The base of my food pyramid is inclusive of several things, including but not limited to: french fries, Texas peaches, roasted corn, mexican beer and a great burger. It was no surprise then that, when my friend Ashlea called to see if I wanted to go with her to CultureMap’s 1st Annual Backyard Burger Grill Off, my response was somewhere in the neighborhood of “not yes, but hell yes! Sign me up!”
The Backyard Burger Grill Off was held at Discovery Green and was designed to find Houston’s best burger, something I know a thing or two about. For $40, you got all-you-could-eat sliders from some of Houston’s best restaurants, all the necessary accoutrements, and unlimited as-much-as-y0u-can-stomach beer from some of Houston’s best breweries. Discovery Green was bustling, mostly with parents trying to get their children to run like the wind so they wouldn’t be up all hours of the night, but was also filled with a hip and hungry Houston crowd ready to decide the proprietor of our fair city’s best burger.
My friend Meghann went with me, and we met Ashlea and a bunch of her friends, and I bumped into a few other people I know so the conversation was, as always, smart and fun.
Our first stop was the Southern Star Brewery table where we kicked things off with a big (plastic) glass of Bombshell Blonde. Not only do I love the awesome blue label complete with blonde bombshell on it, I actually really love the beer. It’s a not-hoppy American Blonde Ale that is perfect for a hot Houston day. We paired this with the Tasting Room’s Corn Maque Choux (side note: the announcer guy had no idea how to pronounce this when he had to announce it had won Best Side.) and their slider that had pork on top of the burger. As much as I love The Tasting Room, I was disappointed with their slider; it was pretty bland and, if a burger can even be this, kind of meely. The corn maque choux was good, but wasn’t life-changing by any means.
Our next stop was at the Saint Arnold Brewery table for some Santo. I am nothing if not a die-hard Saint Arnold fan, so when I saw they were serving Santo, I made a bee-line. When I asked if they had any limes to squeeze in it, the guy looked like I’d just told him I was going to kill his family. His face got all squnched-up and he promptly said “we don’t serve fruit with our beers”; to which I said “well, I beg to differ with you because I was at the Santo launch party at Saint Arnold last fall and you most certainly were serving limes with Santo.” We argued about that for about two minutes when he pulled out his employee badge AND debit card, and bet me it was not Saint Arnold who was serving limes with Santo. I took that challenge because I am a certifiable picture whore and still had photos from that night — last November — on my phone. I showed him the picture of me holding a glass of Santo where you can (very) faintly see a lime. He said “well, maybe it was us”, but when I showed him the pictures of that night, I had one with his girlfriend, with whom I am also Facebook friends, as well as a photo of the guy who went with me with her. We had all met and hung out that night, so it was random and supported my theory that everyone in Houston is separated not by six, but by about 2.35. But I digress.
The other burgers we had were from J. Black’s (which was great); Roots Bistro (meh); BRIO (decent); Vic & Anthony’s (really good); and The Grove (who won my “pink marble” for best slider of the night). As far as the beer was concerned, I liked the Weisse Verse from No Label; the Oktoberfest from Saint Arnold; but I especially loved the Leprechaun Dry Cider! As adventurous an eater as I am, I have never tried a hard cider before last night and I absolutely loved it! It was like a cross between a beer and champagne and, really, what could be better than that?! As I always say, the only pain is champagne and combined with beer makes it just that. much. better.
As a side note, Whole Foods was serving their homemade potato chips (Vanilla Pepper! Maple Pepper! BBQ!) that I didn’t even know they made, and grilled ancho-chile pineapple. Deliciousness!
The winners of the best burger turned out to be a tie between J. Black and The Grove, although if I’d have known that they were going to close the voting at 7:30, I’m pretty sure I would have been the deciding voter. Swing voters, ftw!
The *only* downfall of the event was that they didn’t have any water — not even to buy. In fact, they had nothing at all to drink except beer. I get that it was a beer-sponsored thing, but it was about 100 degrees with the humidity and I would have paid $1,000 for a bottle of water. I must have looked really desperate at The Counter‘s table because they actually gave me one of their bottles from their own stash. Sweet y’all, so sweet.
All in all, the 1st Annual Backyard Burger Grill Off was a super fun event. Being there with such awesome friends in a place I don’t normally go and finally being able to be outside made everything all right.
The post script of this story is that we went to The Railyard afterward (and by “afterward” I mean 8:30 since the CultureMap shindig ended at 8. 8!) The LSU/Auburn game was on and I was swilling my favorite mexican beers, so I was happy. A little bit later, in came a group of people more senior than us who were carrying a blow up doll. It is certainly not something you see every day and, let’s just say that Meghann and I developed a bit of an affinity for this young, plastic man. He was handsome with big blue yes, trim, polite, quiet, although a bit shoddily dressed. Ahem. It was actually the best date I’ve had in a long, long time.