Just over a year and a half ago, Rusty’s Waterin’ Hole and Chowhouse owners John Emerson and Crystal Williamson were opening the doors to Rusty’s for the first time. Now, the pair can add 2014 Burger Battle Champion to their restaurant’s resume.
“We really didn’t think that far ahead when we created the burger for the Burger Battle,” Williamson said. “We just thought that we wanted to make it a part of us, so we used our house jalapeno jelly. We knew people really liked the burger and they were commenting on it a lot. The fact that we won was just a bonus.”
The Burger Battle competition, which went from April 10 to June 10, was a new way for the New Richmond Relay For Life to raise money in the fight against cancer. In its inaugural year, the Burger Battle brought in $6,250 after selling out all 250 $25 punch cards. The punch cards allowed the Burger Battle judges to go online and vote for their favorite burgers out of the six restaurants that took part in the battle, including SAM’s Corner Bar & Grill, Not Justa Caf, Ready Randy’s, Rusty’s Waterin’ Hole & Chowhouse, the Wild Badger and Brady’s Brewhouse.
“We were really excited to hear that we had won,” Emerson said. “There were six really good establishments that took their best shot at winning, so for our burger to come out on top was really rewarding. We ended up with 196 people coming in with a punch card who tried the burger. We didn’t know where we stood with anybody else who participated, but we knew people enjoyed ours.”
Rusty’s, which is located east of New Richmond on Highway 64, came up with the Challenge Burger as its burger for the 2014 Burger Battle. The Challenge Burger is topped with bacon, pepperjack cheese, cream cheese, homemade jalapeno jelly and lettuce.
“We were just really happy that the event went well and that the fundraiser was a hit,” Williamson said. “I think for the most part we were seeing more families come in when someone tried the burger, or bigger groups. We also had a lot of people come in who had heard about the burger, but didn’t have a punch card and they tried it as well. I think people enjoyed the fundraiser, and I think it is a new and fun way to raise money. It also got people out into the community.”
For Emerson, helping out a good cause was just as important as bringing in new customers to the relatively new restaurant.
“For us being out of town, there was a great opportunity to get people to come and see us,” Emerson said. “It is always a good thing to bring in 250 people into your restaurant, regardless of where you are located. Plus, the competition is serving a really good cause, so it was a win-win for us and everyone else.”
The plan for next year’s battle, according to New Richmond Relay For Life Publicity Chair Jill Foster and Relay Co-Chair Patty Berger, is to keep the number of punch cards sold at 250, but possibly adding more restaurants to the battle.
“We would be happy to take part in the competition again next year,” Emerson said. “We don’t really have any new ideas for next year’s battle, but we will try our best to match this year. And considering how well the Challenge Burger went over with our visitors, we’ve decided to continue to offer the burger. So, when we get new menus, it will be part of the menu.”
According to Foster and Berger, the Burger Battle was one of the top three biggest fundraisers the New Richmond Relay For Life has had.
“We would like to thank all the other restaurants that were involved in the competition,” Williamson said. “Without them, there couldn’t have been a challenge or such a great opportunity to raise money for the American Cancer Society. And we are hoping to do it again next year.”