Battle of the Burgers: 11 Burgers Paired with Craft Beers
Local restaurants bring on the beef (and the beets too!) at the tastiest, juiciest bout between two buns
There are several key components that make up a luscious burger. First, there’s the bun: two pillows of tender or toasted bread (waffles work too), substantial enough to hold the juicy contents layered between but not so bready as to steal the glory of those contents. Then the star of the show: the meat—or, in one case, the beets—forming a succulent, glimmering patty grilled to a precise medium-rare and quite literally dripping with flavor. Toppings vary from classic—lettuce, tomato, mustard, mayo, ketchup, thank you—to whatever you darn well please: crunchy pickles, onions (be they raw, caramelized or in the form of straws), bacon, fiery peppers, sunny-side-up egg, cole slaw or avocado. And oh the cheeses: pepper jack and pimento, goat or gruyere, a cheddar better than you’ve ever had. Whether neatly constructed or the messiest thing you’ve ever devoured, when you bite into a good burger, you just know it. Here are 11 burgers worth a bite at our inaugural Battle of the Burgers event on April 28, each paired with a local brew.
Which is the best burger?
You be the judge.
Join us for a battle of epic proportions (and slider-sized portions) at Coastal Virginia Magazine’s inaugural Battle of the Burgers, held April 28 from noon–5 p.m. at the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach. Taste slider-sized versions of the burgers featured here (plus a signature burger by the Culinary Institute of Virginia specially crafted for the event), then decide which burger deserves to be crowned the Best Burger in Coastal Virginia. Pair your patties with refreshing pours of Virginia craft beer and enjoy live entertainment for an afternoon of burgers and brews. Visit CoVaBurgerBattle.com to purchase tickets.
We've included some of our favorite Virginia beers, each paired with a local burger. Each featured beer includes a few tasting notes, the beer's ABV% (Alcohol by volume %) and IBU (International Bitterness Units). The beers featured will be available for purchase at the Battle of the Burgers.
Photo by Jim Pile
Bay Local Slider
Known for their big portions, delicious food and specializing in fun, Bay Local serves fresh, coastal Southern seafood in style. Their commitment to the farm is just as strong as to the sea, especially apparent in their signature slider—2 ounces of custom blended Wagyu beef formed into a patty, grilled then topped with house-made bacon jam and their dreamy pimento cheese. Served on a buttered and toasted brioche bun, it’s sure to make you smile and possibly want another. 972 Laskin Rd., Virginia Beach. 757-962-0044; 2917 Shore Dr., Virginia Beach. 757-227-4389. BayLocalVB.com
MoMac Brewing Company
BeCalm Saison Farmhouse Ale
ABV: 6% | IBU 20
Unique saison yeast strain is enhanced with late addition of Huell Melon, a German hop, to create an ale with clove, spice and melon flavors. A well-balanced combination of European melts keeps it light, clean and utterly drinkable. Portsmouth, 757-383-9572. MoMacBrewing.com
Photo by Leona Baker
The Egg Bistro Farm House Burger
The yin and yang of savory-meets-sweet are on full display in The Egg Bistro’s Farm House Burger. This half-pound, all-beef burger on a brioche bun gets creative with a generous slather of goat cheese, grilled apple slices and bacon topped with an unexpected but crowd-pleasing closer: raspberry-jalapeño drizzle. Served with leaf lettuce, a tomato slice, red onions and a pickle spear, it checks all the boxes for those Sunday—or any day—cravings.
