Elkhart County Burger Wars is winding down.
Voting ends at noon Monday, June 9, in this little burger contest.
Two burgers have been in the finals for the past week. And customers have been going out of their way to try them.
"Everybody wants to come eat both burgers,“ said Jason Curtis, owner of Five Star Dive Bar, 561 E. Jackson Blvd., Elkhart. And Cam Snyder, owner of Flippin’ Cow, said, ”It’s been amazing.“
In Elkhart County, the Stella Moo burger at Flippin’ Cow is in the finals against the Smokehouse Burger at Five Star Dive Bar for the championship. Both restaurants are in Elkhart.
What are these burgers?
Stella Moo is, according to the menu, ”an awesome double steak burger topped with smoked brisket, jalapeno bacon, onion straws, pepper jack cheese and an alehouse BBQ sauce on a toasted wheat brioche bun.“ It’s $9.50 and an extra $1.99 for tater tots, Courtney chips or fries.
The Smokehouse burger at Five Star ”comes topped with melted smoked gouda cheese, colby jack cheese and bacon along with our very own house-made smokey creamy BBQ sauce.“ It’s $7.99 plus $1.99 for fries or $3.49 for mojos or salad.
There were eight burgers at the beginning. I had hoped to try them all.
But I didn’t have enough time - or Lipitor - to keep up with the voting.
Eight contenders went to four and then to two.
Voting in the Elkhart County Burgers Wars continues through noon Monday, June 9. To vote, go to www.amishcountry.org/burgerwars
. Voting in the bracket pitting burgers against those from other counties will start Friday, June 13.
I’ve had the New England Cheeseburger from South Side Soda Shop. The Pesto Burger at Constant Spring is one of my go-to burgers. And I’ve eaten a lot of Heinnie’s cheeseburgers in the last 20 years.
All of them fell in the voting. I’m still a little shocked by that, given Heinnie’s long history and the Spring and Soda Shop’s fanbases.
The Big Irish at McCarthy’s was a massive burger piled high with ingredients. I’ve never seen a burger with so much on it. But it didn’t survive in the voting.
The Grilled Cheese & Burger at Miles Lab is another massive sandwich. But two grilled cheese sandwiches as buns couldn’t overcome the others.
I haven’t had a Mushroom & Swiss Burger from Sports Time Family Pub & Grill, but it too fell in the voting.
That left the burgers from Five Star and Flippin’ Cow.
And it’s been helping business a lot.
In April, Five Star sold 43 Smokehouse burgers, Curtis said.
In May, it sold more than 200.
From Monday to Thursday last week, it sold more than 200.
”People are very involved in this,“ he said.
He’s seen new faces in the bar. People wanted to try the burger. And I did too.
It’s a great burger. It really is. I wanted a nap after finishing one and an order of mojos.
Personal trainer Lori Harris pointed out that I didn’t have to eat the whole thing.
She’s technically right. But I did.
The Stella Moo triggered a bit of nostalgia for me. The alehouse barbecue sauce reminded me of my earliest food memory: the taste of a barbecue sauce from the Minute Man hamburger chain in the 1970s. In a southern Arkansas town, I had that sauce and can still remember what it tastes like.
Setting that aside, this is a stellar burger. The blend of meat, sauce and onions on the tip, with great beef and bun, make it a glorious thing to hold and consume.
Bill Beck, who once had a burger named for him at Snyder’s other restaurant Chubby Trout, also tried both and pronounced, ”The Smokehouse is a great runner-up.“
With or without my mouth full, I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Snyder said before Burger Wars started, they were selling 25 to 30 Stella Moos a week, Snyder said.
The last week of May, the place sold 187. Last week, he’s sure they sold even more but didn’t yet have numbers.
The popularity of the contest, helped by the promotion by the Northern Indiana Tourism Development Commission and the Elkhart County Convention and Visitors Bureau, has driven sales. That always makes a restaurant owner happy. And the tourism agencies partnered with us at The Elkhart Truth/Flavor 574 to help get the word out. And it spread beyond us. Curtis was on WRBR talking about his burger and Snyder was on Truth Radio 1340 talking about his.
Anytime we’re talking about burgers, we’re debating them and voting for them, it’s a good thing.
"We’ve had a good run with it whether we win or not,” Snyder said.
In this contest, at least for the two finalists, there weren’t losers.
Whomever wins today will go on to compete against top burgers from Elkhart, St. Joseph, LaGrange, LaPorte, Porter, Marshall and Kosciusko counties. There are seven counties, so could both from Elkhart County advance? I have no idea, but it’d be cool if that happend.
In St. Joseph County, voters must decide between The Becky Burger at The View Tavern in South Bend or the King Burger at Hensell’s Oaken Bucket in South Bend for the best burger.
This competition is far from over.
I’m hungry. Let’s eat.
Marshall V. King is managing editor and food columnist for The Elkhart Truth. You can reach him at 574-296-5805, firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.