If you're the least bit tied in the local food scene, you probably already know about the Sacramento Burger Battle event on Sept. 18 at Raley Field.
How so? Rodney Blackwell, the man behind the upcoming extravaganza of sizzling beef and gooey cheese is a one-man social media dynamo. He tweets. He blogs. He says stuff on Facebook. And he makes things happen.
The Burger Battle not only promises to be a significant annual food event in Sacramento, it's going to raise thousands of dollars for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America. Blackwell's oldest daughter, 9-year-old Karina, was diagnosed with Crohn's disease at age 5.
"I've been donating to them ever since, but I wanted to do more," Blackwell told me Monday.
He's doing plenty more, indeed. The Sacramento Burger Battle may be new, but it already has the trappings of a big-time event with staying power. For one thing, Blackwell, 38, who designs websites for a living, believes in what he's doing so much that put up his own $10,000-plus to rent out Raley Field for the day. For another, he had so many restaurants clamoring to enter that he had to cut off entries at 15 - figuring the judges would be unable to sample any more burgers than that.
For what it's worth, I've eaten the burgers at 13 of the 15 places participating (I haven't had the burgers at the Pilot House/Delta King or Shady Lady). In my book, the leading contenders have to be Restaurant Thir13en, The Chef's Table, and The Eatery (and if The Eatery is allowed to serve its notorious "Disco Fries Ryan" with its burger, the race is definitely for second place). My dark horse picks are Ettore's and de Vere's Irish Pub. But really, at this point I have to say the judges have their work cut out for them. Really tough competition. Two of the city's top burgers, those at Formoli's Bistro and Juno's Kitchen, are not entered. Let's hope they get in next year, along with Mulvaney's, where I still remember a burger from a few years ago sandwiched between two pieces of decadent brioche toast.
Admission to the event is $55 ($75 for VIP admission), which includes samples of all 15 burger entries, desserts from participating vendors, craft beer, cider and wine tastings, as well as free parking at Raley Field. That's quite a deal, especially when you factor in the charitable component. What's more, those attending will be able to vote for a people's choice award. To get tickets, act fast by clicking here.
Blackwell started all this because of his enthusiasm for burgers. He started photographing his food and figured he'd start a blog to share his experience with other burger fanatics. That was in January of 2011. The blog, Burger Junkies, started attracting a larger and larger audience, and Blackwell got more and more exposure. He visited the Denver Burger Battle last year and saw the potential.
"It was such a good event and it had such great energy," Blackwell said. "I thought it would be a perfect event for Sacramento."
He made it happen, coming out of nowhere to gain attention and earn respect. The whole thing is very impressive. Blackwell has lined up several sponsors, including major sponsor California Beef Council.
But that's not all. Blackwell managed to get the Sacramento Burger Battle named as a qualifying event for the World Food Championships this November in Las Vegas. The local winner will be invited to compete in the Vegas event's burger category, where the first prize is $25,000. That could lead to the top overall prize of $75,000.
For more information and to order tickets online, visit the Sacramento Burger Battle website. Follow along via Twitter, @sacburgerbattle. And to read Blackwell's musings on all things hamburger, keep up with him on his excellent blog and on Twitter, @burgerjunkies.
Blair Anthony Robertson is The Bee's restaurant critic. Follow him on Twitter, @blarob.