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In The Soup

It’s been a year since the ramen burger craze first swept the nation and by sheer coincidence, here I am, writing about a ramen burger again this week. This time from CoZara, a newly opened Izakaya (Japanese Pub) in University City. I was really excited to check out their version since announcing “Ramen Sundays” a few weeks ago, where their ramen burger – topped with spicy mayo, ginger ketchup, Gruyere cheese, red onion, tomato, arugula & a fried egg – is featured from 2-8 PM (it’s not offered on their regular menu). So I ordered my burger and I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

My boyfriend ordered a bowl of pork belly ramen, which came out, cooled and he finished eating it before my food even hit the table. I was worried that there was some kind of miscommunication with the order since 1) the waitress put the bowl of ramen in the middle of the table thinking we were splitting it and 2) neither our server/bartender or the waitress made any mention of their being a delay with my food either when they brought the ramen, took the ramen away, or refilled my water glass after another five minutes of waiting. I understand that putting together ramen buns may have taken a while to prepare, but any indication of that from the staff either when I ordered or when food/drinks were brought to the table would have put me a little more at ease.

But finally, just as I was about to call it a day, my burger arrived! Served with a side of fried lotus chips, this thing was a beast.

First word of advice: LEAVE THE STICK IN! It is impossible to eat this burger any other way. Second: The ramen bun was extremely thick, hot & greasy, so you may not be able to pick it up right away (even if you have been waiting over 25 minutes for your food). But despite the service snafu and it’s monstrous appearance, the burger actually had a lot of flavor. The patty itself is cooked more in the Japanese “Hamburg” style, so more similar to a meatloaf than your traditionally burger. The meat was flavored and mixed with herbs & egg and cooked all the way through. Hamburg steak was actually one of my favorite things to eat in Japan, so I kind of enjoyed that little twist. And while it was a pain to eat the thick, soggy noodle bun, it was rather tasty (even if I did eventually just give up on it altogether). I think if the noodles in the bun had been drier and fried more, and the patty maybe thinned out a little bit, this burger could definitely have been a winner (Or maybe the ramen burger craze is just past its prime!)

Burger rating: “C”

2014 Battle Of The Burger

Since I missed out on the Burger Brawl this year due to having to attend a wedding, I was excited to learn that the Philly Burger Battle was coming back for a second year. This year’s Battle Of the Burger was held once again at The Piazza at Schmidt’s, although showcasing only 19 competitors in contrast to last year’s 25. I managed to eat 20 of the 25 burgers last year, so 19 would be a piece of cake! And despite a few long lines (and a few overcooked burgers), I got to them all. So who were my favs?

1) Lotus Farm to Table’sBeef & Boar Burger“: A grass-fed beef burger topped with braised wild boar belly, red onion jam, fennel & deviled egg aioli. Despite the charred exterior, the inside was juicy and pink. I loved the flavor combo of the red onion jam & the deviled egg aioli. It was the 3rd burger I tried, and I took a few bites more then I allowed myself, but I couldn’t help it!

2) The Parish Pub’s “Italian Burger”: A handcrafted blend of Black Angus beef, Italian hot sausage & pepperoni, topped with a spicy marinara sauce & provolone cheese on a pub bun. This burger spoke directly to my Italian heritage. It was just like eating a meatball parm sandwich!

3) Rex 1516’sPimento burger“: A house blend burger topped with pimento cheese, bacon, crispy red onions and bibb lettuce on a brioche bun. This was by far my favorite burger of the bunch. The burger was cooked perfectly medium-rare and the pimento cheese had a nice, spicy kick to it. It was just so simple and delicious – no wonder it’s a staple of Rex’s daily dinner menu.

So who was the winner? REX 1516, of course! Considering a Jersey joint won the cup last year, I joked with Rex’s chef, Justin Swain, that he had to bring the Burger trophy back to Philly. I’m just glad that the crowd recognized how great this burger was, too!

