The real beef of March Madness: Battle of the burgers

A bracket for the best burger joint in Charlottesville

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Unlike some overrated teams and over-hyped players in this year’s NCAA Tournament — did someone say Duke? — all of these burgers deserve praise.

Jacob Deane and Emma Hitchcock | Cavalier Daily

March Madness brings endless tension, especially at such a prominent basketball school like the U.Va. Numerous feuds begin over seeds, upsets and the coveted perfect bracket. Some might even call it “beef.” In fact, I’ve constructed a bracket to find the superior beef in Charlottesville. I’m talking burgers, of course. With ample options in town, it’s time to establish the best beef in Charlottesville in this battle of the burgers.

Boylan Heights vs. Trinity Irish Pub

Everyone at the University remembers where they were for last year’s upset to UMBC. It’s more of an unspoken topic here, as it’s a touchy subject for most. In fact, I watched the tragedy unfold at Boylan, but this hasn’t turned me off from frequenting the restaurant. 

Boylan is a classic sports bar, yet it is unique because of the school-themed menu and ambiance. They serve a variety of burgers — all paired with a choice of curly fries, tater tots and cole slaw — for around $12. Most are served on simple house rolls, but their diverse toppings advance the dish. You can never go wrong with the Room 121, which is a basic burger with lettuce, beefsteak tomato, cheese and diced onions — but amped up with some bacon and Boylan Sauce. If I’m feeling adventurous, I’ll go for The B.O.M.B., which is the monthly surprise burger. But let me tell you, The B.O.M.B. has never disappointed. This month, Boylan featured a burger topped with candied bacon, caramelized wild mushrooms, Swiss cheese, tobacco onions, baby arugula and aioli — all on a toasted brioche bun. 

The other favorite bar on the Corner is Trinity Irish Pub. Trin also has its own burger special, but in contrast to Boylan, it’s quite basic. Thursdays at Trin, one can order their burger special — a single patty with cheese, pickles, ketchup and mustard served with chips — for just $3. While Trin offers what is no doubt a deal, Boylan still takes this battle because of their creativity.

White Spot vs. Five Guys

White Spot is open every day until 3 a.m., making it a staple late-night food joint on the Corner. White Spot is also infamous for their “Gus Burger,” a patty served with a fried egg on top for only $4.55. It’s simple but hits the spot when you need some late-night grub and grease. 

Five Guys is also a key stop for students. You can buy a burger at the Pav with plus dollars –– edging Five Guys over White Spot in terms of convenience. Their burgers are around $7. Don’t get me wrong, Five Guys delivers delectable grease-filled burgers with fries, and their nationwide name could make this an upset. Ultimately though, White Spot wins this game because of its beloved reputation for late-night meals.  

Jack Brown’s Beer and Burger Joint vs. Zinburger

Although, these two are both a little far from the University — Zinburger is located in the Barracks Shopping Center, while Jack Brown is located on the Downtown Mall — they each boast some unique burgers on their menus.  

Jack Brown scores points for creativity and originality — especially for its beef of choice. Jack Brown burgers are made with Wagyu beef, a half-Japanese, half-American beef bred just for juicy and tender burgers. The eccentricity doesn’t end there, though, as they specialize in dressed-up burgers with insane toppings, like mac and cheese and peanut butter. 

Zinburger also features a variety of exceptional burgers. My favorite is the Big Bad Blue, which comes with blue cheese, bacon-onion jam, baby arugula, fried onion strings and Dijonnaise. Interestingly, neither restaurant serves fries with their burgers. Even without fries, Zinburger’s hefty prices range from $9.50-$15.75, but their generous patties may be the reason for this. 

However, Jack Brown’s burgers are all priced around $7. Zinburger also offers their own special zucchini fries that are nearly impossible to resist, and they are truly worth the cost. During happy hour, you can even get them half-priced. Because of the considerably-sized burgers and exquisite fries, Zinburger wins this nail-biter in overtime, with the fries coming in clutch at the end.

Citizen Burger Bar vs. Burger Bach

Both a bit further from Grounds, these restaurants deliver burgers worth the drive. Burger Bach, located in the Stonefield Shopping Center, serves all-organic New Zealand beef. The free range meat provides a fresh, noteworthy taste with flavorful toppings, including blueberry-chipotle barbecue. All burgers are served with a side salad and vary from $9-$14. 

Citizen Burger Bar is located on the Downtown Mall and typically has a wait, but like the drive, it too is worth it. Their burgers are thick, but cooked ideally and come with an abundance of toppings. The burgers are priced around $8-$21 and come with an abundance of fries. Their specialty burgers are mainly timeless, classic combinations, but the Citizen Burger comes with a twist — fried pickle topping. They even stamp their buns with their logo, just like how I stamp Citizen Burger Bar with my approval. Their classy takes on a simple, signature American dish, along with their hefty servings of fries, dominate the court and my stomach.

Final Four

Boylan Heights vs. White Spot

Another matchup on the Corner, but this one doesn’t bust any brackets. Sure, White Spot may be the Cinderella story everyone wanted, but unlike Cinderella, this place is only beautimous after midnight. Have you ever really seen anyone eating here during the day? The quality of their burgers isn’t exactly something you crave during the day. 

On the contrary, Boylan shines any time — whether during a late-night watch party, pre- or post-darty or even just a celebration for warm spring weather. Boylan is populated at any time of day, and it never fails to bring a good time when watching a game. It’s this powerhouse consistency that gives Boylan the win.

Zinburger vs. Citizen Burger

Here we have a nail biter, and with two top teams, it comes down to who will crack under pressure. Citizen Burger Bar proves their strength, by which I mean their meat is always cooked to perfection. Zinburger’s patties can be a bit too pink, and this is where they get into some trouble and take the loss. 

Championship

Boylan Heights vs. Citizen Burger Bar

I love an underdog story, but unfortunately this won’t be one. All of Charlottesville raves about Citizen Burger Bar, and as aforementioned, there’s typically a lengthy wait for a table. If you’re lucky, try and snag a seat at the bar — if the wild fans don’t intimidate you first.

Unlike some overrated teams and over-hyped players in this year’s NCAA Tournament — did someone say Duke? — all of these burgers deserve praise. However, as much as I adore Boylan Heights and their dedication to the game, Citizen Burger Bar just plays smart, fast and tough. Boylan knows how to have a good time on the court, but the overall food at Citizen Burger Bar is incomparable. 

Both places have a sports bar vibe, but the waiters at Citizen Burger Bar are often a bit more professional and organized. They play a fast game, as their service is quick, despite the daily mass of customers. Their burger game is consistently enjoyable, as the patties are always cooked thoroughly. Fries come pouring out of a metal cup on the side and seem never-ending. There’s no leaving Citizen Burger Bar without a satisfied stomach and soul, and that’s the kind of beef I am here for.

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