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Detroit — Unlike most weekend crowds who come to Eastern Market for fruits, vegetables and even flowers, it was a meat-minded group that snaked its way from Alfred to Russell to Shed 5 on Sunday for Burger Battle Detroit 2018. 

At stake was a trophy and bragging rights, a win that can be used for marketing purposes. Can 1,400 southeast Michiganians be wrong?

The winning burger this year was Frita Batidos, which was the 2017 winner as well, the first back-to-back winner in the competition’s brief history.

Coming in a close second, just one point short, was Taystee’s, which won the competition in 2016. Third place was Townhouse.

Eve Aranoff-Fernandez, owner of Frita Batidos, said the honor holds tremendous meaning, since it was voted on by people who live locally.

Frita Baridos put forth a medium-rare burger on brioche, with sweet chili mayo, tropical slaw, thick-cut bacon, melted muenster cheese and garlic cilantro fries. It took “30 to 40” permutations to get it just so, Aranoff-Fernandez said, a process during which she jokes she gained 10 pounds.

“We tried to do layers of flavor,” she said.

Just short of 20 Detroit restaurants competed for the title this year, said Scott Rutterbush, whose company, Dine Drink Detroit, put on the event in partnership with Fairway Packing Co.

Fairway provided about 250 pounds of beef to each group, blended and prepared to specifications, said Gino Baratta, who works in sales and marketing for the company.

Part of Rutterbush’s interest in throwing a burger battle is balancing a Detroit event scene that he believes can be drink-centric. Another part of it is the business value such a competition creates.

“Everyone thinks they have the best burger,” Rutterbush said.

The burgers were served in tents outside of Shed 5. The outdoor cooking adding to the meat-smoked air on Russell, along with the barbecuing going on at Bert’s Market Place across the street. Inside, there was Faygo — tiny shots of Arctic Sun served up free of charge — and vendors who sold drinks and doughnuts. On the other side of the doors, opposite the food, there were two games of cornhole and two games of fowling, which combines elements of football and bowling. 

The top five burgers, as judged by the paying customer, were Townhouse (downtown), Taystee’s Burgers (Dearborn), Henry Ford Village (a Dearborn retirement community whose kitchen is not open to the public), Frita Batidos of Ann Arbor and American Burger Bar in Greektown Casino-Hotel. 

Sylvester Asberry decided about five years ago to go out on days like this. On Sunday, he and his wife, Felicita, his sons, Sylvester II, 3, and Sebastian, 1, and his father, Sylvester, were among the first in line when VIP buyers were allowed in at noon.

An hour and several burgers later, his family was fowling. A time later, he recalled what made him see Detroit through new eyes years ago.

He was out of town and mentioned being from Detroit when someone asked: What do you all do for fun in Detroit?

He didn’t have anything to say. He vowed that next time that question came up, he’d have an answer. And the family has been exploring ever since. Family-themed events and events for the parents only. Free resources and those that cost money. In their free time, the family would get busy.

“There’s so many hidden gems in Detroit,” Asberry, 35, said.

Among the gems he found at Burger Battle were entries from Ann Arbor-based Frita Batidos and Henry Ford Village.

Manoela Amagucci, 6, was not raised in the American burger culture, having moved to southeast Michigan a year ago from Sao Paulo, Brazil, with her father for his engineering job with Lear. So her father had to offer some pointers on how she could finagle the first bite of the FireKeepers Casino’s Tocino burger into her mouth. 

It was a tall task, getting the strip-ribeye blend, the marinated pork loin and the carrots all into one bite. Dad gave pointers.

“I was teaching her to pressure the burger to the level where it fit in her mouth,”  Victor Amagucci said. “She is learning how to eat hamburgers. The quality of the burger here is top-level, right?”
 

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