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Burger Brawl boosts business during traditionally slow time of the year

Burger Brawl sign at Bogie's
Olivia Cromis
Customers discovered that Bogie’s Deli serves more than just sandwiches during the Burger Brawl.

After a month of delicious competition between local restaurants, Downtown Abilene’s inaugural Burger Brawl crowned a winner last week.

The hiss of a grill, the clink of a glass, a contended sigh from a happy customer: these are the sounds that filled restaurants across Downtown Abilene for the past month, thanks to the inaugural Burger Brawl. This friendly competition challenged five local eateries to battle it out for the title of Downtown Abilene Burger Battle Champion.

Each participating restaurant put up one burger for the brawl. Matera Bar & Grill’s Fire and Smoke Burger features giant onion rings, jalapeños, barbecue, and beer cheese. At The Local, chef Cody added fried ham, bacon, American cheese, red onions, and a secret sauce to the HAMburguesa.

Olivia Cromis
The Local introduced something brand new, the HAMburguesa, during the Brawl

Bogie's Deli smothered their patty with chili and cheese. After the feasting and spending of the holidays, many people cut back at the beginning of the year. Bogie’s owner Phillip Ratliff says the burger brawl was a great boost for business, with about a one-to-one ratio of regulars and new customers coming in to participate in the brawl, “We’ve had a lot of people that, because we’re a sandwich place, didn’t even know that we had hamburgers, that that’s something we can do, so it’s been very good. It’s been good exposure for us and bringing in a lot of new people.”

A couple of blocks away guests enjoyed Cypress Street Station’s Southern Hot Mess with spicy pimento cheese, a fried green tomato, and spicy Russian dressing. Owner Amanda O’Connor says as good as it was for business, the competition was a lot of fun for the community, ”We’ve got a lot of people coming downtown to try the burgers, kind of as an event, we’ve seen people come in by themselves and have it, we’ve seen them come in groups and have it. We’ve also seen people take to-go orders, get all five burgers, and go to one of the parks in town and enjoy it.”

Jim and Llana Trietsch are a testament to the community engagement that the Brawl brought to Abilene. They fully committed to the spirit of the competition, trying all five burgers, “It’s been a good opportunity to try different restaurants that we hadn’t been to before.”

Olivia Cromis
Matera’s Bar & Grill claimed People’s Choice top honors with its Fire & Smoke Burger

Grain Theory’s Brewhouse Burger is piled high with pickles, BBQ sauce, cheddar cheese, and bacon jam. It claimed the title for the most burgers sold. Last Friday, Downtown Abilene announced that the Fire and Smoke Burger rose to the top as the People’s Choice Winner. Lindsay Flores, owner of Matera’s Bar & Grill, says that being such a new establishment, this win is important, ”It’s been a hard year. Year one in a new business, any new business, my heart goes out to in year one. This win is awesome; we needed this. We’re super stoked, I can’t wait to tell the rest of my staff.”

Laurin Kocurek with the Abilene Downtown Initiative says the Brawl went so well, that they’re already making plans to do it again in 2025, “I think that the public excitement around it was even more than we expected, and so we’re already meeting with our downtown stakeholders to figure out how we can better improve for next year, and reach more people next year.”

Whether they claimed a title or not, all five of the restaurants came away winners, with more than 2,500 burgers served up at participating restaurants during some of the slowest weeks of the year.