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A Fond Farewell

When I first set out to find the best burger in Philadelphia in 2011, I never dreamed that I would have kept at it this long. But in recent months, it’s become harder & harder to try and come up with posting material. Not because I’ve grown tired of eating burgers, but simply because it seems that I’ve already eaten most of them!

After nearly four years and over 120 burgers in the Philadelphia area alone, I think my quest has finally come to an end. I’ve eaten some truly great burgers and some ones I’d rather forget. I’ve covered a lot of ground in the surrounding suburbs of Montgomery County and South Jersey as well. I’ve even spanned the United States eating burgers in far off places like Seattle and Nashville (I also covered burger ground in Chicago, Vegas, Louisville, Portland, NYC & Suburban Connecticut). I’ve even gone to some great burger-themed events and gorged myself silly. And it hasn’t just been your standard beef patty fare either – I spent two Marches eating nothing but veggie burgers, something I never thought I would enjoy but turned out to be a great adventure (and an exercise in self-control!).

Hopefully this website was a great tool for those of you who used it and please continue to direct other burger lovers/fanatics here in the future. I may post from time to time again, but no longer on a weekly basis. Please continue to use my burger ratings list & the awesome Burger Google map I’ve created to assist you with your own burger journeys. You can also check out the Twitter feed for other fun & burger news.

So please don’t consider this goodbye; just ‘See ya later‘!

-Denise, A Side of Ketchup

N3rd Burger

Don’t be alarmed by the “leetspeak” title of this post. I haven’t been hacked; just paying tribute to this week’s burger from North Third (or N.3rd), tucked away in the Northern Liberties neighborhood on – where else? – North 3rd street. This is another one of those “been meaning to get here forever” places, but every time I’ve tried to go on the weekend, it’s always packed! A dreary, rainy night granted me some luck and I was able to snag a table in the bar area to check out their burger: a Black Angus patty accompanied by your requisite lettuce, tomato and onion on a brioche bun. I opted to add a slice of Vermont cheddar for $1.25.

The burger came out perfectly medium as requested; maybe even a little on the medium-rare side as the center was bright pink but not bloody. The burger to bun ratio was perfect and the burger itself tasted fresh and delicious. The cheddar cheese covered the patty completely and was nice and gooey. It was a great, simple, no-frills bar burger. And at only $11, you won’t break the bank piling on a plethora of cheeses and other toppings for a few bucks more each to customize it the way you want.

Burger rating: “B+”

Beast of the Northeast

I know you guys like burgers, but do you LOVE burgers? Well, Zagat does and to show that love, last week they partnered with restaurants all over the U.S. to create special burgers in honor of #ZagatLovesBurgers week. Representing Philadelphia was two-time Burger Brawl Champion, The Blue Duck, with their “Beast of the Northeast (Philly)” burger: a wild boar and beef patty, topped with smoked Gouda, sweet tomato jam, duck bacon, and crispy Sriracha onions on a brioche bun.

Since the meat was a boar/beef blend, I didn’t expect to be asked how I wanted it cooked, but it came out on the medium-medium well side; the patty pocketed with pink spots where the beef blend was located. The tomato jam gave the burger a nice sweetness to counteract the smokey gouda. The bacon was nice and crispy. But they forgot the Sriracha onions! (Probably for the best – you guys know by now I’m a wimp for hot/spicy stuff.) Despite the ingredients & the “beastly” nickname, the burger itself was much lighter than I expected, meaning I didn’t feel heavy and grossly full afterward. Which meant that I had room for their signature Blue Duck Fries: hand-cut fries that are tossed in duck fat, then topped with smoked gouda cheese sauce & shredded duck confit. Seriously. Don’t leave without getting these fries or you’ll be sad like the guy sitting next to me was!

The Blue Duck is a bit off the beaten path from downtown Philadelphia, but definitely worth the trip. I can’t wait to come back and try their regular burger – and to crush some more duck fries!

Burger rating: “A”

Fit to be Square

Everyone in Philly’s familiar with Rittenhouse Square. It’s pretty much the hub of Center City west of Broad Street. You go there to see and be seen. To dog watch, people watch, read a book, meet your friends, eat some fro-yo, take a nap, etc. But just a few blocks is a different square – Fitler Square. You’ll find the same gorgeous tree and Brownstone lined streets, but a much quieter vibe compared to Rittenhouse’s hustle & bustle. And on a gorgeous, 72 degree day in November, that’s exactly where I decided to head for lunch. Given the weather, I found it appropriate to stop into Fitler Dining Room and try their Endless Summer burger, topped with pepper jack cheese, lettuce, green pickled tomato, goddess mayo. I sat down, stripped off all the layers I’d put on when it was 45 degrees at 7:45 AM, and basked in the glory of open windows and warm sunlight while waiting for my food to arrive.

The burger arrived cooked just slightly over medium to medium-well, yet still had a lot of bloody, juicy runoff. My hostess/server joked when she seated me that the soup of the day – if I were crazy enough to order it given the day’s warmth – was tomato. Instead, the only tomato I was interested in was the pickled green one underneath the large, hand-formed patty, which gave the burger a nice, sweet crunch. The house-made bun was just slightly larger than the burger, but I only found myself with 1-2 meatless bites. The Goddess mayo was light and refreshing with herbaceous undertones that didn’t overpower the burger flavor. Endless Summer was more than just a clever moniker; it really did take me back to those warm, breezy summer days and backyard barbecues with every bite. But don’t let this summer pass you by: the burger is only available on Fitler Dining Room’s lunch & brunch menus, so get over there while the weather is still amazing!

