Slideshow: Almost Every Burger From The 2012 Philadelphia Burger Brawl

The Aristocrat from London Grill
The Aristocrat from London Grill
London Grill is a restaurant in the Fairmount section of the city that I never really thought of as a burger destination. But their burger—loosely packed, coarse ground Lancaster County beef fresh off the grill, topped simply with caramelized onions and Boursin cheese on a toasted English muffin, and last year's People's Choice winner—was the first I tried, and it set the bar high for the rest of the day.

London Grill: 2301 Fairmount Avenue, Philadelphia PA 19130 (map); 215-523-8273; londongrill.com

Mini Rouge Burger from Rouge
Mini Rouge Burger from Rouge
Ten years ago, Rouge (also the main sponsor of this event) was one of the few places in Philadelphia where you could find a two-inch thick, medium rare burger made with fresh, quality beef on a fancy roll, a style now ubiquitous in Philly and pretty much everywhere. The mini version served on the first of the day's many "artisan slider rolls" was cooked to a pink medium, tasty, and simple with Gruyère and caramelized onions.

Rouge: 205 South 18th Street, Philadelphia PA 19103 (map); 215-732-6622; rouge98.com

Bacon Burger from 500 Degrees
Bacon Burger from 500 Degrees
500 Degrees—basically the fast food version of Rouge, run by the same owners—was definitely my kind of burger, with a perfect meat/topping/bread ratio. Its patty was more rustic than the Rouge version, well seasoned, and topped with thick-cut bacon and a barbecue-ish sauce on a lightly toasted, awesomely soft slider-style squishy brioche bun.

500 Degrees: 1504 Sansom Street, Philadelphia PA 19102 (map); 215-568-5000; 500degrees.com

Loco Burger from Loco Pez
Loco Burger from Loco Pez
Another shot of the awesome Loco Pez burger, topped with Monterey Jack, pickles, and Russian dressing-esque "loco sauce," served on a toasted squishy sesame bun that was a welcome break from the brioche and "artisanal slider roll" tsunami.

Loco Pez: 2401 E Norris St, Philadelphia PA 19125 (map); 267-886-8061; locopez.com

Mini Burger from 10 Arts
Mini Burger from 10 Arts
Bright, classic toppings came on this mini burger from Eric Ripert's 10 Arts. It was served on the same "artisan slider roll" I saw a lot of, cooked medium with a slightly finer grind than I prefer, but it had a bigger patty than others resulting in a great meat to bread ratio. Topped with sharp cheddar, super thin pickle chips, shredded iceberg, tomato, ketchup, and mayo, it was totally successful at bringing fast food flavors to an elegantly constructed burger.

10 Arts by Eric Ripert: 10 Avenue of the Arts, Philadelphia PA 19102 (map); 215-978-4545; 10arts.com

Pickled Green Tomato Burger from Jennifer Carroll
Pickled Green Tomato Burger from Jennifer Carroll
This pretty, creative take on a "Philadelphiafied" burger from Top Chef contestant Jen Carroll came with Provolone cheese, pickled green tomatoes, and pepperoncini on a wheat "artisan slider bun." It was interesting, but the pepperoncini sort of overwhelmed the tiny burger. A relish might make more sense, but probably wouldn't look as cool.

Jennifer Carroll: twitter.com/chefjencarroll

Barbuzzo Burger from Barbuzzo
Barbuzzo Burger from Barbuzzo
Overall this burger was one of the prettiest of the day. The nice, fat mini burger came on the same "artisan slider roll" that Rouge and 10 Arts were using, Barbuzzo's being toasted perfectly. It came topped with caciocavallo cheese, balsamic onions, and smoked tomato tapenade—the sort of seeming simple yet complex flavors that Barbuzzo is famous for. Unfortunately, my burger was hammered, as in "well done and then some," but that may have been due to their line being three times as long as anyone else's.

Barbuzzo: 110 South 13th Street, Philadelphia PA 19107 (map); 215-546-9300; barbuzzo.com

Blue Cheese Stuffed Burger from Good Dog
Blue Cheese Stuffed Burger from Good Dog
At one point crowned by Philadelphia Inquirer writer Craig Laban as the best burger in Philadelphia, Good Dog's thick, roquefort-stuffed burger served cut into quarters was sort of lukewarm and dry from sitting out too long. I'd rather just eat it at the bar with an ice cold beer, which I'm sure I will do very soon. I don't know if it's still "the best," but it's definitely a consistent Philadelphia classic.

