"History is always happening" at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site
Perhaps no other food in history has spawned as much loyalty, opinion, and disagreement as the burger. Everyone—no matter how enthusiastic they are about food—has a favorite burger (except, maybe, vegetarians). Stand in a circle of passionate food lovers and forcefully declare some joint’s burger as “the best in the city,” and be prepared to receive everything from agreement and praise to scorn, distrust, or disgust. It’s no surprise that the burger attracts such a variety of viewpoints as the noble hamburger comes in such a wide assortment of preparations: thick, thin, cooked-through, medium-rare, high-end, or cheap and greasy. Of course, there’s really no objective means to unequivocally declare a particular burger or burger joint to be the best, but that hasn’t stopped many burger enthusiasts from trying.
Throughout March, one group of burger-adoring ruffians has attempted, by the most methodical and objective mean possible, to once-and-for-all determine the best burger in Little Rock. The Little Rock Burger Caucus was founded by Little Rock native, Joel DiPippa, in attempts to join people together through delightful food, merrymaking, and a bit of political repartee. I think DiPippa describes the Burger Caucus best when he offered this description:
The Burger Caucus is a loosely organized collection of ne’er-do-wells primarily with some political bend who meet every month at different locations to have burgers and engage in what can only be called jibber-jabber. A collection of politicians, reporters, wonks, and pundits gather in our quixotic quest to discover the best burger in the Little Rock and central Arkansas areas. If you like a dose of politics, but not political theatre, with your burgers, look us up.
The Caucus developed a bracket in which a smattering of Little Rock’s most beloved burgers and burger joints would be able to go toe-to-toe with each other through numerous rounds of voting. Winners would move on to the next round, facing new, tougher competitors, until finally a championship bout, between the two most cherished burgers in Little Rock, would determine “the best” burger in Little Rock. All initial nominations, and subsequent votes were kept within the confines of the esteemed circle of Burger Caucus members. Who ended up on top? Here’s how it went down:
After the initial nominations were tallied, an elite group of burgers took their slots in the initial voting rounds. Nominees included The House, The Root, Big Orange, David’s Burgers, The Food Truck, Midtown Billiards, The Town Pump, Cotham’s, Doe’s, Capital Bar and Grill, and White Water Kitchen, just to name a few. Over the course of a few weeks, these burgers were paired against each other and members of the caucus voted for their favorites. It was an utterly delicious bit of March madness.
Top seeds included the almost unanimously loved, Big Orange, the oft-praised burger from The Capital Bar and Grill, the greasy, classically constructed burgers hailing from the ancient, hallowed grill at The Box, and the local late-night legend offered by Midtown Billiards.
In the end, two burgers brushed away the competition with grace and style, moving swiftly and easily through the bracket and taking their slot in the championship bout. This final showdown included the Scott McGehee kingpin, Big Orange, and a somewhat unexpected (to me anyways) appearance by Midtown Billiards. In the end, however, it was the pasture-raised beef and the laundry list of inventive, exquisitely topped burgers (seriously, how can you resist white truffle, pecorino, and fig jam?) at Big Orange that claimed the prize.
I’m sure there are more than a few people, within the Burger Caucus and beyond, that are hotly anticipating the ability to devour a Big Orange burger without having to make the excruciatingly tiresome journey out to The Promenade. I’ve heard that Mr. DiPippa himself starts to become slightly jittery once he’s gone west of Mississippi and absolutely tremulous once west of the 430…unless he’s nursing an alcoholic beverage. The Midtown Big Orange cannot come soon enough. Cheers to Big Orange and thanks again to the Little Rock Burger Caucus for their continued efforts in promoting the best burgers in central Arkansas. You can join the Caucus at their next monthly meeting by keeping an eye on their Facebook page here.