Dona Novecosky has a metaphorical target on her back and it’s shaped like a hamburger.
Novecosky runs Klondike Rib and Salmon. The downtown restaurant is going for a three-peat in this year’s Yukon Burger Challenge.
But the territory’s other burger-makers are looking to unseat her. In some cases they’ve come armed with house-cured bacon or deep fried jalapeños.
For the month of August nine different Yukon restaurants have made their own speciality burgers to compete in the challenge. Depending on where you look, those whose stomachs and arteries are prepared can feast on tuna sliders at The Deck, a burger with crunchy fried onions at Trails North or a more classic option with mushrooms, bacon and smoked cheddar at the 1016 Pub in Haines Junction.
Rib and Salmon’s entry this year, the Midnight Sun-of-a-Gun, is likely going to be most recognizable for its sides.
“You’ve got three golden options. You’ve got (either) an ounce of Goldschläger, or you get six ounces of golden fries or you get 12 ounces of Yukon Gold,” Novecosky said.
The wild game patty itself is dressed with a barbecue sauce made with Yukon Brewing’s Midnight Sun Espresso stout, a slice of deep fried sweet potato and fresh dill.
And don’t forget the bacon.
In fact much of this year’s focus appears to be on bacon.
The Baja burger at the Cutoff Restaurant on the Alaska Highway reportedly candied its bacon in tequila before adorning its burger.
The Smoke Show burger at Whiskey Jacks comes with heaps of bacon of its own and smoked gouda.
The Gold Pan Saloon advertises its own house-made cured and smoked bacon from Can Do Farm in Ibex Valley on its Grand Torino burger along with other locally-sourced ingredients.
But it’s not the only restaurant with house-cured bacon this year.
At the downtown Westmark’s Steele Street Restaurant, sous chef Joseph Mohan has prepared more than 20 kilograms — roughly the weight of an average four-year-old — of house cured and smoked bacon to go on his HAMburger.
“When I think burger, I think bacon. So I don’t think I was excited so much to make the burger as the bacon,” he said.
Mohan estimates it took about two weeks to cure and prepare the bacon. It was made using a dry cure and honey inside a vacuum-sealed bag that he had to flip every day to make sure the bacon was coated evenly. He also smoked the bacon in-house.
“It was like the hardest thing in my life because everyday I wanted to cook it and eat it.”
The patty itself is also pork with cranberries, cinnamon and sage.
The restaurant priced the burger at only $10, the cheapest in the competition, Mohan said.
“I figured the only way we could beat the Klondike Rib and Salmon is if we sell a lot,” he said.
Also in on the competition is the Maple J burger at Earls. There, sous chef Jordan Worth decided to top his beef burger with maple caramelized bacon and onions sautéed with maple syrup. To balance out the sweetness he also deep-fried some jalapeños.
“It’s definitely something different. Here we are a franchise so we don’t get to play with the menu. So this, this is our only opportunity to add something of our own creation and something for people to try.”
The restaurant has competed in all three of the burger challenges and Worth said he considers this burger its biggest success to date.
“People are really enjoying it which is already a win in my books”
Diners can vote for their favourite burger and a winner will be announced after the month is over.
While everyone involved insists it’s friendly competition, that doesn’t mean restaurants aren’t out to win.
Novecosky acknowledges that there’s an expectation because her restaurant has won both past years
“And, do I feel like a target? Oh yeah. I love it.”
Contact Ashley Joannou at firstname.lastname@example.org
CORRECTION: This story originally listed an incorrect location for the Cutoff Restaurant. It’s located on the Alaska Highway at the Carcross cutoff.