When I found a flyer for the Beer House's inaugural "Dick Wars" hamburger contest in my mailbox at work a few weeks back, I assumed the aforementioned Dicks were a couple of Richards out to prove who was the better cook. Nope.
The Beer House—a juke joint out in the middle of mall-area suburbia—is home-away-from-home for a bunch of hard-working, salt-of-the-earth folks who either hang out on a bar stool inside the large house-turned-pub or out in the huge back yard complete with a giant volleyball pit. The Beer House is also, apparently, a place where a lot of smack-talk happens, especially where barbecue skills are concerned. Dick isn't a Beer house regular's name; it's a term of endearment.
Patron Laura Hasenauer got tired of listening to the men boast about how their "meat is the best and no other man's meat is better" and decided they should put up or shut up. So she organized the inaugural Dick Wars, wherein the bragging boys could put their burgers up against one another and see who really does have the best meat.
Eight contestants dragged grills and cooking tools to the Beer House's back yard and cooked up their best burgers. The attending crowd narrowed it down to their favorite three and BW intern Stephen Foster and I joined Beer House patrons Craig Reisch and Jess C. Brauner as judges to determine which one of the three would take first place.
Tim Sutton was up next with the Flamingo Burger: an organic burger, topped with a pale creamy aioli—with a bit of heat—made with a tomato confit and herbs from his own garden, served on a soft potato bun.
Last, but not least, came Tommy "Boston" Pendleton—"They call me Boston because there's about a dozen Tommys around here," he said in an accent rich with the East Coast and a voice that sounds like he eats gravel as a snack. On red-and-white checkered napkins, Boston set out Bada Bing Bada Burgers the size of his cowboy hat, made with a blend of buffalo and pork, topped with smoked provolone and a marinara that included roasted eggplant, all served on ciabatta. A lovely dry red wine accompanied the burgs.
"Mange," Boston said as we dug in.
Every Dick who participated in the Wars received a token award and, understanding what a tough task we judges had been presented with, the crowd roared when they learned that Tim Sutton's Flamingo Burger took top honors.
My favorite was the rich Bada Burger—the smoky provolone was a brilliant touch—but I'd order any one of those burgers if I saw them on a restaurant's menu.
The event was deemed a success and Dick Wars II will happen. Hausenaur polled the crowd, and they voted for the Dicks to bring on the ribs next year. I already have my seat at the judges' table reserved.