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Sacramento Burger Battle Wows the Crowds (and our stomachs!)

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Dawson's, winner of the Chef's Choice award, created a burger with Sunfed beef, house cured bacon, Track 7 amber ale bbq sauce, goat cheddar, and crispy onions on a brioche bun

The people walking outside of Cesar Chavez Park and unable to get in to the sold-out Sacramento Burger Battle on Thursday must have been jealous, because, oh wow, did it smell amazing! The scent of flame-cooked burgers wafting in the smoky haze of grilled goodness filled the air as over 1000 people roamed the park sampling burgers all-you-can-eat-style.

Fifteen restaurants including Ten22, Iron Grill, Krush Burger, Ettore’s, Mikuni, Mother, Cafe Bernado, and The Porch participated in the 3rd annual battle that seems to be gaining more momentum and excitement each year.

And why wouldn’t it? Not only has the charity event raised over $60,000 for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America in 3 years, but it also showcases burgers with creative ingredients such as bacon jam, herb potatoes, goat cheddar cheese, heirloom tomatoes, peaches, charred grape relish, pork belly, tuna, mac & cheese, and even peanut butter and jelly (!).

The winning combination went to the Hyatt’s Dawson’s who won the Chef’s Choice award and De Vere’s Irish Pub who won the People’s Choice award. Krush Burger and The Chef’s Table won 2nd and 3rd for Chef’s Choice, and Broderick and The Chef’s Table for People’s Choice.

“[I’m] shocked and awed,” Dawson’s Chef de Cuisine, Michael Grande, said in response to winning. “Hotels get a bad wrap for the food they make, but that’s one of the things we do…we put the food at the forefront and produce the best that we can. It’s an honor win this.”

Neil Little, a bartender at De Vere’s, said the competition is a chance to sample and discover a lot of local restaurants in one place. And from a competing restaurant’s perspective, it’s also chance to learn from one another and improve what they do as restaurants in Sacramento.

“We can all piggy back off each other and get better ideas for food and ingredients and recipes, which improves all the restaurants around us. It’s piggy backing off innovation,” Little said.

And let’s not forget the charity the event supports. It’s something personal for the founder of the event, Rodney Blackwell, whose daughter has Crohn’s. Since he can’t cure the disease himself, he said, he decided to raise money to help an organization that is trying.

“We donate 100% of the proceeds to the charity,” said Blackwell. “I think the restaurants really get behind it because of that, and the community does as well.”

In addition to too many burgers to eat, the Burger Battle also had unlimited desserts, beer, wine, and other drinks. An impressive show by James Cavern and the Council only added to the great atmosphere. People were excited to be there and some commented that it shows how the downtown vibe is growing.

By the looks of it, this is an event that will be coming back year after year. And my prediction is the burgers will only get better.

Ettore’s, winner of last year’s Burger Battle, burger had Niman Ranch beef, heirloom tomato, pickled onions, sauteed mushrooms, deep fried gruyere cheese, and cilantro lime avocado on a herb bun
Iron Grill’s “Southern Peach Burger” had peaches, bourbon grilled onions, pork belly, Niman Ranch beef, smoked mozzarella, arugula, and basil thousand island
Brodericks’ “Johnny Cash” burger had smoked pepper Niman Ranch beef, cheddar, applewood bacon, pickled peppers, friend onions, and bbq sauce
De Vere’s, who won the People’s Choice award, created a burger that had bacon jam, blue cheese, crispy onion strings, smoked double ground chuck patty, and arugula on a pretzel bun
Mikuni’s burger wasn’t beef, but a Albacore tuna and avocado patty, with pickled slaw, and wasabi aioli on a Hawaiian King roll.
Working hard behind the scenes
Working hard behind the scenes



Restaurants, such as Mother, were excited to share their creations with guests.




James Cavern & The Council put on a good show
James Cavern & The Council put on a good show
Blackbird’s “The Classic Hampkin” had Sunfed Farms beef, House-smoked bacon, white cheddar, and an “awesome sauce”
The Porch’s burger had bacon and pepperack mac & cheese, jalapeno aioli, and pepper jack cheese, shredded romaine, and roma tomatoes on a jalapeno bacon bun
Bacon mac & cheese “patties” cooking away
Judges take notes
Judges take notes
Working into the night
Working (and eating) into the night


Unable to contain their excitement, the Dawson’s team proudly shows off their Chef’s Choice award while Rodney Blackwell presents

Photos by Bethany Harris

Sacramento Burger Battle Wows the Crowds (and our stomachs!) via @sacramentopress

About the author

Bethany Harris

Bethany Harris

Bethany joined Sacramento Press in 2013 and enjoys writing articles that uncover the happenings of the city and the people behind the stories who make them so worth telling. A native of Sacramento, she also loves photography, running, and discovering new places and new things to do--both in the city and throughout California.

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