The community has voted; see the five burgers they’re sending off to the judges to select the Best in NB!


Isn’t it a bit ironic that for a place like Orange County that espouses a healthy lifestyle, it is also the home to so many fast-food company headquarters?

After all, Del Taco, Taco Bell, El Pollo Loco, Wienerschnitzel, Ruby’s, In-N-Out, Chipotle, are all based here and even Carl’s Jr. got started as a little burger stand in Anaheim by namesake Carl Karcher.

In a land full of nuts, fruits and granola, we really love those delectable creations, especially the all-mighty hamburger. Over the last couple of weeks, we asked you, our readers, to submit your opinion on who serves the best burger in Newport Beach, and boy, did you let us know.

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Courtesy of Visit Newport Beach

Gary Sherwin

Hundreds of you weighed in and nominated more than 25 restaurants in town that you think have the very best burger, and it was evident that there are some clear favorites, with a few places scoring dozens of nominations.

We then posted the nominees and asked you to pick the Top Five and you again spoke out. The fighting for votes was fierce, with a few restaurants waging campaigns on social media.

So, the polls are now closed after more than 1,300 of you voted. Without further ado, here are the Top Five Finalists in no particular order based on your votes:

1. Billy’s At The Beach: A nominator said: “Classic burger, well prepared with a great side of fries. Fresh bun & ingredients. So good!”

2. Cassidy’s: A nominator said: “Best burger hands down in Newport Beach. The perfectly seasoned grill makes these next-level tasty.”

3. The Place: A nominator said: “You can taste the charcoal grill, shredded lettuce, silky cheese, just a great burger by choice of fries, onion rings or tater tots.”

4. Balboa Island Grill: A nominator said: “Freshest of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, Boars Head beef, C’est Si Bon buns PLUS you sit and look out on beautiful Newport Harbor at the Ferry Landing!”

5. Mayor’s Table: A nominator said: “Chef Riley’s burger is unsurpassed! The patty and bun and cheese are a match made in heaven.”

Congratulations to our finalists! Now, I’m sure there are lots of you who believe your favorite isn’t on this list, and we can sympathize. While some readers will cheer, others will question. But that’s democracy at work.

We now move to the final step with three judges who will sample all the burgers in a blind taste test in the conference room of Visit Newport Beach.

Our judges are well qualified for this task. They are noted chef and radio & TV personality Jamie Gwen; Ray Jacobi, who runs the Newport Harbor Yacht Club and formerly ran the fabled Ritz Restaurant and the Four Seasons Hotel Newport Beach, and John Wortmann, chairman of the Board of Governors at the Balboa Bay Club, member of the prestigious Escoffier eating society and a frequent presence at many local restaurants.

The judges will convene in our conference room on May 8, and each burger will be picked up at their restaurant freshly cooked, quietly brought to the office in plain wrapping, numbered and then evaluated. Each judge will vote on different burger attributes such as meat quality, texture of the bun, ingredients, freshness and overall taste.

We’ll video the whole process so you can see it for yourself and then the judges will make their pronouncement. Only then the white smoke will rise from the chimney and the Best Burger in Newport Beach will be revealed.

Stu News Publisher Tom Johnson and I will then take the special Best Burger plaque to the restaurant, where they will hopefully display it, and you can then go there and see if you agree with the judges yourself.

Tom and I have been trying out several burger joints ourselves and we made the mistake of doing it on a Monday, and found out that several places were closed. Last week, I went to Mayor’s Table to reacquaint myself with Chef Riley’s noted burger, which he told me was modeled after food stands at rodeos that he attended while growing up. He loved the simple, straightforward burger they served there. It has no lettuce or tomatoes.

As I was ravenously downing it, Mayor Pro Tem Joe Stapleton showed up and he later tried it too. Both of us loved it. But we each got only one vote in this process. Again, this is a democracy, after all. Little did we know that the burger would make the Top Five.

I also had lunch this week with Chef Jamie, where we didn’t have a burger (I mean, my doctor reads this column after all). We didn’t review the nominees, but she said that she will be looking to meat quality as the single most important thing to determine her vote.

Remember, too, that we have excluded fast food places like In-N-Out from the voting since we are trying to celebrate fabulous local restaurants. But I’ll freely admit that they make one exceptional burger that has a passionate following.

In the meantime, Tom and I will see if we can try out the other finalists, because, well, we just want to see if we agree with our voters. And because both of us love a good burger.

Now it’s up to the judges to decide the victor in the Big Burger War of Newport Beach. Passions are flaring, arguments are being had, debates are raging and it is all a lot of fun. Stay tuned to see who the victor is!

Gary Sherwin is President & CEO of Visit Newport Beach and Newport Beach & Company.


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