Burger 21 VIB Tasting Event

Every once in a great while there will occur an event that blurs the line between the safe, warm glow of the internet, and the harsh cold that is “real life”. This is the all-too-true story of one such event.

tasting sign

It was the Burger 21 “Very Important Blogger” event, in Westchase on Linebaugh. And they were all there… all the important bloggers: Carlos Eats, My Other City By The Bay, Write.Click.Cook.Listen, STRATEGIC ONLINE NETWORKING. And of course, Chewbacca.


Yes, it was a motley crew indeed. And we were ready for food. The idea was simple: get a whole bunch of bloggers to come to a burger joint that already has a good online buzz going for it, feed them all burgers and milkshakes until they want to die, give them some swag, and let them all blog about it. Pretty straight forward marketing plan. I guess they hadn’t planned on Chewbacca actually showing up, or maybe he wasn’t invited at all and they were just too afraid to ask him to leave, but everyone was acting pretty funny around him. They still gave him food and everything, but they didn’t ever say anything to him or treat him warmly like they would with the other bloggers. They would kind of just set the stuff down and run.

Later on, some of us would begin to suspect that it was that careless treatment of Chewie that proved to be the impetus of event’s downfall. But we’ll never really know the truth. We’re just lucky to have survived at all.

Now, you’ll have to forgive me; only in these recent weeks have I been able to even fathom the idea of revisiting this fateful event. This actually occurred a couple months ago, on July 18th. Since then, many details of our time was either lost or repressed. But, unlike the other bloggers who seem to have completely avoided the tragedy accompanying our time at Burger 21, I will attempt to recount the events as accurately as possible.

bacon cheddar slider

Through the course of the event, we were offered three different sliders (Burger 21’s new tiny burger offerings), sides of both the regular and sweet potato french fries, a hot dog, and samples of about a billion milkshakes. First up was the Bacon Cheddar Slider. It was a pretty standard burger, the perfect introduction to their burgers. The meat was quite good. They boast fresh, never frozen, “all-American mid-western choice steer”. I can’t say that it compares to the meat at Burger Monger (still my favorite Tampa burger), or even Square One Burgers, but it held its own. The buns were very nice too, soft and slightly sweet. Good bacon. Nice veggies. Decent cheese.

black & bleu slider

Their Black & Bleu Slider was immaculate; the bleu cheese sauce played perfectly against the blackened burger, and the applewood-smoked bacon was the perfect assist. Easily the best of the sliders.

french fries

Their fries were pretty standard fare, a bit salty, a bit fried. Nothing special. Mostly a means of conveyance for the many sauces, which I’ll touch on later.

blt turkey slider

Then there was the BLT Turkey Slider, featuring a turkey burger patty that was surprisingly good. I am not into wacky meat burgers typically, but this did quite well! It was reminiscent of a tuna patty more than a turkey patty, which really worked well for it. Not dry at all. It held together and tasted great. Not to say that it compared with a real burger, but it was good.

sweet potato fries

The sweet potato fries were better than the regular ones, with a good balance of sweetness and slight saltiness, though they are not as good as good as the sweet potato fries from Daily Eats.

Around this point was the first sign that there would be trouble. Chewbacca seemed a bit upset about the turkey burger, having expected to be served more beef from a burger place. Carlos tried to explain to him the concept of a turkey burger, and Tender Branson told Chewie that he wasn’t going to be eating any of the meat burgers at all, instead opting to sample their veggies burgers. This only served to anger Chewbacca further, and he let out one of his trademark bellows, presumably to silence his fellow bloggers. Everyone tried to calm him. He responded by shoving french fries up his nose.

