in the City of Brotherly Love?
By Bill Gelman
The question will likely trigger a several-hour debate, and there is a strong chance everyone will have a different answer.
How about making a list of every well-known burger joint around and scheduling a month-long tour to settle it?
There is a much easier way to resolve this: Get all the contenders in one place.
Welcome to Burger Brawl 2017 — the annual burger-eating bash featuring 60-plus contenders from around the city, including several South Philly spots. The event takes place Sunday, May 21 from 3 to 6 p.m. at Xfinity Live!, 1100 Pattison Ave. (rain or shine).
While food, and there will be plenty of it, is the focal point, the concept began as a neighborhood fundraiser for the William H. Meredith School, 725 S. Fifth St. Founders Rob and Maggie Wasserman, who had a son, Jonah, in kindergarten at the time, created it five years ago after the school principal asked parents to get involved. Maggie said to her husband “we need to do some type of event,” with the goal of funding a new computer lab at the school.
Being in the restaurant business as the owners of Rouge on Rittenhouse Square, the couple reached out to their friends in the restaurant industry, and put together the inaugural Burger Brawl on the school grounds — the first sponsored event ever held on the school grounds. Some 15 restaurants and more than 300 people attended.
The burger concept came about after the restaurant was included in a 2006 GQ article “20 Hamburgers You Must Eat Before You Die.”
The event was such a huge success it got moved to the Fleisher Art Memorial, 719 Catharine St., the second year. Like their family, which now includes four children, Burger Brawl outgrew the site, with Xfinity Live! becoming its new home three years ago. Call the more than 3,000 people and 60-plus restaurants the mustard and ketchup of this success story. Burger Brawl still serves as a fundraiser for Philly schools, funding technology packages. It also includes a partnership with The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia to support Superintendent Dr. William R. Hite Jr.’s initiative, The Right Books campaign — making sure students have the right reading resources.
Come Sunday, it will be all about the food and cocktails. Besides a bare-knuckle-burger showdown, attendees and judges will pass judgment on cocktails, tacos and wings. The field will include a strong South Philly representation from the likes of Good King Tavern, 614 S. Seventh St., Percy Street BBQ, 900 South St., Lo Spiedo, 4503 S. Broad St., The Twisted Tail, 509 S. Second St., Taproom on 19th, 2400 S. 19th St., Sabrina’s Cafe, 910 Christian St., New Wave Cafe, 784 S. Third St., 1100 Social, 1100 Pattison Ave., and Moonshine Philly, 1825 E. Moyamensing Ave.
The winners will be determined by a panel of judges led by WIP’s resident foodie and Burger Brawl ambassador Glen Macnow. Prizes will be awarded for the People’s Choice winner in each category — every attendee’s vote counts.
Lucky’s Last Chance, 848 S. Second St. and Manayunk, returns as the defending People’s champ for their peanut butter and bacon burger offering.
Matt Cord, Marilyn Russell, Steve Morrison, Rahel Solomon and Mike Jerrick will be among the judges.
General admission tickets are $45 and include one vote for best burger and a complimentary beverage. The VIP passes are $100 and come with early entry (2 p.m.), access to the VIP lounge, opportunities to meet the celebrity judges and one vote. General admission tickets are $55 at the door. Children 10 and under are free. Parking is free, too.
No matter who wins this weekend, Rob and Maggie continue to be amazed by the growth of their schoolyard event.
“It has just been a wonderful event for the community, especially for such a good cause,” Rob said.
For more information, visit phillyburgerbrawl.com.