Battle of the Burgers: 24 Burgers Paired with Craft Beers
Local Restaurants Fire Up the Grills for the Tastiest, Juiciest Bout Between Two Buns
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2018 CoVa Battle of the Burgers Champ Repeal Bourbon and Burgers. Photo by
When you consider the standard components that make up a burger, individually, they’re not that riveting. A patty. Cheese. Lettuce. Tomato. Condiments. Two buns. But when you put it all together, that, my friend, is when the magic happens.
What’s even better is the quality and originality put into the burgers you’ll find below. Local chefs are making their own buns and grinding their own patties. They’re mixing beef with chorizo, pushing the limits on spicy and sweet, substituting a slice of cheese for a napkin-worthy cheese sauce. Plus, it’s not just beef but also turkey and lamb. And to top it all off they’re adding extra interest with items like candied bacon, tomato jam, fried onions and slow-cooked brisket, for crying out loud. The competition is fierce, and this year’s rivals are bringing their best burgers forward.
So, which burger will be crowned king? That tough and tasty decision is up to you. Join us for CoVa Battle of the Burgers—this year with two separate events—Saturday, April 27 at the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach and Saturday, May 4 at Mill Point Park in Hampton, each from noon to 5 p.m. Come for one or both events, where guests will taste slider-sized versions of the burgers featured in their respective locales, then decide which burger deserves to be crowned the Best Burger in Coastal Virginia. Pair your patties with Virginia craft beer (selections featured below) 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 and ciders each paired with a local burger. Featured beers and ciders will be available for purchase at Battle of the Burgers.
Photo by David Uhrin
J&K Style Grill
Keona’s Ultimate Turkey Burger
Named after owners Kelvin and LaTonya Dooley’s daughter, Keona’s Ultimate Turkey Burger blends homemade seasonings and sauces to create a lean, mean turkey burger with layers of flavor.
J&K starts with seasoning a turkey patty with their house-made Caribbean Candy seasoning. On top of the burger is creamy American cheese and a slather of JK sauce, the restaurant’s homemade mayo, accompanied by crisp lettuce and a ripe tomato. Beneath the burger are crispy, hand-battered onion rings dressed with J&K’s best wing sauce, Kenyata Sauce. Sandwiched between a locally made bun from Virginia Beach’s Bodacious Bakehouse, Keona’s Ultimate Turkey Burger sends your taste buds on a mouthwatering journey. From the lemon pepper turkey patty down to the spicy onion rings contrasted by the tangy yet sweet Kenyata Sauce, this turkey burger can stand its ground against the beefiest burgers.
6557 College Park Square, Virginia Beach. 757-965-4783; 880 N Military Hwy., Norfolk. 757-403-9628. JAndKStyleGrill.com
Buskey Hard Cider
Do you love everything RVA? This refreshing cider was cold-crashed to hold its signature flavor and then was slightly back-sweetened with unfermented juice to let you fully experience the Virginian apples. RVA Cider is a classic made with 100 percent Virginia apples fermented the right way—no sugar, acid or concentrates added. This cider is refreshing and drinkable like a cider should be. Sit back, relax and drink in the city!
Photo by Grace Silipigni
BBQ Whiskey Onion Burger
Making its debut to the Black Pelican menu is this tangy BBQ Whiskey Onion Burger. The colossal dish is packed with hearty tiers of meat, homemade glaze and traditional extras.
Chef Bubb seasons the patty in-house with a flavorful concoction of minced garlic, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. The beef is slightly charred and boasts juicy mouthfuls of smoke and umami. Adding to the symphony of meaty goodness are thick, tender cuts of chef’s smoked brisket.
A hint of sweetness manifests from the Chesapeake eatery’s handcrafted whiskey bourbon barbecue glaze. Tossed in the toffee-colored sauce are caramelized white onions perched atop the brisket, burger and a melted layer of sharp cheddar cheese.
The towering creation is finished with a grill-marked bun and a bed of lettuce and tomato. In the dining room, the chef pairs the meat-packed burger with crispy sweet potato fries.
1625 Ring Road, Chesapeake. 757-424-3171. BlackPelicanGreenbrier.com
Ballast Point Brewing Company
The Sculpin IPA is bright with aromas of apricot, peach, mango and lemon. Its lighter body also brings out the crispness of the hops. The sculpin fish has poisonous spikes on its fins that can give a strong sting. Ironically, the meat from a sculpin is considered some of the most tasty. Something that has a sting but tastes great, sounds like a Ballast Point India Pale Ale.
