Mason’s Grill’s creative burgers battle it out at home—and now, a national James Beard competition

Everyone in Baton Rouge knows Mason’s Grill is a go-to brunch spot. The restaurant’s build-your-own bloody marys and bottomless bubbly are famous. But these days, Mason’s is adding to its menu with a weekly burger battle—and one of its creations will now battle it out in a James Beard contest.

For the past year and a half, the staff has been pitting one burger creation against another in a sudden-death competition. New burgers are posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page every Friday, and Mason’s determines the winner based on which burger is ordered more frequently. The current reigning champ was originally created as a Mother’s Day special: The Hot Momma Melt. It hasn’t been knocked out of the top spot in the nearly four weeks since it debuted. “The Burger Battle really gives us an opportunity to change up our menu every week,” says owner Mike Alfandre. “Let me tell you, it is starting to get harder to come up with a new burger for every Friday.”

Mason’s Grill is also representing Baton Rouge in the fifth annual James Beard Blended Burger Project contest. Alfandre says this is the first year Mason’s has been asked to join the nearly 300 restaurants competing nationwide.

The Blended Burger Project challenges chefs to create a “delicious, nutritious and sustainable” burger without sacrificing any flavor. The contest requires the patties be made up of at least 25% fresh mushroom.

Alfandre describes Mason’s burger as a New Orleans barbecue burger made with 25% mushrooms and 75% beef. It’s topped with fried Louisiana Gulf shrimp and mushrooms cooked in a New Orleans-style barbecue butter. Alfandre says the team wanted to use local flavors, and the classic New Orleans barbecue butter was a perfect addition.

“The butter is great because the mushrooms just soak up whatever flavors you add to them, and the Louisiana fish fry we use for the shrimp does the same thing,” Alfandre says. “The whole burger is full of classic Louisiana spice.”

The public can vote for the best-blended burger on the James Beard Foundation website through July 31. The top 25 chefs submit their recipes to the James Beard council, who vote on the winner. Alfandre says the winner of the contest gains a great deal of notoriety as well as a trip to New York to meet the James Beard council.

Meanwhile, Mason’s will keep its Burger Battle going as long as the team can imagine new and exciting ways to change up their menu.

“It’s really fun for us,” Alfandre says. “And our customers are really into it. People have started coming in every Friday just to see what new burger we have on the menu.”