Newport Burger Bender returns Feb. 18 - 27. Image via Discover Newport

By Discover Newport

Are you feeling like a Chuck Norris? A Pretzel Bomb? A Jive Turkey? A V-Rex? 

Those are just some of the names for burgers; beef, non-beef, and plant-based, that will appear on menus in local restaurants, from February 18 – 27, when Newport Burger Bender slides back into town. After having to cancel the event in 2021, the popular competition is back, and the area’s most innovative chefs are firing up their grills and tapping into their inner taste buds. 

Newport Burger Bender got off to a successful start in 2017 as a savory addition to the Newport Winter Festival, and a way to spotlight local restaurants in the “off” season, and quickly became a popular favorite. The rules remain the same: In the hopes of being crowned the best, chefs are challenged to come up with the tastiest variations on that all-American pub staple- the hamburger. The votes are cast by diners, who are encouraged to sample as many as possible during the ten-day window before going to the DiscoverNewport.org/BurgerBender to choose a favorite. Tip: The QR code on the menu inserts at the restaurants directs you to the voting page, so be sure to cast your vote!

“It’s a magnificent event for everyone; residents, visitors, and the restaurants, says Executive Chef Brian Ruffner from Jo’s American Bistro, whose Crispy Pancetta Burger (Most Napkins Needed) in 2020 landed Jo’s in the Top Ten—out of nearly forty entries.

“Chefs are very competitive people,” Ruffner adds, “and it’s always great to get the bragging rights.”  Jo’s entry for 2022, the Pretzel Bomb, is a hamburger piled high with crispy red pastrami, red onion drip jam, Narragansett lager and cheddar sauce, served on a soft pretzel roll. The planning and taste-testing ahead of time can also be intense. Jo’s has a second entry, the Vegetarian Korean BBQ Burger, which Chef Ruffner and his crew (“the best team in town”) have spent weeks perfecting—letting the kimchee ferment, and experimenting with the right balance of sesame oil, lime juice, and soy sauce.)

“Whether messy, meatless, or monumental; goopy, grass fed or with grilled onions; tangy, tart or in between crispy rice cake “buns,” we are thrilled to see the chefs’ creative entries, along with the number of new restaurants entering the contest this year,” said Julie Grant, Discover Newport’s Digital Marketing and Special Projects Manager.

Newcomers this year include:

Guisto: The Guisto Burger, a cast-iron cooked burger topped with melted Fontina and guanciale onion jam. Beef category

Nomi Park: Nomi Park Burger, a beef burger, topped with cheddar, north country bacon, rosemary aioli, and golden raisin agrodolce. Beef category

The Reef: Chuck Norris Burger, a chuck/brisket burger patty topped with smoked gouda, house made pickles, tomato jam, house made mustard, Cajun fries onions served on a pretzel bun. Beef category

Plant City X: X Burger, offering a House made plant-based burger patty with PCX sauce, cashew cheddar cheese, pickles, lettuce, tomato, and onion. Plant based category

The Boat House: The Mediterranean Swordfish Burger, fresh ground swordfish, Narragansett Creamery Sea salty feta, house pickled onions & cucumbers, frisee, Kalamata & red pepper aioli, served on toasted brioche bun.

The Safari Room: The Safari Sirloin Burger, a sirloin burger, with onion strings, bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, safari sauce.

The following newbies are offering up two different burger variations: 

Portside Tavern: Portside Burger, a short rib-chuck patty with VT cheddar, caramelized onion, candied cherrywood bacon, aioli on a potato bun. Black Bean Burger, Black bean patty, VT cheddar, bibb lettuce, Avocado ranch, served on a potato bun. 

The Fifth Element: The Fifth Burger, a beef burger topped with Applewood smoked bacon, Bibb lettuce, tomato, American cheese, sliced pickles, pickled jalapeño bacon jam, sriracha aioli, hand cut fries. Falafel Burger, pan seared Falafel, Bibb lettuce, tomato, red onion, Tzatziki sauce, hand cut fries. 

Stoneacre Garden: Stoneacre Custom Blend, a beef burger with Stoneacre Sauce, Vermont Cheddar, lettuce, and tomato. Chickpea Vegetable Burger, Chickpea vegetable burger with curry Aioli, Yuzu Pickles, on Grilled Naan Bread. 

Tavern on Broadway: The Broadway Burger, a half pound blend of short rib, brisket, and chuck with house crafted tomato bacon jam, American cheese, and arugula on a toasted brioche bun.

Spicy Black Bean Burger, house crafted mix of black beans with spices. Pan seared and topped with melted cheddar cheese and sriracha aioli on a toasted brioche bun.

Wally’s Wieners: Bleu Dream, Bleu cheese stuffed Juicy Lucy, topped with bacon onion jam, onion rings & bleu cheese dressing on a butter grilled potato roll. Cruzin’ n Boozin, Impossible smash with a chipotle aioli & mushroom-onion-tomato jam.

Try one. Try Some. Try them all. Then vote for your favorite burger, voting begins February 18th. Note: Only one vote per burger entry will be accepted this season. 

Visit DiscoverNewport.org for a full list of restaurants and burgers.

[M]eat your heart out!

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