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The 2009 Burger of the Year and Other Bests and Worsts

Many good 2010 menu/business forecasts have been compiled and released, so we’ll take a look back instead. It’s not just contrarianism; 2009 has been a remarkably robust year for burger news, providing sustenance for this and the many other burger blogs. Let’s review some of the year’s highs and lows.’s 2009 Burger of the Year: Mini Sirloin Burgers, Jack in the Box. A tough call, but these little buggers hit four of the year’s burger hot buttons: mini size (like an appetizer!); high-quality beef (sirloin here; many others went Angus); value price ($4 was the ceiling for the year; Jack intro’d these at $3.89); and edge-of-taste advertising (a TV spot with “little people” on little ponies herding little cattle). We’re happy Jack survived his Super Bowl accident to see this win.

Burger Build of the Year: Cuban Burger, BGR: The Burger Joint, Bethesda, Md. A beef patty topped with slow-roasted pork, Serrano ham, sweet pickles, Dijon mustard and Swiss cheese piled on brioche bun and grill pressed. Count the trends: multiple proteins; upscale toppings; bakery-style bun and global-cuisine influences. Want a forecast for the future of burgers? This is it.

Dumbest Burger of the Year: BK BBQ Double Stackticon, Burger King. The PR release said it “allows guests to stack multiple burger patties, bacon, sauce and cheese similar to the construction-themed ‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’ robots.” We’re going to be charitable and assume you laughed as you wrote that.

wendy_applewoodTopping of the Year: Applewood-smoked bacon. Wendy’s has made it the linchpin of its financial rebound; everyone else just likes the sound of it. If your palate is finely tuned enough to discern applewood overtones, you’re wasting your time eating burgers.

Non-Beef Burger of the Year: Farmhouse Veggie Burger, The Farm Cafe, Portland, Ore. Made with eggplant, bread crumbs, cheese and spices and served with caramelized onions, tomato, zucchini pickles, Dijon mustard and lettuce on a rustic bun. Nothing’s missing.

burgervillelogoBurger Chain of the Year: Burgerville. Not just because it continues to prove that chains can buy locally, support smaller producers and menu more healthful food but also because this year it figured out how to print detailed nutrition info for your order right on your receipt. Bigger chains don’t do that because….why?

People’s Choice Award: Twisted Root Burger Co., Dallas (and now Richardson and Roanoke, Texas, too). Visitors to clicked the link to Twisted Root’s fabulous burger menu more than any other single link this year.

bk_megaangusfuriosoxtBurger Name of the Year: Mega Angus XT Furioso, Burger King/Mexico. Sounds like the name of a Mixed Martial Arts badass. You’d have to order it.

Best Burger Marketing: CKE Restaurants’ Big Carl/Big Hardee burgers. You can let the McDonald’s marketing juggernaut roll over you, or you can stand and fight…and have it roll over you. But props to Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s for yelling that their burgers are bigger and cheaper. 

Worst Burger Marketing: “Woody,” T.G.I. Friday’s. Yeah, Woody got his 900,000+ friends on Facebook. But go to the Discussion section of his page and you’ll find many of those “friends” there, whining endlessly that they didn’t get their coupon for a free hamburger. Promo over; Woody goes silent. True relationships are built on more than the shared desperation of coupon distribution.

mcd_honorBest Burger Advertising: “Honor Angus” billboard campaign, McDonald’s. Almost every other chain went the “Make a video and send it to us!” route, and those videos are largely unwatchable. McD’s went old-school, invited customers to submit two-word billboard headlines and actually used the best of them (but not our “Dr. Fill” suggestion). 

Burger Song of the Year: “When it’s re-e-al, you know when it’s real,” Wendy’s. It’s never coming out of your head. Of course, no one else wrote a theme song this year. It’s like “I Need to Wake Up” from “An Inconvenient Truth” winning the best-song Oscar in 2006.

Burger Poem of the Year: “There’s a McDonald’s for everyone,” McDonald’s/UK. I know, it’s also the only burger poem of the year, but you won’t get this out of your head, either.

If you disagree or have an award winner of your own to add, that “Leave a Comment” link below is there for you.

8 Responses to The 2009 Burger of the Year and Other Bests and Worsts

  1. LOVE this list! Especially “Burger Name of the Year.”

  2. Kate L

    Wowza: XT Furioso? That can’t go down without a fight.

  3. Jen

    My favorite fast food burger is CURRENTLY McDonald’s Mushroom and Swiss Angus….really delicious….and I usually hate their burgers!

  4. What an awesome site!! The McD poem is a really good one and it won fantastic art awards in the UK for bringing back the human touch. Keep up the great work.

  5. ElinW

    I love that Best Burger Name is its own category. And, I’m so pleased you discovered such a worth winner.
    Love your insights!

  6. Good analysis of the burger launches. I tried the Jack Mini Sirloin Burgers on a trip to San Diego this year. Delightful! Puts Burger King (mini) Shots to shame — BK’s are way too heavy handed on the condiments, no meat flavor to speak of. Surprising that a mini from a regional chain beat the top QSRs’ “premium” burgers, for all the burger wars consumers have endured. As editor of, we’ve covered a lot of these trends, and you are right on target.

  7. Didn’t Del Tacos “Double Del” (similar to a Checkers/Rallys Big Buford) win the OC Registers (dubiuos)”best Burger poll?
    A good burger like this should have at least received an honorable mention.