West Roxbury’s local restaurants were in competition mode for two weeks this month, putting their best burgers on display to win West Roxbury Main Streets' Burger Wars in the neighborhood.
Between March 5 and 16, nine West Roxbury restaurants participated in Burger Wars, in a West Roxbury Main Streets (WRMS) competition, an organization that promotes and enhances West Roxbury’s business district. A dollar of each burger purchased is going to WRMS' revitalization efforts.
Barely a year in business, Porter Café found a creative and simplistic way to make a name for itself. Owners Dermot Loftus and Paul Murphy heard about the competition through WRMS and thought it would be a good idea to participate. Their “Classic Burger” has since gained a lot of attention over the recent weeks and is now a force to be reckoned with in West Roxbury's restaurant circle.
The Porter Café was honored on Saturday afternoon with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Their award of recognition was presented by WRMS and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.
When Loftus and Murphy found out their burger won the competition, they were ecstatic and totally shocked.
“We were really surprised,” said Loftus. “We’re still a fairly new business and being one of the smallest restaurants in the neighborhood, it was nice to get some recognition.”
The owners are anticipating an upswing in burger sales with the win. More importantly, they are grateful for the neighborhood support, citing that 99.9 percent of their customers are from the West Roxbury, Roslindale, Hyde Park and Jamaica Plain neighborhoods.
Their juicy and flavorful burger made of 8 oz. prime chuck beef, cheddar, housemade mayonnaise and red onion relish attracted 269 votes within the first 12 days of the competition. Their secret – simplicity.
“That’s the whole idea behind our concept,” said Murphy. “We execute things simply and excellently.”
When Mayor Menino was asked to describe his burger experience, he simply stated, “Mmm, mmm, mmm…delicious! Now, I know why this burger was voted the winner.”
The participating restaurants included Deno’s, Masona Grill, The Real Deal, The Red-Eyed Pig, Rox Diner, West on Centre, West Napoli Pizza and West Roxbury Pub. Each participating restaurant donated $1 from the sale of their signature burger to fund West Roxbury Main Streets. Each dollar counted as one vote. In addition, WRMS created an online poll, which counted for 25 percent of the vote.
The inspiration behind the competition came from West on Centre co-owner Eleanor Greene, who was influence by a social burger and beer event held at the MET Bar & Grill in Chestnut Hill. She presented the idea and WRMS and they ran with it.
“This was a great idea by Main Streets to promote local businesses,” said At-Large City Councilor John Connolly. “I think it’s part of our job to support these businesses because they are vital to this neighborhood’s identity.”
West Roxbury's District Councilor Matt O’Malley emphasized that for every $100 spent in a local business, approximately $67 comes back to the community through payroll, taxes and many other ways. More so than from a commercialized business. “That’s why it’s so important to partronize businesses like this,” said O’Malley.
During the course of the competition, more than 600 burgers were consumed. WRMS Executive Director Kara O’Connor couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.
“Sounded like a great idea to highlight, publicize and generate excitement around the restaurants in our community,” said O’Connor. “This is exactly the type of attention we were hoping for from the community."
Conveniently, the competition served as a precursor to the upcoming WRMS Taste of West Roxbury event in May.
Menino praised WRMS for their efforts as he recalled their four prong approach to community revitalization: enhancing physical appearance, improving economic stability; marketing features and benefits, as well as promoting community involvement.
“You need creativity to stay relevant these days,” said Menino. “Mom and pop businesses are the backbone of our city and simply maintaining the status quo means going backwards.”
So what “war” will come next? Battle of the pizzas, desserts, fries? We’ll see says O’Connor.
For now, “It’s good to see healthy competition that brings out the best of our neighborhood,” said State Rep. Ed Coppinger, D-West Roxbury.