The Farm House Burger exemplifies The Egg Bistro’s “Eat, drink and be merry” motto and well-made breakfast, brunch and lunch favorites with some signature cutting-edge twists. Owners and long-time friends Doug Stumpf and Mike Touhey wanted “a nice, fun, upbeat breakfast place,” and now they have not one but three locations in Chesapeake, Virginia Beach and Suffolk. 501 Kempsville Rd., Chesapeake. 757-410-8515; 5860 Harbour View Blvd., Suffolk. 757-967-0103; 2129 General Booth Blvd., Virginia Beach. 757-689-6312. TheEggBistro.com
Ardent Craft Ales
IPA Batch #33
ABV: 6.8% | IBU 31
IPA Batch #33 was heavily dry hopped with Simcoe and Idaho 7 hops, blending characteristics of different IPA styles ranging from West Coast IPAs to New England juice bombs. The Simcoe hops introduce some old school pine resin qualities, while the Idaho 7 hops provide juicier tropical fruit notes. Both hops together result in a balanced IPA that pours clear with moderate bitterness. Richmond, 804-359-1605. ArdentCraftAles.com
Photo by Jim Pile
Repeal Bourbon And Burgers Fire & Brimstone
Burger plus bourbon equals a beautiful pair. Such is the appeal of Repeal, the shot glass-sized, speakeasy-slanted Oceanfront spot where bourbon gets top billing (120 varieties at last count), but creative burgers (numbering 13 as in years of—shudder—Prohibition) give it substance. For top-selling Fire & Brimstone, Moliar Hospitality Group (Repeal’s parent) Corporate Chef Ralph Anderson and Repeal Head Chef Ricky Dildy, inspired by MHG Co-Owner/idea guru Thom Smith, amend grass-fed, organic beef specially ground in an 81/19 lean to fat ratio with a house-made chutney of fire-roasted habaneros and peaches (local when in season) as well as their own jack cheese sauce, Tabasco onion strips (Vidalias hand-breaded and fried to order) and Sriracha aioli, packing it into a cushy brioche bun. Deceptively immolating-sounding, it delivers more of a titillating sweet-heat prickle than a palate-scorcher of biblical proportions. Still, brimming with balanced flavors, it is sinfully delicious. 202 22nd St., Virginia Beach. 757-321-8885. RepealVB.com
Wild Wolf Brewing Company
ABV: 6.8% | 21 IBU
Brewed with both orange blossom and Texas wildflower honey for enhanced flavor and aroma, Blonde Hunny is a Belgian style blonde ale with wheat and a lot of honey in every pour. Also added is a special spice blend to give it a kick. Smooth and refreshing, this beer is straw yellow in color with a slight sweetness in the middle and an estery finish characteristic of the best Belgian beers. Nellysford, 434-361-0088. WildWolfBeer.com
Coelacanth Brewing Company
ENEFKAY (NFK) India Pale Lager
ABV: 5.1% | IBU 40
A tribute to the city that Coelacanth calls home. Smooth, satisfying lager with the hop forward flavor of a juicy American IPA, but drinkability of a pilsner. Harmonious blend of citrus and tropical fruit character to both the aroma and flavor. Norfolk, 757-383-6438. Coelacanth.com
Photo by Jim Pile
The Whiskey Kitchen Beet Burger
Since 2014, Whiskey Kitchen has let their passion for real food and exceptional service guide them to offer authentic, honest and regional cuisine to the community. Take, for instance, their Beet Burger. Veggie lovers can rejoice in this slider made from 1/4 cup of roasted red beets, garbanzo beans, black beans, white rice and gluten-free oat flour mixed with red onion and a secret spice blend. The patties are grilled, served on a toasted roll with bibb lettuce, pepper jack cheese and a house made remoulade topped with onion straws. You might not want to wear white while eating one of these—juicy, drippy and worth every napkin. 2149 General Booth Blvd., Virginia Beach. 757-689-8860. TheWhiskeyKitchen.com
Fair Winds Brewing Company
Siren’s Lure Hop forward Saison
ABV: 7.2% | IBU 32
Hazy, straw-colored farmhouse ale brewed with Pilsner and Vienna malts with a touch of wheat. Zythos and Galaxy hops additions in the boil enhance the fruitiness provided by the French farmhouse yeast. Lightly dry-hopped with Galaxy and Hallertau Blanc hops to enhance the tart, dry finish. Lorton, 703-372-2001. FairWindsBrewing.com
Photo by Jim Pile
Gourmet Burger Bistro Empire Burger
Portsmouth’s Gourmet Burger Bistro is home to The Empire burger, a towering, meaty creation packed with house-made ingredients. Melted between the burger’s freshly baked French bread bun and hand-pressed 6 oz. patty is a creamy combination of White American cheese, house-seasoned Philly steak, peppers, sautéed sweet onions and chopped mushrooms.
The velvety texture and mild flavor of the cheese serves as the perfect base on which to enhance the sweet and savory flavors brimming from the caramelized veggies and tender chunks of steak. The juice and slight umami flavor from the 80/20 patty further develop the burger’s complex palate and are absorbed beautifully by the warm and crisp French bun. 6083 High St. W., Portsmouth. 757-484-7365. GourmetBurgerBistroVa.com
Black Butte Porter
ABV: 5.2% | IBU 30
A rich, creamy mouthfeel complements a layered depth, revealing distinctive chocolate and coffee notes. Full of flavor, yet easy to drink with a luscious creaminess and a roasted finish. Roanoke, 540-259-5204. DeschutesBrewery.com
Photo by Leona Baker
J & K Style Grill “Keona” Waffle Burger
When is a burger bun more than just a burger bun? How about when it’s a waffle? Better yet, how about when it’s a waffle with a piece of fried chicken cooked right into the waffle? Go big or go back to the kitchen, y’all. Breakfast and lunch are served.
