Your Burger Week Sneak Peek
Our annual Burger Week doesn’t start until March 10, but you can get a running start by ingesting this preview of what to expect when the paper comes out next Thursday.
The Santa Barbara Independent’s Burger Week started in 2017, when our marketing and promotions manager, Emily Lee (née Cosentino), thought that a region-wide celebration of the hamburger might be a fun way to engage with our readers and support businesses. It was a resounding success right out of the gates, thanks largely to our sales team’s efforts to enlist interested burger purveyors, so we’ve continued the annual gluttony ever since — except, of course, for the deep-in-COVID cancellation of the 2020 version.
The concept evolved over the years. In 2017 and 2018 (when the price jumped from $6 to $7), we ran stories about hamburger culture in Santa Barbara alongside the promotional campaign that participating restaurants pay to join. That led to some interesting conundrums, like stories focused on burger joints that weren’t even taking part in Burger Week. (All I can find from 2017 is this video, but here’s the link to 2018’s collection of stories, but not the Burger Week campaign itself. Yes, the conundrum remains.)
In 2019, we took a smarter approach, enlisting our own staff to visit the participating restaurants and write short descriptions of each Burger Week entry. It’s one of the easier group-effort articles to manage, as most of our writers — and even some of our non-writing staff — are willing to eat a free burger in exchange for about 150 words and an iPhone photo.
That 2019 edition was our peak so far, with 21 restaurants. But even with COVID continuing to cause confusion and sickness, we managed to enlist 11 establishments in March 2021 — but 12 burgers, thanks to Home Plate’s desire to do two. The success of that convinced us to spin off a new concept in September 2021: our first ever Burrito Week, with 16 restaurants serving 17 burritos.
This year’s Burger Week kicks off next week on March 10, and we have 14 restaurants serving 15 burgers (yep, Home Plate strikes again). The price remains $7 and it runs for seven full days, into the late hours of March 16.
I won’t spoil all the fun before next week’s issue hits the newsstands, but there are a number of vegetarian options, some non-beef entries, and even a couple of breakfast burgers to go along with the lineup of beef burgers. We’ve got a number of returning restaurants, but also some exciting new ones.
I tasked myself with sampling two of the featured burgers this year: the Billy Goat at Padaro Beach Grill, with goat cheese and balsamic vinegar slathered all over the juicy turkey patty; and the Surf and Turf from Mesa Burger, in which a thick beef burger is topped with seasoned shrimp, jalapeño-cured bacon, and black garlic aioli.
Both were hefty burgers with unique, individualized flair, which is the best thing about Burger Week: These restaurants and their chefs see this campaign as a time to shine, meaning that there’s no better time to enjoy burgers in Santa Barbara. (It’s also a good time to take long walks, which I did with my dog, to better digest each of those burgers.)
A point of clarification due to lingering confusion: Burger Week and Burrito Week are promotional campaigns in which the featured restaurants pay to be part of the marketing and resulting coverage. This is not about what we think is the best burger or the best burrito, though many of our readers somehow fail to miss that point. This is about the Independent supporting the businesses that support us, and about our readers taking their burger photos to social media to help these restaurants sell even more of these delicious sandwiches.
Dinner with Paul & Karen & the Garys
On Saturday morning at the World of Pinot Noir, I am leading a tasting of 10 different pinot noirs that were all grown at Garys’ Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands, the mountains that loom above in the west along Highway 101 between Greenfield and Salinas.
On the panel are the two legendary Garys (hence that plural apostrophe): Gary Pisoni and Gary Franscioni, as well as two of their respective sons: Mark Pisoni and Adam Franscioni. (Their other sons, Jeff Pisoni and Nick Franscioni, are also critical legs of each family operation.) The Pisonis label most of their wines under the brand Lucia Vineyards, while the Franscionis produce Roar Wines, but we also have Kosta Browne, Bernardus, Testarossa, and other brands in the lineup.
I hadn’t yet found the right time to preview the wines, which had been sitting in my garage for about a month. But I found the perfect opportunity on Sunday night, when Paul Gregutt, my longtime colleague from Wine Enthusiast who used to cover the wines of Oregon and Washington, came for dinner with his wife, Karen Stanton-Gregutt. Paul recently left the magazine to launch his own website called Paul G on Wine, which is at paulgwine.com, and he visits Santa Barbara to see some friends every year or so.
I figured he would get a kick out of 10 different pinots, and he certainly did, preferring some of the fresher Roar Wines over the rest. It will be fun to see what a packed house thinks on Saturday, and wish me luck in trying to keep the Garys on track, especially when we’re sliding into the 10th wine of the morning.
My duties continue on Saturday night, when I’ll be hosting a dinner of producers from the S.L.O Coast. Dinner at WOPN tend to be harder to control, as most of the crowd is somewhere near drunk at that point. But the wines we’re pouring and the menu pairings look on-point, so attendees should at least remember something.
From My Table
In this week’s print issue:
- I write about Samra Morris of Alma Rosa Winery, who’s the first Bosnian winemaker in America. It was a fitting time for the story on three fronts: One, she grew up in the warzone of Sarajevo, and we’ve got a new war in Europe thanks to the Russian invasion of Ukraine; two, Alma Rosa is pouring at the World of Pinot Noir this Saturday; and three, Samra will be taking part in the Women Winemakers Celebration at Roblar Farm on Sunday. I’ve known a little about her fascinating life story for a while, but only after I tasted her first 2019 wines last year did I really start paying more attention and realize that she’s the real deal. Keep an eye on her.
- Fried chicken is all the rage, and I welcomed the shift from Silvergreens to Kyle’s Chicken House on a prominent Isla Vista corner, even though I used to eat at Silvergreens all the time during my UCSB days. As I say in the article, I’m a sucker for crunchy chicken, so don’t take my glowing words for it. Go get yourself a sandwich or tenders today.
- And online, I wrote a tiny preview about a talk this Sunday at the Wildling Museum in Solvang, where Eat Less Water author and Oxnard resident Florencia Ramirez will speak with biodynamic winemaker Steve Beckmen. He’ll pour some wine after, and she’s curating an environmental pop-up shop as well.