Our Favorite Burgers From NYCWFF's Blue Moon Burger Bash

Of the roughly 75 events that make up the New York City Wine and Food Festival and take place over four days across several boroughs, Rachel Ray's famous (and occasionally infamous) Burger Bash is undoubtedly one of the most popular annual events. The first Burger Bash was held at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival in 2007 before making it to the NYCWFF the same year. The meat-fueled event brings famous and award-winning chefs together and occasionally lesser-known and newcomer chefs to throw down their best burger offerings. After all, earning one of the winning spots at Burger Bash has a way of putting your burger on the map — just ask the very first Burger Bash winner, Randy Garutti of the fledgling New York City burger chain, Shake Shack.

Blue Moon hosted this year's Burger Bash, which took place in Manhattan on Pier 86 at Hudson River Park under the Intrepid Air Craft Carrier and Museum. The participant list included more than 20 New York chefs slinging their finest burgers, and we did our very best to taste as many of them as we could physically manage over the course of the three-hour event. After the meat haze faded, these were the six burgers that made an impression and left us wanting another bite.


Given the high-end fine dining dishes that LittleMäd serves at the small and stripped-down (but pristine) restaurant on Madison Avenue, Burger Bash is one of the last places we expected to find a taste of their food. But true to form, the LittleMäd burger offered an elevated experience with a subtle blend of Korean and French influences. The dry-aged burger patty had a tender texture with a rich beefy taste, accented by the galbi Korean BBQ glaze on the outside of the patty. The burgers were topped with a melty slice of gouda cheese, pickles, and red eye gravy, giving the whole sandwich a little extra creaminess. It was all served on a sesame seed-packed "Big Marty's" potato roll and graciously served in quarters.

This was one of the earliest burgers we sampled at Burger Bash. Even though we knew we needed to save space for all of the burgers we were about to eat, we didn't want to let a single bite of this sandwich go to waste — especially since you won't find this burger anywhere on LittleMäd's regular menu. But consider this our petition to Chef Sol Han to consider offering it as a special every now and then, and hopefully, we'll get another taste of it at next year's Burger Bash.

The Burger Joint

It takes a lot of courage to show up at Burger Bash with a classic cheeseburger. The expectations are high, and everyone has a different opinion of what makes a burger just right. In a way, it's almost easier to come up with a creation that no one's ever tasted before, to bypass the preconceived judgments that everyone has. But since classic burgers are what the Burger Joint specializes in, it was really their moment to shine.

The Burger Joint's Classic Burger came equipped with an Angus beef patty, lettuce, tomato, red onion, ketchup, mayo, and Dijon mustard on a soft bun — everything you could want from a deluxe burger. The patty was cooked to a comfortable medium and was noticeably juicy, even with all the toppings vying for attention. Technically, this is what "The Works" burger would be on the menu and is the default preparation unless otherwise specified. The Burger Joint has two locations in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn in Industry City. While the two Manhattan restaurants are more convenient for those traveling through NYC, located in the Moynihan Food Hall and the Thompson Central Park Hotel, it's worth swinging by for a bite if you find yourself nearby and hungry for a high-quality no-fuss burger.


Since the vast majority of the burgers served at Burger Bash were beef-based, it was refreshing (in the heaviest possible terms) to bite into a burger made with something other than beef. Not only did the Lamb "Chapli Kabab" Burger from Gupshup provide a little much-needed variety, but it did it with a flair that we didn't want to put down. The lamb burger patty was served with a slice of cheddar cheese, sliced and caramelized onions, and the restaurant's secret sauce. You won't find this burger on the regular dinner menu at Gupshup, but if it sounds like your kind of thing, a version of it is listed on the restaurant's brunch menu, along with magic masala fries and served on a Balthazar Bakery brioche bun.

As you've likely figured out, Gupshup isn't your usual burger bar — but a contemporary Indian restaurant that blends the romance of Bombay with New York style, all served up in a swanky 1970s mansion-inspired dining room setting befitting its Gramercy location. Chef Zahir Khan pulls inspiration for the restaurant's dishes from traditional Indian household cooking and recreates them with notably modern techniques — all of which somehow managed to shine through with one of our favorite non-beef burgers at this year's Burger Bash. Even if you don't make a habit of going to brunch, you'll want to make an exception to try this burger at least once.

Bastard Burger

When we got in line to try the offering from Bastard Burgers, it wasn't because we had heard so many amazing things about it — it was just that this particular stand had the longest line of the night. Strategically, we needed a long break before tasting yet another burger. Additionally, it made sense that we needed to find out what the fuss was about for ourselves (and, you know, for science). Unlike many of the other participants, Bastard Burgers generously served up full-sized burgers that would be enough to satisfy us on a normal night. Dubbed the "Cheesy Bastard," the smash burger was topped with cheese, jalapeno dressing, and mac and cheese bites, all served on a potato roll. Straightforward, easy to enjoy, and just playful enough to be entertaining without feeling like a gimmick.

With such a charming first impression, we tracked down this lesser-known burger joint to its only location in NYC at the Bronx Brewery Taproom and Kitchen on 2nd Avenue in the East Village. Unlike many of the other participants with roots in NYC, Bastard Burgers is a Swedish burger chain that's been making New York-style burgers abroad since 2016. Interestingly, all of the burgers on the brewery's menu are also available as vegan burgers for those who'd prefer a plant-based sandwich instead. The Cheesy Bastard isn't a regular item on the burger chain's menu, but it may occasionally pop up as the Burger of the Month if we're lucky.


After tasting the Legendary Cheeseburger from Nowon, the Korean-American gastropub from the East Village, we can't help but think that kimchi has been what's missing from our burgers all along. Even though the restaurant's Burger Bash booth only handed out half sandwiches, the serving included a double stack of smashed patties, instantly making it one of the most filling burgers at the festival. The burger also included kimchi special sauce, American cheese, and housemade pickles, all on a seeded bun from Native Bread and Pastry.

The Legendary burger is just one of the handful of sandwiches available on the Nowon menu, alongside the Smoked Truffle Burger and the Dry-Aged Steak Burger — both including some variation of kimchi sauce and roasted kimchi. We were also impressed that our burger came with a side of Nowon's Extraordinary Tots, which were unexpectedly sweet but were the perfect compliment to the salty and tangy burger. The honey butter tots are also on the regular menu at Nowon, or you can opt for the curry spiced tots if you're in the mood for more of a kick.

Mercado Little Spain

If we're being honest, the TXULEBURGER from Jose Andres' Mercado Little Spain had an unfair advantage over most other burgers served at Burger Bash. It's not the first time we've had this indulgent sandwich since it's regularly served in the Leña dining room at Mercado. It's made with chopped 60-day dry-aged ribeye beef, American cheese (which Andrés avidly claims is the best cheese for a burger), pickled green peppers from the Basque country, and a not-so-secret sauce made of brava sauce, olive oil mayonnaise, and mustard. Furthermore, the burgers are cooked in a Josper oven, which is essentially a charcoal-fired grill inside of an oven that can consistently reach temperatures of up to 660 degrees Fahrenheit — yes, they even brought one to Burger Bash. So the burger patty is gloriously char-grilled on the outside and a meaty rare to medium-rare on the inside (which is about as far as you'd want a dry-aged steak to be cooked, anyway).

If you're not a fan of a slightly funky dry-aged beef or otherwise turned off by a burger served at anything less than medium, this burger probably isn't for you. But if you're into it, the TXULEBURGER might be one of the best burgers you've had in your whole life. At the restaurant, just one of these burgers sells for $32, making the relative price of our half portion more than an entire meal at most burger joints. And we think it's worth every penny.