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Five years strong
The Dream Burger, consisting of a 7-ounce beef patty, onion rings, bacon, corned beef, Swiss cheese and a house-made sauce on a ciabatta bun, of Papa Dons Horseshoe Saloon in Monroe won the 2017 Best Burger Contest by the Green County Beef Producers. (Times file photo)
MONROE - The Green County Beef Producers burger contest has reached its fifth year and is calling on area restaurants to once again submit their best creations; this time, with an emphasis on cheese.

Green County's Best Cheeseburger Contest will begin May 1.

Chair of the Best Burger Contest Nelli McDermott said the cards intended for use in voting for the best burger have garnered comments from participants in the far north portions of the state to Chicago.

"It gets people out to the different restaurants," McDermott said. "I've gotten some comments on the cards that said they've found a diamond in the rough that they never would have gone to before."

The beef producers switched to a cheese emphasis because it is a Cheese Days year.

Heavy contender Papa Don's Horse Saloon is once again in the mix among 19 total participants, most of which are based in Monroe. Creator of the recently rebranded Dream Burger, which is a towering concoction of beef, onion rings, Swiss cheese, bacon, corned beef and a house sauce between a ciabatta bun, is Donnie Lepper, who operates the place for his father, Papa Don.

Lepper said the last change made to his burger, switching the 7-ounce sandwich to locally-sourced beef, was the only shift he cares to make regarding the Dream Burger 2.0.

"I liked it so much that now all of my burgers are made with local beef patty," said Lepper, who felt the recommended change by the local beef producers may have been what bumped him into first place again last year. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

But though he is confident in his work, Lepper said the city provides bountiful competition. From the newly established Minhas Kitchen's Minhas Ultimate Cheeseburger to the Laughing Trout, which has a Monroe Burger in the competition, and Buggyworks with its "We Curd You Like Bacon" Burger, Lepper said he knows there could easily be a loss in his future.

He credited North Side Pub and Grill with its second-place finish in the 2017 contest and said married couple Joe and Laura Winters, who co-own the business, are good people with competitive entries.

"There's going to be some great competition," Lepper said. "North Side is one of my favorite places. I'm excited to go out and try some burgers myself."

Lepper said he has eaten up to 17 burgers during the contest in past years.

North Side plans to enter the Roxie Burger, which Joe Winters said they are still planning. In January, the restaurant's burger of the month was the Roxanne Burger, which featured hand-battered jalapeno peppers, which will be a part of the burger entered into the contest. Winters said the feedback last year during the contest, shortly after the restaurant opened, was "a nice surprise" and he's confident the pub will do well again this year.

"We've gotta keep Don Jr. on his toes," Winters said with a laugh.

While Minhas Kitchen is one of the new places Lepper said he believes will contend well, another new entrant hailing from New Glarus has expectations it will win the fifth annual contest.

Andrea O'Brien, managing partner of S'Wisco Taphaus, which opened in September in New Glarus, said the Gruyere Bacon Burger has the possibility of winning over every other burger entry. S'Wisco currently serves the gruyere burger on its menu, but O'Brien said the thick cut bacon is optional.

"We believe we have one of the best burgers around," O'Brien said, noting the 8-ounce beef patty is served with a spiced gruyere cheese spread melted on top of the bacon and beef.

The contest ends July 31. Anyone who wants to vote for their favorite has to visit five places on the list between Brodhead, Browntown, Juda, Monroe and New Glarus restaurants to receive a stamp on the entry card. McDermott said there will be a number of prizes like gift cards to participating establishments, $50 beef baskets and grills available for those who participate. Prizes and winners will be announced Aug. 16 at the Green County Beef Producers Steak-Out.