Southern hospitality and ingenuity meet at J&K Style Grill, “Home of the Original Waffle Burger,” run by friendly husband-and-wife team Kelvin and LaTonya Dooley, both military veterans. The Dooleys’ daughter Keona is the namesake of their featured burger. It starts with a 6-ounce Angus beef burger topped with cheese, fried egg, bacon slices, J&K’s secret tangy sauce, shredded lettuce, tomato and crinkle-cut pickle slices. The waffle bun, the bottom half with the surprise piece of boneless, crispy fried chicken inside, is made from Kelvin’s waffle mix. 6557 College Park Square, Virginia Beach. 757-965-4783. JAndKStyleGrill.com
Old Bust Head Brewing Company
Graffiti House West Coast Style IPA
ABV: 7.5% | IBU 75
Graffiti House West Coast Style IPA asserts its presence with a potent aroma of passionfruit, mango, guava and citrus. The bold and juicy tropical body is a unique signature of the Mosaic hops, while Cascade hops contribute to a clean, citrus finish for a flavor so singular it leaves its own indelible impression. Warrenton, 540-347-4777. OldBustHead.com
Hardywood Park Craft Brewery
VIPA Virginia Pale Ale
ABV: 5.2% | IBU 30
Hardywood VIPA offers alluring tropical aromatics, a refreshingly delicate body and a bright, juicy finish. Heirloom Virginia barley rounds out the malt bill and creates a perfect sense of balance with a dose of citrusy Virginia hops. VIPA is our take on a Virginia India Pale Ale, or as we like to call it, Virgindia Pale Ale. Richmond, 434-234-3386. Hardywood.com
Photo by Leona Baker
Swan Terrace Grill at Founders Inn and Spa Brasstown Beef Sliders
One would expect a distinguished burger from a distinguished venue like The Founders Inn and Spa in Virginia Beach. When that burger is crafted by Executive Chef Ian Robbins, who came to The Founders Inn by way of The Williamsburg Winery last fall, expectations are even higher. And the Brasstown Beef Sliders don’t disappoint.
But let’s get to the meat of the matter. Brasstown dry-aged, all-natural premium beef comes from family-run Ridgefield Farm in Brasstown, N.C. Top that with Deer Creek Wisconsin three-year aged cheddar, perfectly sweet caramelized onions, truffle mayo, heirloom cherry tomatoes and green and red oak leaf lettuce on a toasted potato bun, and you’ve got a “Please, sir, may I have some more?” moment. 5641 Indian River Rd., Virginia Beach. 757-424-5511. FoundersInn.com
The Virginia Beer Co.
ABV: 6% | IBU 39
This dry-hopped amber ale starts with traditional German rye malt and pairs Simcoe hops with the peachy notes of Jarrylo. The combination of spiciness from the rye and a refreshingly bold hop aroma presents the perfect opportunity to challenge your perception of the style. Williamsburg, 757-378-2903. VirginiaBeerCo.com
Photo by Grace Silipigni
The Black Angus Burger
Black Angus Restaurant’s signature burger, the Black Angus Burger, is an ultra-fresh and savory twist on the American classic. Chef John and his culinary team prepare patties daily from a hearty mix of steaks ground in-house. The meaty concoction includes filet mignon, sirloin and New York strip, all of which pack enough zest that the burger need only be seasoned with a simple dash of salt and pepper.
The savory flavors from the steak burger fuse deliciously with the smoky crunch of Applewood bacon that is melted into the patty by a warm layer of cheddar cheese. Lettuce, red onion, pickles and sweet, ripe tomatoes from Virginia Beach’s Madelyn Maggard add a bite of freshness to the burger’s juicy savors. Enveloping the flavorful medley is a slightly sweet Brioche bun from Carter’s Specialty Breads of Central Virginia. 706 Atlantic Ave., Virginia Beach. 757-428-7700. BlackAngusRestaurant.com
Big Ugly Brewing
ABV: 6% | IBU 33
Whether you are a Volkswagon or Corvette fan, this beer offers enough style and octane to please. A traditional Belgian farmhouse ale fermented with Saison yeast that is hazy in appearance with fruit and spice notes. Chesapeake, 757-609-2739. BigUglyBrewing.com
Photo by Jim Pile
The Casby Slider
When in need of red meat, head to neighborhood gathering spot Casby’s Kitchen and Tap for their Casby Burger. The good folks there are shrinking it down to slider size and bringing it to the competition. So, yes, it will be smaller—but don’t expect any less flavor.