Burger rating: “B”

Heart of the Matter

About a year ago I dined at Local 44, which at the time was one of four bar/restaurants owned by the awesome team that also owns Memphis Taproom, Strangelove’s & Resurrection Ale House. Well, technically it’s still one of four bar/restaurants owned by that same awesome team, except Resurrection Ale House has since closed and another venture, Clarkville, is still in the works. Replacing Resurrection in the current rotation – but certainly not in our hearts – is Coeur (which coincidentally, is the French word for heart), located in the Bella Vista neighborhood. Keeping with the theme of its bar brethren, the focus is on craft beer and quality food. However, they’re also adding a touch of French-Canadian influence to the menu. Case in point: the Poutine burger, consisting of two patties topped with brown gravy, cheese curds, fried potato skins and tomato confit on a brioche bun.

The menu didn’t explicitly state that the burger was a double patty, so my eyes got real wide when I saw how big it was! Would I be able to tackle this monster? (Don’t worry! The patties are actually fairly thin, similar to The Good King Tavern, and they were cooked perfectly to medium even though I didn’t specify). Since I wasn’t super hungry, I was also worried that the gravy would be very heavy (thoughts of grandma’s thick gravy being slowly poured on Thanksgiving dinner danced through my head), weighing down the already hefty-sized burger. Thankfully, the gravy was light and tasty. The fried potato skins on top got a little soggy, but aren’t soggy carbs the best part of real poutine? There’s also some pickled onions and pickles underneath the bottom patty (also not mentioned on the menu), which give the burger a nice crunch to combat the sogginess. There was no way to beat the dreaded bottom bun sog here, but at least in this case it was expected. And since the patties are double stacked, the burger to bun ratio leaves you with more bun than meat – but that just gives you another vessel to soak up all the leftover gravy! This bad boy was definitely a two-hander for sure. Make sure to keep your napkin close by – it’s going to get messy (But what a delicious mess it was!)

Burger rating: “B+”

Like A Phoenix

Hawthornes Cafe is a Philly brunch & beer mainstay. Unfortunately about a year and a half ago, a devastating fire put them out of commission and left the Bella Vista neighborhood without one of their favorite bottle shops for almost a year. But like a phoenix, Hawthornes rose from the ashes and reopened better then ever this past spring – even becoming one of the first places in town to launch beer delivery! I stopped in on an unseasonably cold fall evening to warm up with a dark beer and one of their burgers. They have two options: the House burger, which is just your standard Angus beef patty topped with three-year aged Gouda and LTO, and the Hawthornes burger, topped with crumbled danish blue cheese, over easy egg, avocado & chipotle aioli. A fried egg AND avocado? Um yeah, I wanted that one!

The burger came out topped with a jiggly egg yolk just waiting to be cracked open. I smeared a little ketchup on the top of my brioche bun, pressed down and POP! Out oozed all that delicious yellow yolk. The patty was cooked perfectly to medium, the avocado was bright green and fresh, the chipotle aioli creamy with a kick, and the blue cheese crumbles gave the burger a nice, salty flavor without being overpowering like some blue cheese topped burgers I’ve had in the past. I used the bulk of the burger to sop up all the delicious yolk with every bite. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a burger that was so good I wanted to eat it again immediately afterwards. Everything about this burger was just perfection; a great treat on a chilly evening.

I’m glad to see that Hawthornes is back and thriving. You should check it out for yourself on Saturday, November 7th when they host their annual Fall Block Party. It’s a free event with fire pits, hay bales and of course – Beer! But make sure you hit the ATM beforehand as the event is cash only! Hope to see you guys there!

Burger rating: “A+”

Feeling Sassy

I’d been meaning to get over to Sassafras in Old City for a while now to check out their Tuesday “Luncheon Lunacy” special: Between Noon and 5 PM, their signature sirloin burger is only $5.95! Unfortunately, I work on the opposite side of the city and Tuesdays can get pretty hectic, so I hadn’t been able to pop out and make the trip until this week. The burger comes with your standard LTO (lettuce, tomato & onion) and your choice of fries or a salad. You can also add cheese for $1 more, so I went with sharp cheddar.

The burger came out cooked perfectly medium as requested, with lots of juicy blood drippings (mmm, morbidly delicious!). The patty was quite thick and just slightly smaller in circumference than the bun. I was able to navigate and keep the burger-to-bun ratio balanced though with each bite. The cheddar cheese was oozing and gooey and kept falling off the patty, so I just kept picking it up with my fork and adding it back on. I also smeared a little of the garlic aioli on the top of the bun to give it a little extra flavor. All in all, it was the perfect bar burger. No frills, no muss and all at an unbeatable price! They also have other burger patty options on their menu (which are not included in the lunch special) like lamb, bison and ostrich, which sounds totally wild! Factor in their amazing classic cocktail list and live jazz during the week, and I’ll definitely have to make a return trip.

Burger rating: “A”

The Vulgar Chef

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