Crawfish-stuffed patties? Bell pepper burgers?
In the food world and beyond, the hamburger is widely regarded as a quintessential American classic. But offerings at this weekend’s premier Jazz in the Park Burger Fest boast a New Orleans flair.
Burger Fest takes place from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday in Crescent Park. The event showcases creative burger concoctions and side dishes from 10 food vendors, including food trucks and small mom-and-pop restaurants.
“We pride ourselves on being a festival for the little guys,” said Emanuel Laine Jr., the founder of Burger Fest and the executive director of People United for Armstrong Park.
A panel of judges will determine the best burger.
“The judges are pretty excited to eat all of this delicious food,” Laine said.
People United for Armstrong Park is a nonprofit organization that fostered the community effort to reopen Armstrong Park. It also produces Jazz in the Park, a free concert series that takes place each fall and spring. Jazz in the Park is approaching its 12th season, and Burger Fest will kick off the fall series of performances, the same way the Treme Crab Fest signaled the beginning of the spring set.
The Treme Crab Fest was a four-day event that attracted an estimated 15,000 people. Burger Fest will follow a similar format, focusing on -- what else? -- the hamburger.
“The hamburger is America's No. 1 sandwich,” Laine said. “It wasn't a hard decision.”
Specialty burgers will include Praline Connection’s hot sausage creation, Creole Sneaux’s crawfish-stuffed patties and Big Dawg Barbecue’s bell pepper burgers.
Side dishes include red beans and rice, and collard greens from Praline Connection; loaded sweet potato fries from Millie’s Soul Food; macaroni and cheese (from Chef Johnson’s food truck; and grilled teriyaki chicken from Bob’s Kitchen.
The festival will offer Budweiser products and fruit drinks from Cool Fruit Sensations, along with cocktails like the Jazz in the Park Punch (rum punch), the Satchmo Sour (whiskey sour), and the Louito (mojito).
Tickets for Friday begin at $20.
Entertainment for that evening includes music from Grammy Award winners Stephanie Mills and Deniece Williams. Mills rose to fame with her role as Dorothy in the Broadway musical "The Wiz" and later recorded numerous R&B hits. Williams is known for such songs as “Let’s Hear it for the Boy.”
On Saturday, when the admission is free, festgoers can groove to live music from jazz vocalist Stephanie Jordan, Cyril Neville, Los Hombres Calientes featuring Bill Summers & Irvin Mayfield, jazz saxophonist Donald Harrison, OTRA, N'awlins Johnnys, and Caesar Brothers Funkbox featuring Big Chief Juan Pardo.
Burger Fest was created with philanthropy in mind.
It’s a fundraiser for Jazz in the Park and for Covenant House, located on Rampart Street, next to Armstrong Park.
“We want to be good neighbors,” said Laine. “The Covenant House is the first line of defense against homelessness.”
Laine said that after the Treme Crab Fest, People United for Armstrong Park donated $5,000 to the Covenant House’s Sleep Out Against Homeless campaign.
He is predicting an especially large crowd for the Friday night concerts. “If you want to avoid waiting in long lines, you should get your ticket now,” Laine said. “You'll be able to get to your seat in time for the start of the show.”
When: 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday (tickets start at $20 on eventbrite.com); 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday (free admission)
Where: Crescent Park, French Market New Orleans