It’s about the beef and the layers: 2- to 3-ounce patties of seasoned Certified Angus Beef steak are grilled and topped with smoked mozzarella, cherrywood smoked bacon and placed on a toasted brioche bun dressed with a squirt of roasted garlic aioli. Add an over easy quail egg (the full-size burger uses a full-size egg), a fresh leaf of Bibb lettuce and some tomato jam. Presto. Be prepared to be overwhelmed. 1336 N Great Neck Rd., Virginia Beach. 757-481-1600. Casbys.com
Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits
Sculpin India Pale Ale
ABV: 7% | IBU 70
After years of experimenting, Ballast Point knew hopping an ale at five separate stages would produce something special. The result is this gold medal-winning IPA, whose inspired use of hops creates hints of apricot, peach, mango and lemon flavors but still packs a bit of a sting, just like a Sculpin fish. Daleville, 540-591-3059. BallastPoint.com
Photo by David Uhrin
11th Street Taphouse BBQ Burger
The stunning ocean views at 11th Street Taphouse are rivaled by the tantalizing flavors of its beachside burgers that Chef Steve Weiner crafts for every palate.
Freshly baked, American-style yeast rolls are the staple bookends for every Taphouse burger, but their lightly charred exterior and buttery flavor are accentuated by the towering BBQ Burger. Chef Weiner and his staff grind all of their meat in-house, creating a savory mashup of chuck and locally-sourced sirloin, and create their signature barbecue sauce from the Taphouse’s featured beer of the month.
While each brew offers a unique flavor profile, the barbecue sauce maintains the same tangy body that complements the sharpness of the burger’s melted cheddar cheese and slightly sweet Texas Pete fried onions. For extra crunch and smokiness, the BBQ Burger is loaded with strips of crispy bacon, smoked and cured in-house. 1011 Atlantic Ave., Virginia Beach. 757-321-8354. Octaphouses.com/Locations/11th-Street
Wasserhund Brewing Co.
ABV: 5.9% | IBU: 30
If you are into big name American beers or just love a great lager, this beer is for you. This German pilsner is pale, golden and clear with a sweet and very mild spice aroma. While a light bodied beer, it is full of flavor. The beer starts with a dry malt sweetness, and it is appropriately bittered with hops to leave a crisp finish; it leaves you needing another sip. Virginia Beach, 757-351-1326. WasserhundBrewing.com
Big Ugly Brewing
ABV: 6.8% | IBU 88
The Rockers are British motorcycle hooligans from the 1960s. They like to get up in your face just like this IPA. This is well hopped beer that should satisfy hopheads on both sides of the pond. Chesapeake, 757-609-2739. BigUglyBrewing.com
Photo courtesy of Lager Heads
Lager Heads The Cavalier Burger
In Virginia Beach, the historic Cavalier Hotel embodies style and elegance. In the culinary world, Wagyu beef is the Cavalier of all beef. It’s no wonder why Lager Heads named their flavorful, decadent burger The Cavalier. Savory, ground Wagyu beef is topped with sweet, caramelized onions and honey-pepper bacon. To add another gourmet touch, Lager Heads melts cambozola cheese, a French, soft-ripened triple cream combination of gorgonzola and camembert, onto the patty. Lager Heads swapped a traditional hamburger bun for ciabatta bread, presenting a robust vessel to hold the juicy Wagyu and creamy cheese. Experience the “caviar of beef” with a burger that is complemented by its sumptuous toppings. 3315 Atlantic Ave., Virginia Beach. 757-995-1400. LagerHeads.com
Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery
Scarlet Honey Happy Red Ale with Estate Honey
ABV: 4.9% | IBU 35
A hoppy, bitter beer that is neutralized by sweet honey, grown, farmed and raised right on the farm. Plus a portion of the proceeds support Virginia’s bee population. Goochland, 804-314-2093. LickingholeCreek.com