Good Dog Bar: 224 South 15th Street, Philadelphia PA 19102 (map); 215-985-9600; gooddogbar.com

Sante Fe Burger from Bobby's Burger Palace
Sante Fe Burger from Bobby's Burger Palace
I literally started laughing when I bit into this. Dry meat on an untoasted roll topped with jalapeños from a jar, blue corn chips, and salty cheese sauce, this tasted like something that would come from a 7-11, and not in a good way.

I have no idea how or why this was voted "People's Choice," but several people raved about it to me during the event. Baffling. I'm not hating on Bobby Flay or chain restaurants here —I think he kills it on Iron Chef America and I actually kind of like the Cheesecake Factory—but this thing was just awful.

Bobby's Burger Palace: 3925 Walnut Street, Philadelphia PA 19104 (map); 215-387-0378; bobbysburgerpalace.com

Crispy Pancetta Slider from North 3rd
Crispy Pancetta Slider from North 3rd
Another winner in the "real burger" category came from North 3rd: a hand formed patty topped with pancetta, onion confit, blue cheese, and a pickle on an honest to God White Castle-style slider bun. Yes.

North 3rd: 801 North 3rd Street, Philadelphia PA 19123 (map); 215-413-3666; norththird.com

Crispy Pancetta Slider from North 3rd
Crispy Pancetta Slider from North 3rd
More messy goodness from North 3rd. Note the squishy, lightly toasted bun and medium rare meat that's not tightly packed into oblivion.

North 3rd: 801 North 3rd Street, Philadelphia PA 19123 (map); 215-413-3666; norththird.com

Signature Cheeseburger from the Capital Grille
Signature Cheeseburger from the Capital Grille
I didn't think much of this sirloin/bacon blended cheeseburger, but the judges must have gotten something different than the dried out meatball pictured here, because they crowned it the best in Philadelphia. The homemade chips and cucumber lemonade were an awesome touch, though.

The Capitol Grill: 1338 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia PA 19107 (map); 215-545-9589; thecapitalgrille.com

Patty Melt from Square Peg
Patty Melt from Square Peg
Square Peg is the latest restaurant from Matt Levin, formerly of Adsum and the infamous Tastykake Sliders. It may not technically be a patty melt (the cheese wasn't melted), but it was a definite winner in the creativity department, as in creativity that actually works and tastes good. The medium to medium rare-ish ground-brisket burger was topped with red onions, cheddar, and a really delicious apple/dill/longhot mayo, served on white toast. Pretty sure I finished this one.

Square Peg: 929 Walnut Street, Philadelphia PA 19107 (map); 215-413-3600; squarepegrestaurant.com

Bahncam Balls from Ela
Bahncam Balls from Ela
From Ela came these Vietnamese-inspired burger balls from Jason Cichonski—former chef at Lacroix—who was one of the few not using his grill, but instead deep frying these rice-dough covered meatballs while smoking a giant cigar. Amazing.

Ela: 627 South 3rd Street, Philadelphia PA 19147 (map); 267-687-8512; elaphilly.com

Bahncam Balls from Ela
Bahncam Balls from Ela
Cross section of the bahncam balls—almost hot dog-like. They were vaguely Asian tasting and great dipped into the smoked pickle mayo. It's not really a burger, but who cares?

Ela: 627 South 3rd Street, Philadelphia PA 19147 (map); 267-687-8512; elaphilly.com

Foie Burger from Misconduct Tavern
Foie Burger from Misconduct Tavern
The difference between the last burger and this one from Misconduct Tavern is a perfect example of how a little bit of artfulness and execution can be the difference between amazing decadence or just plain overkill.

The biggest surprise and my overall favorite of the day, most people think of Misconduct as "that sports bar with the nautical theme" but chef Nick Mezzina is puttting out some awesome food like the house made hot dogs I wrote about a while back. This burger was just as good and maybe even better.

Misconduct Tavern: 1511 Locust Street, Philadelphia PA 19102 (map); 215-732-5797; misconduct-tavern.com

Foie Burger from Misconduct Tavern
Foie Burger from Misconduct Tavern
It's not like foie burgers are anything new, but just look at this thing: super rare, loose packed, coarsely ground beef, and caramelized onions, topped with a perfectly cooked slab of foie almost as big as the burger and a thick piece of bacon, crowned with a quail egg that oozed yolk when I cut it in half. Delicious. Go there now.

Misconduct Tavern: 1511 Locust Street, Philadelphia PA 19102 (map); 215-732-5797; misconduct-tavern.com