Photo by Leona Baker
A fast favorite of both “come heres” and “from heres,” Bay Local Eatery in Virginia Beach isn’t afraid to go big on flavor and fun. This year, Chef Justin Humpleby eschews the slices in favor of a napkin-worthy cheese sauce made with smoked gouda, cheddar and blackening spice. Drizzled over crispy fried ham on an all-beef burger with caramelized onions on a toasted potato roll, this “fondue” is a “must do.” But it’s the tomato jam that puts the jazz in this juicy bite, creating just the right harmony of sweet and savory that will make you want to sing its praises. Like its original Shore Drive counterpart, Bay Local’s latest location on Laskin Road is a brunch and dinner destination beloved for its fresh, locally sourced coastal fare, quirky decor and eclectic menu items such as “The Hangover,” “Big Al” and “Banging Balls.”
2917 Shore Dr., Virginia Beach. 757-227-4389; 972 Laskin Road, Virginia Beach. 757-962-0044. BayLocalVB.com
Virginia Beer Company
Free Verse IPA
Tropical, unfiltered, juicy. Conforming to the bitter expectations of your standard India Pale Ale? Nope. This IPA pairs the juicy, tropical flavors of Azacca hops with whole-cone spicy, piney Chinook to create a rounded bitterness. It’s a hoppy, aroma-forward delight that will appeal to both IPA lovers and those who don’t think they like IPAs…yet.
Photo by David Uhrin
The Egg Bistro
Featuring flavors that stimulate every taste bud, The Egg Bistro’s OMG! Burger will give your tongue a workout. This sensation within a soft yeast roll starts with a half-and-half combo of savory ground beef and spicy chorizo that’s smothered with a barbecue sauce made by cooking down ground blueberries, bourbon and chipotle into a syrupy stunner that pairs perfectly with salty bacon covered in (surprise!) rich dark chocolate. Yes, it’s got a lot going on, but it works, especially when finished with the tang of goat cheese and some sharp green onion to complement an out-of-the-box burger that’s a sensory explosion with every bite.
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
Coelacanth Brewing Company
Passion Fruit Gose
It’s a traditional German sour wheat beer with a Coelacanth tropical twist. It’s brewed with passion fruit and Hawaiian sea salt to create a light, refreshing, thirst quencher of a beer.
Photo by Grace Silipigni
Old Beach Tavern
We Coastal Virginians are big on surf ’n’ turf flavors, and Old Beach Tavern doesn’t fail to deliver. The Virginia Beach pub recently added The Lynnhaven to its robust list of meaty handhelds, but unlike its other juicy offerings, their newest burger is loaded with zesty savors of land and sea.
Anchoring the sandwich is a buttery brioche bun and perfectly griddled 80/20 Hereford patty sourced directly from Virginia farmers. Chef Patrick tops the burger with a slice of melted provolone and a golden house-made crab cake. The secret to the flavorful 2-ounce jumbo lump crab cake is the chef’s lump-to-filler ratio. He uses significantly more meat to ensure each bite is swimming with soft, sweet mouthfuls of fresh crab. He also adds a dollop of Old Beach Tavern’s Tiger Sauce for a lively kick of horseradish, complemented by the familiar suspects: lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles.
3020 Virginia Beach Blvd., Suite 3022, Virginia Beach. 757-498-1112. OldBeachTavern.com
Hardywood Park Craft Brewery
Great Return IPA
Bold, resinous and bursting with bright grapefruit aroma, this IPA is a tribute to the decades of hard work by conservationists to restore the James River as a bounty of vibrant aquatic life, eco-friendly recreational activity and in their case, fresh brewing water.
Photo by Melissa Morgan Stewart
Warrior Craft Burger
Warriors Taphouse, owned and operated by three veterans, prides itself on supporting our nation’s fallen and those wounded in combat. As if that wasn’t enough to make you proud to be an American when eating here, try wrapping your mouth around their ginormous and juicy Warrior Craft Burger.
Chef Adam Snyder also backs local produce and meats sourced from small family farms, and his signature burger stars a half pound of beef from Pungo-Tuck Local Beef Company in Virginia Beach. This simply seasoned (just salt and pepper, please) meat is cooked to a perfect medium rare and complemented with house-cured bacon, aged Cabot cheddar, butter crunch lettuce, tomato, garlic aioli and a savory-sweet bacon onion jam with tantalizing hints of chili, red wine vinegar and cinnamon. A lightly buttered and toasted brioche bun made in house daily tops a meaty masterpiece that will make you want to stand up and salute this U.S. diet staple.
