Burger Battle returned to Eastern Market; these restaurants took home the top prizes
Sunday's Burger Battle in Eastern Market ended with champagne spraying from the stage after chef Max Hardy and his Detroit restaurant Coop Caribbean Fusion was announced as the grand prize winner.
There was much more to celebrate, too, as 11 chefs and restaurants braved the heat Sunday afternoon in Shed 5 to feed around 2,000 hungry burger lovers who waited in long lines for samples. This was the first Burger Battle since 2019, when Hazel Park's Kozy Lounge took home the glory.
The polished, neighborhood dive bar returned to defend their title with a thick burger topped with a lot of cheese and fresh, bright green jalapenos peppers and a sweet sauce. Kozy Lounge owners Michele and Robert Haskell and their team made it to the top five this year via attendee voting.
Along with Coop Detroit and Kozy Lounge, the top 5 vote-getters from ticketholders included a peanut butter burger will grilled onions, American cheese, honey and pickles from the Rolling Stoves in Farmington and a creative, savory offering from third place winner Naked Burger Detroit (which has locations in Clinton Township and Rochester Hills) with truffle slices on top of a double patty and a crispy cheese layer. Naked Burger also got the coveted "People's Choice" award.
Returning champs Frita Batidos came in second place and also won the award for "Best Presentation" for the small burger topped with a fried quail egg, cheese, shredded pork and an aromatic avocado and corn salsa. This Cuban-inspired restaurant has locations in Ann Arbor and Detroit, and won the Burger Battle in 2017 and '18.
Once narrowed down to five finalists by the attendees, a panel of judges gave scores based on presentation, execution, creativity and flavor that determined the winners.
The panel included style guru and Detroit News society columnist Chuck Bennett, Detroit Free Press food writer Susan Selasky, WDIV reporter Michelle Oliver, Frame restaurant's editorial director Mark Kurlyandchik and me, Detroit News restaurant critic and reporter Melody Baetens.
Chef Hardy's winning burger had a Caribbean kick and was served on a sesame seed bun with cheese, arugula, pineapple and a pink-in-the-middle patty.
He said the burger will be featured this week starting Tuesday at both his Detroit restaurants, Coop Detroit in the Detroit Shipping Company in Midtown and Jeds Detroit on Seven Mile just west of Dequindre.
Hardy said when he moved back to his hometown of Detroit after living in Miami and New York City he entered the Burger Battle with this same burger and fell just short, coming in second place.
"I was like, what the hell, I have to run it back one more time to kind of make sense of it," he said after his win. Hardy accepted the Burger Battle trophy and an oversized, novelty check for $1,000.
Event producer Scott Rutterbush also handed Hardy a bottle of chilled champagne, which the chef promptly shook up and popped, dousing a calm Rutterbush. Given the temperatures Sunday afternoon and the successful turnout of the event, he didn't seem to mind.
Here's where to find food from the top five:
Coop Caribbean Fusion: Stall inside the Detroit Shipping Company food hall. 474 Peterboro, Detroit. (313) 327-6959. coopdetroit.com.
Frita Batidos: Two sit-down Cuban-inspired restaurants and a food trailer. 66 W. Columbia, Detroit. (313) 725-4100. fritabatidos.com/detroit. 117 W. Washington, Ann Arbor. (734) 761-2882. fritabatidos.com.
Naked Burger: Gourmet burgers and full bar. 6870 N. Rochester, Rochester. (248) 759-4858. 43203 Garfield, Clinton Township. (586) 649-7007. nakedburgerdetroit.com.
Kozy Lounge: Longstanding neighborhood bar. 150 E. 10 Mile, Hazel Park. (248) 547-5017. facebook.com/kozylounge
The Rolling Stoves: Sit-down restaurant and food truck, known for their PB & B Burger. 20780 Farmington, Farmington. (248) 516-3503. therollingstoves.com.