It was literally a Burger Bonanza Sunday afternoon (7/9) at The Billings Depot and we had a front seat to the action. I, along with nine other judges had taken our seats at three tables arranged in a horseshoe in the Depot parking lot. Our responsibilities were paramount, as one contestant was going to win a Golden Ticket to the World Food Championship Best Hamburger competition in Dallas, TX later this fall.

Michael Foth, TSM
Michael Foth, TSM
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100's of people came to sample the best burgers in town.

A dozen of Billings' best burger restaurants and food trucks had been setting up since early that morning, getting their grills rolling and preparing their hamburger assembly lines for the inaugural event, co-hosted by Magic City's Best and The Billings Depot. VIPs started arriving at 11 am, and quickly-moving lines of GA ticketholders began passing through the gates at noon.

Photos by Michael Foth, TSM
Photos by Michael Foth, TSM
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A great day for a cook-out.

The sun was shining and the entire parking lot smelled amazing. The band Triggered was ripping out some crowd-pleasing tunes on the mobile stage and the overall vibe at the event was perfect.

Michael Foth, TSM
Michael Foth, TSM
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There were no "bad" burgers.

Honestly, every entry - with maybe one expectation - was a good hamburger. I would have no problem paying $8 - $15 (what seems to be the average price nowadays) for any of them at a food truck or restaurant. All of the burgers were tasty... but a few of them were fantastic.

Michael Foth, TSM
Michael Foth, TSM
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From classic to creative.

Many of the hamburgers in the competition used a variety of unique jams, pickled relishes, cheeses, interesting greens, and special sauces. A few of the entries we sampled provided very well-executed versions of a classic bacon and cheese burger you might make at home. Some were seasoned perfectly, while there were a few that left me wishing I had a bottle of ketchup and mustard to help out.

Photos by Michael Foth, TSM
Photos by Michael Foth, TSM
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And the winner is...

After 90 minutes of sampling burgers and marking our scores on the giant whiteboard, the votes were tallied and the winner of the 2023 Big Sky Burger Bonanza is the Copper Onion! Congrats to chef Kenny Rakstad and his crew, who will be representing Billings at the World Championship in Texas!

Michael Foth, TSM
Michael Foth, TSM
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People's Choice Award went to the Pink Patties Food Truck.

Attendees were encouraged to vote for their favorite burger and Pink Patties scooped the People's Choice award. On their Facebook page, they wrote,

Wow! Yesterday was such a blast that the Magic City’s Best Burger Bonanza! We had so much fun slinging American Dreams for everyone, but most of all, we are completely humbled by the results of yesterday’s competition.

Michael Foth, TSM
Michael Foth, TSM
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Runners Up.

Back at the judges' table, 2nd place went to Bearded Bulldog (the Marble Table's delivery-only side project), 3rd place was a tie with Tastes So Good Food Truck and Pink Patties, and 4th place went to chef Dirk Frickel and his crew at Highlands Golf Course.

Barbecue Buffalo Chicken Wings
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What about chicken wings?

Thank you to everyone who participated and attended. Rumor has it the next food competition coming to the Depot this season will feature hot wings. Watch and listen for details coming soon.

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