And for more pics of the Burger Battle 2014, check out the album on our Facebook page (Don’t forget to “LIKE” us while you’re there!): https://www.facebook.com/ASideOfKetchup

Beast Of A Burger

Last week I talked about how the “death” of Tria in University City gave birth to The Fat Ham. In the same vein, another of my previously reviewed spots that has since closed, Bisou Bistro, has given birth to this week’s burger at Beast & Ale in Manayunk. Beast & Ale is operated by the same wonderful crew that owns the Feliz trio of restaurants (Cantina Feliz in Fort Washington (Montgomery County), La Calaca Feliz in Philadelphia’s Fairmount neighborhood, & Taqueria Feliz, also in Manayunk). Venturing away from the Mexican food realm, Beast & Ale serves up more pub-style, “greasy spoon” fare including a double decker “Beast Burger”: two quarter-pound patties topped with dijonnaise, American cheese, red onion, lettuce and pickles underneath a brioche bun. If you’re not feeling so beastly, you can get a single patty “Baby Beast” version of the burger, and there’s even a special section of “fixin’s” you can add on for an additional charge. While the burger comes paired with a mixed greens salad, you can substitute fries for $1 – and let’s face it, you’ll want to substitute fries!

I ordered the basic version of the Beast Burger. I wasn’t asked how I wanted my burger cooked, but that was to be expected since the patties are pretty thin. They came out cooked at around medium, and were still nice and juicy considering their size. The bun was a little bit too large for the width of the individual patties, but considering they were double stacked, I only found myself with one or two bun-only bites at the end. And with all the gooey cheese on each patty and meat juices, the bun certainly stood up to the challenge. I didn’t start to notice the dijonaisse flavor until my last few bites of the burger, but it didn’t really add or take away from the overall flavor of the burger itself. This burger was definitely a tastier treat then the spot’s predecessor and a fine addition to Main Street Manayunk.

Burger rating: “B”

Burgers On Tap

From their kick ass $5 happy hour to their “Sunday School” specials, Tria is one of my favorite spots in Philly. And while I was devastated when their University City location closed (even though it made way for The Fat Ham), I was excited when they announced they would open Tria Taproom, featuring beer, wine and cider all on tap with upscale bar snacks. Add to that excitement the fact that they’ve just added a burger to their menu: a whopping half-pound patty topped with Chimay cheese, beer pickles and a beer-naise sauce on a soft, toasted potato roll.

While our waitress didn’t ask how we wanted our burgers cooked, she informed us that they had been cooking them to medium-rare, which was ok with me. My burger actually came out more medium than medium-rare, which was even more ok with me! The burger patty was HUGE, but still proportional to the bun. The meat had a nice flavor, pairing well with the Chimay cheese and the sourness of the beer pickles. Every bite was just more and more enjoyable. For having just added this to their menu, Tria sure knocked it out of the park on the first try.

Burger rating: “A-“

Hamming It Up

Back in February, Top Chef season 7 winner Kevin Sbraga branched out from his fine-dining namesake restaurant and opened The Fat Ham, a good ol’ fashioned Southern dining establishment. The menu is centered around home-style classics like shrimp & grits, fried oysters and hot chicken. A pimento cheese-topped burger used to be on their lunch menu, but unfortunately, they ceased lunch service a few months ago. I had really been looking forward to trying that burger, as pimento cheese is a Southern staple. I even tried a pimento-topped burger in Nashville, but was unimpressed. Well, the burger gods must have heard my prayers, because The Fat Ham just brought the burger back, offering it only on Friday & Saturday nights after 9 PM (kind of like Atlanta’s Holeman & Finch, who at 10 PM each night, serve up a limited 24 burgers). Not only that, the burger comes with fries and is paired with a shot of Four Roses bourbon and a Neshaminy Creek beer (AKA “the Citywide” special) for a mere $18. Considering the burger itself is a 6 oz Wagyu beef patty, it’s probably the best deal in town.

