Head-to-Head, Bun-to-Bun
The Aberdeen Burger Battle continues into 2024, and the Aberdeen Magazine staff are here to report the saucy, savory details of the 16 competing burgers.

Head-to-Head, Bun-to-Bun

Food Review

Sometimes nothing hits the spot better than a nice hamburger when you’re feeling hungry, and Aberdeen is home to many great restaurants with great burgers. With so many options, have you ever wondered which one was the best? If you have, you’re not alone – the Aberdeen Burger Battle was created to settle the score and decide which burger reigns supreme.

The first Aberdeen Burger Battle was organized by the Leadership Aberdeen Class of 2023.

“Leadership Aberdeen projects don’t have to continue, but most of the classmates wanted to put on another battle,” Gail Ochs said. Ten alumni returned to make this year’s battle a reality, along with the Aberdeen Area Chamber of Commerce, Aberdeen Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Aberdeen Downtown Association.

Proceeds from the Burger Battle will once again be donated to the Salvation Army of Aberdeen’s food insecurity programs. Last year, $10,000 was donated thanks to the participating restaurants and sponsors.

Over 1,100 people voted in last year’s battle, and the victory went to Three22 Kitchen + Cocktails and their Bourbon Bacon Burger. Voting for this year’s battle will be a little different – last year, burgers were ranked on a scale, and this year voters will give each burger a number rating out of 10.

All 10 of last year’s contestants returned for the 2024 battle, in addition to 6 newcomers for a total of 16 different burgers.

Here at Aberdeen Magazine, we decided to taste each and every burger and pick our own personal winners. The 2024 lineup included:


Barbeque Twist Scaled E1709061177334Barbeque Twist – Lil’ Smokey

The Lil’ Smokey was a toned-down version of one of Barbeque Twist’s regular burgers, the Ole’ Smokey. The burger was a hand pattied half-pound burger, topped with smoked pulled pork, smoked gouda cheese, bacon, and barbeque sauce. When we picked up this burger, they also included a homemade sauce for us to try as well. All of the ingredients played well together, and they all got a chance to shine. Barbeque Twists’ delicious pulled pork is excellent on its own, but it was an absolute game-changer on this burger.


City Lights – Buffalo Strip BurgerCity Lights 1 Scaled E1709063647209

Are you a fan of hot wings? The Buffalo Strip Burger was the best of both worlds. A mild Buffalo sauce was infused into the patty, and each burger was topped with a juicy Buffalo sauce tossed chicken strip on a toasted bun. This burger was absolutely packed with flavor. It was also very juicy and tender, and the “mouth feel” was definitely one of the best.


Minervas 1Minerva’s – The Millionaire

Minerva’s entered the ring with their Millionaire burger, which was served on a toasted brioche bun with lettuce, tomato, candied bacon, jalapeno bacon jam, smoked gouda cheese, and fried pickled onions. The candied bacon was a favorite with the Aberdeen Magazine judges, and the jalapeno bacon jam provided a nice bit of heat. Equal parts sweet and heat made for a very memorable burger.


Richmond Oasis – Pretzel Pub BurgerRichmond Oasis 1 Scaled 1

The Pretzel Pub Burger was a very fun burger with a chewy pretzel bun, swiss cheese, bacon, crispy onions, and ground mustard aioli. The bun especially was an excellent choice with this burger, and the crispy onions just added to the awesome texture. It was a nice twist on a classic style burger, and Richmond Oasis was kind enough to fire up their grills early so we could have the chance to review this burger.


ScottysScotty’s Diner – The Big Rebel

The Big Rebel may be familiar to many taste testers; it was a play on Scotty’s two most famous burgers. With a whopping 9 total ounces of patty, it was also served with their signature Smash Sauce, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickle. There was a fair warning that it would be as delicious as it was messy, but that was a small tradeoff for the amount of flavor that the Big Rebel offered.


The Market on the Plaza – SD Juicy LucyMarket 2 Rotated 1

The SD Juicy Lucy was about as local as a burger could get – Back 40 Beef, Bumpy Road Ranch pork, Market Sauce, as well as pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, and a toasted potato bun. When we went to pick up this burger, we couldn’t even close the carryout container lid! It was a pretty tall burger, but it was absolutely delicious. It also felt pretty good to support some South Dakota businesses with this burger.