The staff, ever the professionals, continued bringing out food items and shakes. To calm the beast, they delivered hot dogs to all the bloggers. You were given the option to choose one of four types of hot dogs: The 101 Dog (standard ketchup mustard onions relish), The Reuben Dog (sauerkraut, cheese & ale sauce, and a remoulade sauce), The Danish Dog (pickled cucumbers, tomatoes, onion strings, and the remoulade), and The Chili Cheese Dog (chili sauce, salsa, jalapeños, cheddar cheese). One guess at which I chose.

chili cheese dog

The Chili Cheese Dog was easily the most impressive item I had at Burger 21. Decent dog, topped with badass crap that will make you feel awful. The chili sauce was great, and the salsa was an inspired addition. Add jalapeños, and I’m in heaven. It may have been too much, overshadowing the chili and making this more of a Mexican dog, but dammit it worked for me. My only complaint was the Texas toast bun, which was just way too much to deal with and an overall bad choice.

the rueben dog

My trustworthy assistant ordered herself the Reuben Dog which I got to try, and almost immediately regretted. It was far too much creamy, especially at this point in the game. We had already been packed full of burgers, fries, and shakes, so this was just going too far. So maybe that made this thing seem more gross than it really is, but damn… just looking at it is kinda nasty. I believe my assistant was far less passionately against it.

Chewbacca demanded one of each type of hot dog. At this point, I believe the staff was just trying to keep him under control until the event was over, so they acquiesced. This gave Chewie what I will refer to as a “meat high”, during which he become extremely loud and somewhat rambunctious, shaking and screaming and laughing all at once. Other bloggers wisely backed away from him.

Throughout the event, we were exposed to an insane number of milkshakes. It was far too much, and near the end I was getting sick. They were all very good, most of which coming surprisingly close to a precise recreation of whatever they were intended to mimic. Here they are, in no particular order:

strawberry short cake shake
The Strawberry Shortcake Shake

ybor city double espresso shake
The Ybor City Double Espresso Shake

chocolate peanut butter shake
The Chocolate Peanut Butter Shake

tiramisu shake
The Tiramisu Shake

bananas foster shake
The Bananas Foster Shake

chocolate malted milk ball shake
The Chocolate Malted Milk Ball Shake

key lime pie shake
The Key Lime Pie Shake

Chewbacca wound up with the majority of his shakes in his matted fur. He occasionally complained of brain freeze. And when they neglected to bring out the touted chocolate cherry bomb shake, Chewie flew into a frenzied false sense of entitlement, hitting the people around him, and striking one of the staff members dead. This seemed to really piss off one of the managers, who soon emerged from the kitchen with a cattle prod. Most of the bloggers had backed away from the angry Wookiee, though a couple had already been felled by his blows. It was difficult to concentrate of the flavor of the latest milkshake through the deafening screams, but I knew I had to try before the whole mood of the event would be spoiled by terror-induced vomiting.

A few shocks of the cattle prod in, and the mighty Chewbacca showed no signs of calming. He picked up the table in front of him and flattened the manager wielding the weapon. Chewbacca then deftly removed the head from one of the lesser known (and then unconscious) bloggers at the event, and proceeded to sate his hunger by drinking its warm blood. I sampled Burger 21’s sauces.


There were all variety of sauces, clearly created by a mad scientist of some sort, including a Thai ketchup, chipotle mayo, honey mustard, mango scotch bonnet, apple cider(!), and toasted marshmallow(!!). They were all quite good, with the toasted marshmallow being surprisingly delicious (as in not sickening), working well with the sweet potato fries.

In the end, the death count totaled twelve, the number mostly padded by young passengers in a school bus that Chewie destroyed as he fled the area. The restaurant was devastated by his rampage. The staff was left mentally broken, traumatized from seeing things only common to a battlefield. And the (surviving) bloggers were left with one hell of a story to write about. But it seems like some of them (read: all of them) left out a few minor details. WELL THOSE BLOGGERS BE DAMNED. I offer only the truth! The truth, and an impeccable sense of taste.

Long live Chewbacca, slayer of the service and destroyer of dreams!


  1. Pingback: BGR The Burger Joint « Tampa Bay Food Monster

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