I was not asked how I wanted my burger cooked, but it was a perfect medium-rare (anything else on that quality of meat would practically be criminal). The bun was soft and fluffy, baked in house in the same sesame seed topped style as the table rolls and the slider rolls used for the fried oyster sliders. The pimento cheese was gooey and slightly browned on top, the red peppers and pickles in the cheese giving the burger a nice, tangy kick.. With no toppings other than the cheese, it was simple and delicious. I just wish I didn’t have to wait until 9 PM on the weekend to eat it – I’d order this bad boy all the time!

Burger rating: “A”

Rockin’ Burgers

So you’ve decided to go out and catch some live music. You’ve pushed through crowds to get a beer and a good spot to watch the band when your stomach begins to rumble. You know you should’ve eaten before the show but now here you are, minutes away from seeing  your favorite band and you’re hungry. What will you eat? Well, I’ve got a few burger suggestions from some local venues to help you out.

First up, Festival Pier. This re-vamped, outdoor space on the Delaware River plays home to Michael Shulson’s (of Sampan & Izakaya fame) Independence Beer Garden Truck, a mobile outpost of the newly opened beer garden on Independence Mall. The burger here is a simple patty topped with lettuce, tomato, pickled red onion, mayo and provolone on an onion roll. Considering the food is coming out of a truck while trying to accommodate a massive festival crowd, my burger was cooked perfectly medium without me even having requested such. It was juicy and delicious, showing that the crew running this truck has gotten handling long lines down to a science. Plus, they take credit/debit cards, so you can save the rest of your cash for an overpriced $12 can of Miller Lite! They also offer hot dogs, hoagies, fries, mac & cheese and grilled Mexican-style street corn.

Next, Boot & Saddle, a revived musical institution on South Broad Street catering to the indie and local music scene- with the occasional big name act on the bill (check out the events calendar for upcoming shows). With a solid craft beer selection and a menu created by George Sabatino, it sure beats your average dive bar fare of peanuts and PBR. The burger here is topped with smoked gouda, chili relish and braised pork belly (!).  My only issue with the burger itself were that I wished there had been perhaps a glaze or sauce to accompany the pork belly; the chili relish didn’t really add anything to the burger and the single piece of lettuce underneath just seemed out of place. It was also paired with a house-made ketchup that was far too citrus-y to use for dipping, although I did add a little on one bite of the burger to try and give the pork belly some more flavor. Otherwise it was perfectly cooked to medium as requested, another rarity you might not find in a dive bar.

 

Burger Ratings:

Festival Pier “A”

Boot & Saddle “B-“

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling

Some friends wanted to play Quizzo this week and since two of us live Roxborough/East Falls area, we were able to convince the other “City Folk” to take the train out to our turf. We found ourselves at Billy Murphy’s Irish Saloon, just blocks from the East Falls SEPTA Regional Rail station. We also found out it was $4 burger night! The burger is an Angus patty topped with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayo and onion on a Le Bus roll. My friend asked the waitress if the onion was raw or cooked (I hate raw onion and normally just pick it off if it comes on a burger). She said it was raw but if we wanted, they could cook it. GAME CHANGER! Of course I wanted my onion cooked.

The burger came out pretty quickly since we beat the pre-Quizzo crowd. It was simple, no frills bar burger. The bun – a Le Bus Brioche – was slightly larger than the patty, but luckily not by much. The burger was cooked past my requested medium to almost well done, but it wasn’t bad; the Angus meat still had a nice flavor to it. I ordered a side of onion rings and slapped one of those bad boys on top of the burger, which really amplified the taste and gave it a nice little crunch. It was certainly better than the burger I had last week, and a steal at only four bucks! If it was cooked perfectly, I could definitely see this being my go-to neighborhood burger. Guess I’ll just have to try it again when we go back for Quizzo next week!

Burger rating: “B”

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