1630 General Booth Blvd., Suite 100, Virginia Beach. 757-689-1747. WarriorsTaphouse.com
Wasserhund Brewing Company
This is the best known wheat beer from south Germany; its appearance is cloudy and yellow with an aroma of banana and clove. It is full of malt sweetness, a little hop bitterness and containing just enough spice flavor to keep your lips smacking. If wheat beer is your preference, this is your beer.
Photo by Leona Baker
On a scale from “grits to glam,” as Sweetwater Cuisine describes its Southern fare, Chef AJ Hyman’s lamb and smoked brie burger with cornichon relish is glam enough for a debutante ball. Topped with roasted garlic and whole grain mustard aioli and served on an herbed focaccia roll, this debutante makes an entrance while offering all the comforts of the best Southern comfort food. The richness of the brie is balanced by the slightly spicy tang of the relish and reflects a top-to-bottom flavor profile—including the all-important umami—that Chef Hyman says he hopes leaves diners craving bite after bite. A protégé of the late Chef Bobby Huber, Hyman is committed to making things from scratch, and it shows in this craveable showstopper. In addition to a thriving catering business, Sweetwater serves a decadent brunch on the first and third Sunday of every month at their location in Wayside Village Shoppes.
Wayside Village Shoppes, 4216 Virginia Beach Blvd., Virginia Beach. 757-403-7073. SweetwaterCuisine.com
Da Shootz! Pilsner
DES-cahooties? DAY-shoots? DES-schwett-ays? They’ve heard it all over the 30 years they’ve been brewing craft beer. So…they’re making it easy this time around. Simple in design, this beer is made to pair with DOING! There’s really no activity or non-activity that wouldn’t pair perfectly with this beer. Leave the beer creation obstacles and overthinking to them. Clean, lightly toasted, light citrus, bubbly and refreshing. A simple style with low ABV and low IBU so you can keep on keeping on.
Photo by Grace Silipigni
Casby’s Kitchen & Tap is back, and this year the neighborhood eatery is going all in with a mouthwatering Patty Melt. The griddled handheld is perfectly layered with staple toppings and housemade extras.
Unlike your traditional hamburger, Casby’s Patty Melt ditches the sesame seed bun for fresh, locally made sourdough bread from Norfolk’s Tosca Bakery of Brooklyn. The artisan bun is buttered and griddled to a golden crisp, harnessing nostalgic flavors of a childhood grilled cheese. Atop the toasted slice is a molten layer of sharp white cheddar that cradles the melt-in-your-mouth Angus patty.
The juicy protein is then loaded up with caramelized onion, crispy Applewood smoked bacon and a thin layer of chef’s homemade smoked tomato aioli. The seamless combinations of crunch, tenderness, savory and sweet will have you begging for more after just one bite.
In house, be sure to try the meaty creation with a side of Casby’s salted steak fries.
1336 N Great Neck Rd., Virginia Beach. 757-481-1600. Casbys.com
MoMac Brewing Company
This New England-style IPA is bringing the flavor from down under. The juicy IPA utilizes hops from both New Zealand and Australia for big flavor and aroma with notes of pineapple, passionfruit, tropical fruits and pleasant pine. This mildly bitter IPA has a nice soft mouthfeel and finishes smooth. Cheers, mate!
Photo by Jim Pile
The Southwest BBQ Brisket Burger
Smoked brisket is the heart of the Southwest burger. You could say it’s the heart of Executive Chef Rodney Bracy, too. “It reminds me of home,” he says. Home is Michigan, not exactly the ’cue capital but where he made cherished memories manning the grill as a boy. The warmth that smoke evokes—family togetherness, finger-licking-good food—resides here between a split bun, slices of low-and-slow-cooked brisket piled Sierra-high on a patty, smeared with house-made bacon jam, gooey with melted pepper jack and white cheddar, snappy with fried onions, slippery with a twangy BBQ sauce. Appearing as a special at the recently renovated restaurant (sails sweeping the ceiling and light wood accents feel fresh and breezy, its menu as eclectic as ever: “We’re some of everywhere,” says Bracy noting French, Asian, Mid-Atlantic influences among others), this burger’s big, bold flavor is bound to capture your heart, too.
