The 30 burgers on display look like postmodern sculptures: Some spill over with bacon aioli, melted cheddar, and mac and cheese. Others are topped with pickles of various shapes, or stabbed through with an Arthurian steak knife. You are as likely to see a shrimp or jalapeño as lettuce and tomato, and if you’ve never stuck a “tempura cornichon” – deep-fried pickle – on a burger before, look no further than the Crowley Burger, which won the Newport Burger Bender last year. The Crowley is now a permanent fixture of the La Forge Casino menu.
The Newport Burger Bender is a 10-day contest showcasing 30 different restaurants. Don’t let the “Newport” fool you: Participants hail from all around the bay, including Bristol Oyster Bar, Judge Roy Bean Saloon in Bristol, and Gulf Stream Bar & Grille in Portsmouth. The competition is all in good fun, but chefs are serious about their creations, and the public is welcome to tour local grills and try each entry. Only aficionados will manage to sample the full spectrum – since this amounts to about three burgers a day – but the rest of us can savor the winner, since it almost always sticks around.