Lipsmacker Burger CircusCircus Sports Bar and Grill – Lipsmacker Burger

Out of all of the patties we tried, the most memorable for many of us was the Lipsmacker Burger’s chargrilled patty. The burger also came with American cheese, onion, lettuce, tomato, and thousand island dressing, all served on a toasted bun. It was a great take on a classic Circus burger, and our reviewers loved the refreshing taste.


Danger von Dempsey’s Pizza & Brewhaus – Onion Bier BurgerDempsey Scaled 1

Dempsey’s is well known for their pizza and hot dogs in the summer months, but they also make a great burger. The white cheddar and habanero jack cheese, sautéed onion, balsamic onion spread, and rye bread provided an amazing flavor profile, but the bier cheese included for dipping was the star of the show for many of our reviewers. The onions were also a highlight!


LagersLager’s Inn – Cajun Melt

The Cajun Melt was a fresh hand-pattied burger with bacon, sautéed peppers and onions, Cajun aioli, pepper jack, and cheddar cheese on Texas toast. The amount of flavor that was packed into this burger was incredible, and it smelled absolutely delicious from the second we picked it up from Lager’s. The aioli was the star of the burger, and the Texas toast was an excellent pairing, offering a wonderful flavor profile where no single ingredient overpowered another.


Maverick’s Steak & Cocktails – Smokehouse BurgerSmokehouse Burger Mavericks Scaled E1715176236224

The Smokehouse Burger lived up to its name – a hand-pattied burger was topped with home-smoked brisket, smoked cheddar cheese, applewood smoked bacon, barbeque sauce, and crispy onion straws. All of that smokiness contributed to a nice, savory burger with a little sweetness thanks to the barbeque sauce. The onion straws provided a nice crunchy texture that took this burger to the next level.


Mulligans Scaled E1715176419603Mulligan’s Sports Bar and Casino – Stuffed Jalapeno Popper Burger

The Jalapeno Popper Burger is another burger that was a fun take on a favorite appetizer – jalapeno poppers. The patty was stuffed with jalapeno-infused cream cheese and was topped with crispy strips of bacon and chipotle mayo. The salt and pepper bun was a great choice, and our reviewers thought that it added another level of flavor to this burger. The Jalapeno Popper Burger had plenty of heat, but not too much to cover up the flavors of the rest of the burger.


Pounders – County Fair BurgerPounders 1 Scaled E1709063518822

Have you been missing the delicious fair foods from the Brown County Fair? The County Fair Burger offered some of our favorite fair flavors well before the summer months hit. Two smash patties were topped with sautéed jalapenos, pepper jack cheese, bacon, and gooey fried cheese curds on a toasted brioche bun, and was also slathered with wild berry preserves. The cheese curds were a very fun addition, and the wild berry preserves reminded us of some of our favorite sugary treats from the fair.


Redrooster 002Red Rooster Coffee House – Mac Bean Burger

The Red Rooster’s vegetarian Mac Bean Burger was a fun and unique experience. The mildly spicy black bean veggie burger came with mac n cheese, provolone, romaine lettuce, tomato, sriracha mayo, and adorable little bean sprouts. The included pickle was enjoyed by our reviewers as we set up the tasting plates. The Mac Bean Burger was a nice and refreshing burger that absolutely didn’t skip out on flavor, proving that veggie burgers are just as great as the real thing.


Schwan’s Recreation – Pastrami BurgerSchwannies Scaled E1715176602433

The Pastrami Burger kept things simple. The burger came with shaved pastrami, American cheese, and Schwan’s special sauce, but the flavors were absolutely amazing. The meat really got a chance to shine on this burger, with just a couple ingredients highlighting the pastrami and the ¼ lb. burger patty. Sometimes less is more, and the Pastrami Burger’s simplicity was an excellent choice on their end.


