The Little Burger That Could
The spotlight grows brighter for AJ Bombers and its Mad Sconnie burger
The bun on that Mad Sconnie? Yeah, it's Stella's spicy cheese bread.
Remember that Burger Madness competition we did in the beginning of the year? In a bracket-style contest, you voted each week until it was down to the final burger showdown—Bob’s Bad Breath Burger from the Weary Traveler Free House (a write-in from the first round) versus the Mad Sconnie burger from Madison newcomer AJ Bombers. Due in large part to AJ Bombers owner Joe Sorge’s social media prowess, the Mad Sconnie was ultimately crowned champion.
OK, so seven months later why are we bringing this up? It turns out that our burger competition had a farther reach than we ever anticipated. Two pretty big events in AJ Bombers’ near future have direct ties back to Madison Magazine’s little burger experiment.
On Monday a film crew will be at AJ Bombers’ Milwaukee location, its original, to film an episode for the Discovery Channel’s series The United States of Food. This particular episode is called "The United States of Bacon." Yes, an entire show dedicated to foods that feature bacon, and do so in a way that’s creative and—of course—delicious. The Mad Sconnie burger fits the bill, with a patty that blends grass fed beef from Black Earth Meats with Berkshire bacon.
The show delves into the story behind each featured dish—how it's made, where it comes from and what customers have to say about it. With the Mad Sconnie burger, they'll likely hear a lot about the sandwich's roots in the local food scene.
"It's a hyper-local situation," says Sorge. "Local hogs, local cows, local distributors."
Even cooler than local ingredient-sourcing? Local idea-sourcing. When he decided to open a Madison location in 2011, Sorge used Twitter and Facebook to ask locals what they wanted on a burger to make it a true representation of the food scene here. They tweeted, and Sorge listened. That's why you'll get Stella's spicy cheese bread as the bun and deep fried pickles—"frickles"—on the Mad Sconnie.
In its fairly short history as a restaurant, AJ Bombers has had its fair share of experience with the bright lights of camera crews. The same production company that works with The United States of Food works with the show Food Wars, which some may remember pitted AJ Bombers against Milwaukee burger staple Sobelman's two years ago to find the best burger in Brew City. Bombers won that too.
While the Mad Sconnie burger is currently an exclusive to the Madison menu, Sorge says he could see adding it to Milwaukee's in the near future.
But soon after the film crew for "The United States of Bacon" wraps up (no official word yet on when the episode will air), the Mad Sconnie will make a trek much farther than the eighty mile drive from Madison to Milwaukee. Sorge and the AJ Bombers crew are heading out to Las Vegas November 1 for the World Burger Championship, a part of the World Food Championships hosted by Adam Richman of Man v. Food fame.
"We're really, really excited about this one," says Sorge. "It's such an honor."
And the honor of being included in this international competition was possible because AJ Bombers won our very own Burger Madness challenge. The other burgers competing for the title of Best Burger in the World are also winners of similar competitions from all across the globe. The best burger from Shanghai? Yep, it will be there. The champion from all of England? That too.
So there you have it. What started as a fun burger-version of NCAA's March Madness turned into a national TV episode and a World Food Championships nomination. Maybe we should do these sorts of things more often.
Grace Edquist is associate/web editor of Madison Magazine.