219 Granby St., Norfolk. 757- 416-6219. 219Bistro.com
Old Bust Head
Vixen Irish Red Ale
Their deep amber Vixen Irish Red has a luster as rich as the thick-coated red fox that roams the local wood. Medium bodied with a clean finish, Vixen draws you in with a sweet caramel allure up front and gives chase with hints of roasted malt through the taste. A tea-like soft bitterness on the backend is so pleasing, you just may find you’re reaching for another glass of this wily brew.
Photo by Jim Pile
West Neck Stuffed Burger
The Landing’s West Neck Stuffed Burger detonates a flavor bomb with every creamy, crunchy bite. The burger is brimming with homemade touches starting with the soft, made-in-house brioche bun encasing a perfectly cooked 80/20 patty stuffed with a mix of silky pimento cheese and candied jalapeños, both offering a faint heat that oozes out oh so slowly.
Topping the juicy burger is a fragrant homemade bacon jam that seamlessly balances sweet and savory. Crispy pickled shallots dress the bacon jam and add a quick hit of acidity along with a welcomed crunch. Just when you think you’re safe from the flavor explosion, the West Neck Stuffed Burger hits you with arugula, a salt and fresh herb tomato and tangy Dijon aioli.
2484 N Landing Road, #113, Virginia Beach. 757-301-9604. Facebook.com/TheLandingVB
Old Ox Brewery
Golden Ox Golden Ale
A crisp, medium-bodied ale with orchard fruit notes on the nose. Brewed with a blend of Pilsner, Vienna and Munich malts, this beer balances a sweet, malty body with flowery Saaz, Columbus and Chinook hops. Brewed in a traditional Belgian style, this beer is quaffable at any time of year.
Photo by Jim Pile
Kevin Sharkey of 1608 Crafthouse is crowning his ground beef, chuck, brisket and short rib patty with something unexpected: pastrami. It’s cured in-house for a week, then seasoned with coriander and cracked black pepper, smoked for two hours and finished in a beer braise for another three hours. Spread tangy, house-made Thousand Island on both sides of a brioche bun, add some Swiss cheese and caramelized onions and spear it with a bread and butter pickle. Wait for it… Served with a side of five cheese sauce plus pimento cheese and a homemade pork rind. Oh my goodness.
1608 Pleasure House Road, Suite 103, Virginia Beach. 757-965-4510. 1608Crafthouse.com
Big Ugly Brewing
The Rockers are British motorcycle hooligans from the 1960s. They like to get up in your face just like this IPA. This is a well-hopped beer that should satisfy hopheads on both sides of the pond.
Photo by Jim Pile
If this burger could talk, it would drawl, “Hey, y’all!” The Southerner, true to its name, sasses with pimento cheese, then lays the sweetness on thick with juicy, fried green tomato. Honey-glazed Smithfield bacon—popping with pepper—charms and disarms. A half-pound of 80/20 Hereford beef undergirds the stack, rarin’ to be kicked back with a local beer. “This burger epitomizes this area,” says Andrew Gallimore, director of food & beverage. Executive Chef Bill Connelly’s menu moves beyond beef and bun, drawing regulars and tourists with shareable apps and entrees, but the burgers, like that Southerner, rule.
3315 Atlantic Ave., Virginia Beach (inside Hilton Garden Inn Virginia Beach Oceanfront). 757-995-1400. LagerHeads.com
Tangerine Suncrush Ale
It’s a cold conditioned sparkling ale. Tangerine Suncrush is brewed with green tea, real crushed tangerine and natural flavor. Gluten reduced, Suncrush is the most delightfully refreshing beer imaginable for whenever you’re crushing it.
Photo by David Uhrin
Take a Pungo Tuck Gold beef patty, add a signature splash of Breaux Merlot Equation X, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook on a flat top to sear in the juices. Then add a dollop of fire-roasted chili goat cheese, some fresh arugula, Virginia bacon and buttermilk fried onion straws piled on a toasty brioche bun. Whaaat? That’s what you can expect from The Boardroom757, the European style bistro that aims for you to linger longer in their no-rush spot with a New Orleans vibe.
1650 General Booth Blvd., #104, Virginia Beach. 757-477-0111. Facebook.com/TheBoardroom757
Wild Wolf Brewing Company
Blonde Hunny Belgian Blonde Ale
It’s 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. They have also added a special spice blend to give it an added 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.