The newly-opened and veteran-owned gastropub Axe and Arrow recently was recognized as the home of the best overall burger at the first annual Battle of the Burger Washington festival in October.
Several competitors from all around the state fired up their grills at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma to make a variety of burgers competing in a number of different categories. Admission was free and there was something for everybody, ranging from a traditional beef burgers to seafood and vegetarian options. Other foods, beverages, and shopping vendors were also on hand, as well as a beer garden for visitors 21 and older to indulge in.
“There are other Battle of the Burger competitions around the region, but this one is unique because it’s free to the public and the winners chosen by an audience-driven vote,” said Jennifer McMillen, founder of South Sound Productions and event manager for Battle of the Burger. “As [a] Navy veteran and a military family-owned small business, we wanted this event to not only be fun and family-friendly but also bring the community together.”
The local Bremerton restaurant won for its Wagyu Burger Deluxe, which includes Washington raised beef, lettuce, tomato, onion, thick Applewood smoked bacon, and cheddar cheese.
“It’s really exciting for us, we really pride ourselves on the quality of our ingredients,” Owner Jack Hastings said. “It’s always been one of our top-selling items and one of the most liked items that we serve. We were pretty confident going into the competition.”
Hastings said a simplistic approach is key in terms of creating a tasty and unique burger.
“It’s the quality of meat, Wagyu is a member of the Kobe family, the species of Japanese cattle,” he said. “The one that we use is raised here in Washington. We use very little seasoning, we don’t use any marinade. They’re all cooked to order. We use a brioche bun which has a nice buttery flavor to it. I think all those things make it a very satisfying burger.”
Other restaurant competitors included Ricardo’s Kitchen and Bar from Lacey, The Cattleman from Yelm, Nici’s Pacific Northwest Cuisine from Yakima, as well as Street Eats Mobile Eatery, and VeGo Eatz from Puyallup. Flights of sliders were available for purchase so attendees had the chance to try each variety of burgers before placing their votes.
“It was a lot of fun, we visited with all the other vendors,” Hastings said. “We were all kind of swapping ideas, it was a really good experience.”
With the event taking place before Halloween, many children dressed up in costumes, while the 133rd Army National Guard Band, Slainte, and Aaron Crawford took the stage to provide musical entertainment. The festival donated 20 percent of online ticket sales to USO Northwest and also supported local military families, members of the community, and veterans.
“This year’s first annual Battle of the Burger Festival was inspired as a way to bring a community together through a love of food and togetherness,” a press release from the organizers states.
Axe and Arrow decided to enter into the competition to not only win but to gain more notoriety in their restaurant beyond Kitsap County.
“It was one of the main reasons we decided to do it, to gain some exposure, especially with folks who are across the [Tacoma] Narrows Bridge,” Hastings said.
In terms of business, Hastings noted how busy the gastropub has been since opening in May.
“It’s a good problem to have,” he said. “We definitely want a fine dining experience without the white tablecloths and a pretentious atmosphere. We’ve been grateful of the support we’ve gotten from Bremerton. We take that community connection very seriously.”