Burger Challenge

Houston restaurants compete to blend a better burger in national challenge

H-Town eateries compete to blend a better burger in national contest

Bernie's Burger Bus James Beard blended burger
The James Beard blended burger at Bernie's Burger Bus. Photo by Kimberly Park
Harold's James Beard blended burger
Blended burger in a bowl at Harold's. Courtesy photo
Craft Burger truck James Beard blended burger
Craft Burger Truck's Greek burger. Courtesy photo
Bernie's Burger Bus James Beard blended burger
Harold's James Beard blended burger
Craft Burger truck James Beard blended burger

Two Houston restaurants and one food truck are participating in a national burger competition put on by the James Beard Foundation. The challenge: fortify the burger with delicious, nutritious mushrooms.

The competition began May 30 and continues through July 31. Local participants include Bernie's Burger Bus, Harold's Restaurant, and the Craft Burger food truck.

Mushrooms are a popular meat alternative in veggie burgers, and they make sense as an additive because they add moisture and a "meaty" flavor. The Houston restaurants are among more than 100 participants serving versions of a blended burger, i.e., one that has at least 25 percent fresh mushrooms mixed into the burger patty.

At Bernie's Burger Bus, chef-owner Justin Turner adds 30-percent local Kitchen Pride crimini mushrooms to his signature ground blend of brisket and chuck combined. The burger ($10.50) is topped with goat cheese, oven dried tomatoes, baby arugula, crispy shoestring potatoes, and a charred green onion aioli. 

Craft Burger's Greek burger ($12) uses lamb instead of beef as well as roasted oyster mushrooms. Created by chef-owner Shannen Tune, the burger is topped with a marinated salad and roasted garlic tzatziki and served on a toasted challah bun.

In the Heights, Harold's chef Antoine Ware's blended burger in a bowl ($15) features mushrooms from Indian Creek Farms and beef from 44 Farms that's topped with cheddar cheese, an herb salad, and a fried egg. It's available at lunch, dinner, and brunch.

Diners can vote once a day for their favorite burgers by visiting Blended Burger Project. The five chefs with the most votes will have the opportunity to prepare their blended burger at the James Beard House as part of the official welcome reception for the foundation's annual food conference (October 16-18).

If eating the burgers or voting for them is not enough, diners can also memorize a new hashtag — #BlendedBurgerProject — and toss that around on their social media outlets, because everyone knows it's not real if it isn't on social media.