The Democratization of the Hamburger

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Because we here at Voracious love you and value your opinion, we have decided to take a new tack with our tried-and-true Versus column. In addition to the knockdown, drag-out, head-to-head battles between competing foodstuffs (and drinkstuffs) that have always been the warm and beating heart of Versus, we have now added a poll to the mix where you, gentle reader, get to make your preference known. Think we're completely off the mark on one of our match-ups? Think we're dead-on and just want to pile up the love? Let us know. The link to the poll page will now be at the bottom of every Versus column, and each week's results will be tabulated at the top of the following week's column.

We also thought, what better way to launch this new widget than with a historically contentious subject like the hamburger. This week's review takes on two of the newcomers to Seattle's burger scene: Dope Burger and BuiltBurger. And now we'll be pitting them against each other again, with your votes settling the matter once and for all.

So without further ado: the burgers.

The Contenders: Weirdly customized mail-order burger company BuiltBurger, which just recently opened its first brick-and-mortar store in Pioneer Square and new late-night Belltown burger outpost, Dope Burger, which claims to serve the "dopest" burgers in town.

The Stats: One location apiece, both brand new, both still settling into spaces that don't yet quite feel like home. Dope Burger comes to the game with time on its side: It stays open 'til 1:30 a.m. on weekends in order to Hoover up whatever green might be left in the pockets of Belltown's party crowd, while BuiltBurger is really a lunch-only operation, bringing in the welcome mat at 4 p.m. (!). But BuiltBurger has innovation going for it. While Dope is doing some fairly standard burgers, Built's product, in some cases, are only burgers by the very loosest of definitions.

The Battle: There's one big problem with Dope Burger right from the start: its burgers taste like small, inexpertly made meatloaves that have been left out in the rain. This is owing to two things. First, hand grinding--which, in most cases, is a good thing, but not when the meat is overworked, as it is here. Second, the work of the grill cooks. All the burgers I ate at Dope showed the tell-tale lacing around the edges of the patty of a burger that'd been smashed down on the flat-top in order to make it cook faster. Unless done deliberately and very carefully, the result of this burger abuse is a dry patty from which all the flavor (read: blood and fat) has been squeezed. And that's just tragic.

BuiltBurger, on the other hand, babies its burgers. They are carefully and artfully assembled from high-grade ingredients and presented as the delicate and delicious things they are. The problem (for some people, but not me) is that a "burger" at Built is not really a burger by the classical definition. The cooks here shove all kinds of stuff into their patties--from ground chorizo and roasted poblanos in the Magnificent Chorizo to ground pork and barbecued pork in their BBQ burger. They mess with the essential burger-ness of their burgers and, needless to say, this makes some people furious.

Those people are idiots, but still. They're out there.

The Final Score: For me, BuiltBurger takes this one in a walk. It's not that I don't appreciate the convenience of a burger joint open until late in the evening and it's not that I'm not driven crazy by the short hours at Built, but if I have to make a choice between a delicious but inconvenient burger and a mediocre one that's easy to get, I'm still going to go with delicious. Dope Burger has its place, but its just not in the winner's circle of this week's contest.

So now that I've had my say, it's time for you to have yours. Click through this link to our new poll page and cast your vote for this week's victor. Results will be tabulated by our crack team of abacus-wielding super-monkeys and revealed at the top of next week's column.

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