Birria Burger Three22Three22 Kitchen + Cocktails – Birria Smash Burger

As last year’s champions, Three22 had a lot on their proverbial plate, but the Birria Smash Burger absolutely delivered. Their hand-pattied smash burger was topped with chef Tyler’s signature Birria, served on a crispy cheese brioche bun with queso fresco, pickled red onion, and cilantro, as well as a Birria consommé. It was quite the dining experience, and there were wonderful flavors in every single bite. The consommé was definitely a highlight on this unique burger.


The Zoo Bar & Grill – Double Smash BurgerZoo

The Double Smash Burger was essentially a textbook definition of what a hamburger should be, and we loved every bite of it! Two fresh patties were smashed and grilled with thinly sliced onion, topped with lettuce, tomato, cheese, and The Zoo’s homemade Smash Sauce. It was full of flavor and offered everything we loved about a classic burger. It’s sure to hit the spot if you’re ever craving some good old comfort food.



Which burger were you rooting for during the battle? Here’s what the folks at Aberdeen Magazine thought…


Eliotcutout E1715186522699Eliot’s Pick: Buffalo Strip Burger

The Buffalo Strip Burger was an explosion of flavor from the first bite to the last. The hand-pattied burger was perfectly cooked and infused with just the right amount of mild buffalo sauce, adding a delightful tangy kick. The crispy, juicy chicken strip on top took it to another level, offering a satisfying crunch with every bite. Together with the toasted bun, it created a delicious blend of textures and flavors that left me craving more.


Annacutout E1715186659210Anna’s Pick: Lil’ Smokey

It was just so good. I ate this one off camera. Good textures, good subtle sweetness, not too rich just right. BBQ Twist has been here less than a year and they’re throwing this heavy hitter in the ring? Tag me in. Anyway. The layer of pork on top of the burger was a great combo. No one flavor covered the other. Very balanced and full of flavor. GOOD.


Troycutout E1715188370406Troy’s Pick: Pastrami Burger

As part of the staging crew for the video we made of the competing burgers, I had the chance to try almost all the burgers. I keep coming back to the burger from Schwan’s Recreation. It tasted really beefy, it was charred and the addition of the pastrami added a great smoky flavor. Of everything I tried, my mind and taste buds keep circling back to this burger. Simple, burger-y, delicious.

Scottcutout E1715188646158Scott’s Pick: The Millionaire

Of the three burgers I sampled, my favorite was the Minerva’s Millionaire. The combination of the jalapeño bacon jam, candied bacon and gouda cheese was great. No need to worry about it being too spicy. You won’t even notice it with the cheese and sweetness of the bacon. I’d eat this burger anytime.


Anniecutout E1714416849238Annie’s Pick: The Millionaire & County Fair Burger

I liked every one of the 16 burgers I ate! So instead of picking just one, I picked my favorite from both days of tasting. The Millionaire’s candied bacon and the County Fair Burger’s wild berry preserves appealed to my sweet tooth, and both of those ingredients elevated the savory flavors on each burger. Funny enough, both burgers used jalapenos, and normally I steer away from spicy foods. I ended up focusing on the flavors more than the heat on both.


Johncutout E1714416992162John’s Pick: Birria Smash Burger & Double Smash Burger 

When you eat 16 different burgers, the simpler concoctions blend in your head trying to remember them all. While I enjoyed every burger on the list, two burgers stood out to me the most: Three22’s Birria Smash Burger and The Zoo’s Double Smash Burger.

Three22 has always been pushing the envelope with developing fun and diverse flavor profiles in the Aberdeen restaurant game, and this fun take on birria tacos is an excellent example of their work. A personal fan of birria tacos on their own, this burger twist was an easy win for me. The birria was packed with juicy flavor, the consommé had the right amount of heat, and the burger was excellently seasoned.

The Zoo’s burger had the classic toppings you’d find just about anywhere, and it probably would’ve been one of the burgers I would have a hard time remembering, but the star of this entry was the smooth, buttery texture of the beef used to make the smash burger. Every bite left my mouth watering for more. It was wonderfully seasoned, easily one of the juiciest burgers I’ve ever had, and the classic onion, tomato, lettuce and cheese combo made this a simple yet extremely memorable burger in the 2024 Burger Battle. //