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All Hail The King

The Good King Tavern opened a few months ago off South Street (in the old Chick’s cafe space) with a focus on a casual, French inspired menu. Normally I’m not the type of person who goes to a restaurant that specializes in a particular cuisine and orders the random burger on the menu, but this week, I made an exception, trying the TGK burger – topped with bacon, Emmental cheese, lettuce & tomato on a seeded brioche bun, served with a side of¬†rouille. I was delighted when placing my order to find that the burger only comes cooked medium, but also nervous: if this is how they cook all their burgers, there’s no chance they’ll mess it up, right? (Spoiler alert: They didn’t!)

Once the burger arrived, I could see why the burgers were all cooked to medium. The patty was very wide and thin, kind of like the patties over at The Industry, which means that they cook fast to get that nice, pink center. The brioche bun was soft and buttery, holding up well with each bite, even with a little bloody run-off from the burger. The meat was flavorful and the patty was perfectly proportional to the bun. The bacon could have been a little crispier, but otherwise I couldn’t complain. Topped with sliced roma tomatoes and bibb lettuce, it resembled many of the burgers that I like to make at home. I think I was most excited about it being the correct temperature and finding pink in every bite I took that made the overall burger eating experience the most enjoyable I’ve had in a while. I’m glad I decided to check it out, even if it was one of the least French things on the menu (think they’ll let me add escargots as a topping next time?).

Burger rating: “B”

Perfecting the Kraft

A friend of mine had been hyping up the burger at Kraftwork for a while now, so I decided it was finally time to check it out (lest I get nagged continuously). It’s not like I’ve never been to Kraftwork before. It’s the starting point for the twice yearly Craft Beer Express and they’ve always got a pretty solid draft list; I’ve just never had a chance to eat here until now. The burger is touted as being a special dry aged blend and comes customizable with an assortment of toppings for 50 cents a pop (lettuce, pickles and one topping are included). I opted to top mine with sharp cheddar and bacon red onion marmalade. You also get a choice of either garlic herbed fries or a mixed green salad as your side. I was planning on partaking in Hot Diggity‘s Fourth of July corn dog special later that day and was saving my deep fried food intake for that, so I went with the salad (who am I?!).

The burger came out with a nice presentation: patty situated on top of the pickles and lettuce, fairly proportional to the bun. However, when I picked it up, that’s when things fell apart – literally. A lot of grease came dripping off the back of the burger and the meat started to separate slightly after my first bite. It was also cooked more on the medium-well side then my usual requested medium. Thankfully the grease didn’t make the bun too soggy (probably thanks to the lettuce/pickle “diaper”), but I did have to compensate for the patty coming apart and leaving behind excess bun by eating around the burger instead of head-on. The pickles gave the burger a little bit of crunch and sweetness, as did the bacon-onion marmalade, but there wasn’t a lot of flavor otherwise.

After I’d finished, I overheard some people at the table next to me debating who had the best burger in the area; one guy said it used to be this one but now he was leaning towards Interstate Draft House. Maybe I just waited too long to try this burger? I guess next time I’ll listen to my friends and check things out sooner!

Burger rating: “C+”

High Society

There’s certainly no shortage of places in Philadelphia to get good food and cocktails. So when Society Hill Society opened in Headhouse Square a few months ago, I knew I’d have to add it to my list. And then all my friends started raving about their burger. “Best burger I ever had!” “Only $8!” “I don’t even like burgers but this was so good!” Once I heard their reviews and saw pictures all over social media of how good it looked, it immediately got bumped to the top. I popped in for brunch on Sunday after checking out the Headhouse Farmers Market, which is where Society Hill Society sources many of its ingredients from. The burger is a no-frills sirloin & brisket blend patty topped with lettuce, onion and tomato on a house-made potato bun. You can also add cheddar cheese for $1, which I did.

The burger looked amazing when it came out. The patty and bun were proportional, although certainly smaller than the monster I got last week. I did however find myself running out of burger the more bites I took, so I tried to pace myself and only had about one bite at the end that was just bun. The house-made bun was nice and soft, and it was nice to see something other then a shiny brioche roll for a change. Since the burger patty was small and thick, it did come out slightly more on the medium-well side, but was very juicy and flavorful. It was also topped with some kind of house-made ketchup that was was ridiculous delicious. Paired with hand-cut potato chips and a pickle, it was the perfect treat for a Sunday afternoon, and definitely worth the expedited trip.

Burger rating: “B+”

Goodness Gracious

Ever since Shake Shack touched down in Philly two years ago, a lot of other fast-casual burger chains have come to the area trying make an imprint on the burger scene (Smashburger, BurgerFi, Burger21, to name a few). So when Spike Mendelsohn of Top Chef fame announced he would be opening a branch of his DC based burger joint, Good Stuff Eatery, I was anxious to see how it would turn out. And then I became increasingly more anxious as the projected opening date being reported by local food blogs kept getting pushed back again and again. Finally, just in time for July 4th weekend – aka Philadelphia’s time to shine – the doors opened and the burger angels sang their siren song.

They have an assortment of burgers with specialty toppings on potato buns, as well as hand-cut fries and shakes. Sounded awfully familiar to me, so what would set Good Stuff’s burgers apart? First off, their burgers are a blend of short rib, chuck and brisket and a whopping 5-6 ounces. As far as the fries go, instead of using classic Idaho potatoes like some places, Good Stuff uses red bliss potatoes that are aged and then hand cut and double fried. And for your dipping delight,¬† they’ve got a “mayo bar”, featuring Chipotle, Mango, Sriracha and Old Bay (a DC & Philly favorite). If you remember from my recent post about my trip to BurgerFi, I wasn’t pleased with them charging $13 for a burger, fries & a drink when you can easily get the same combo at Shake Shack or Five Guys for less. Good Stuff’s lunch special (running Monday-Friday from 11:30 AM-2:30 PM) features their Farmhouse Cheeseburger (topped with tomatoes, lettuce, onion, pickles and “Good Stuff Sauce”), fries and a drink for only $12! That sounded like a great deal to me and so, that’s what I opted to get.

So, the first thing I noticed was that I was not given the Farmhouse Cheeseburger. I’m not sure if this was an oversight or if maybe the lunch special burger changes daily; either way, I wasn’t complaining. Checking the menu again, it appears I was given the Coletti’s Smokehouse burger: topped with Applewood Bacon, sharp Vermont cheddar, fried Vidalia onion rings & chipotle BBQ sauce. The second thing I noticed was how big the patty was. This thing was no joke! Five Guys gives you two patties off the bat and Shake Shack will let you add a patty and both of those barely come close to this bad boy (and honestly, I feel like less of a pig if I have one big patty instead of getting two). Thirdly, while I was not asked how I wanted my burger cooked, when I bit inside, it was a perfectly pink medium. Already this burger was leaps and bounds over its competitors!

The cheddar was nice and gooey. The bacon, crispy. The BBQ sauce, tangy. The onion rings had a good crunch to them and weren’t too stringy. The bun, soft and proportional. Good Stuff Eatery was good stuff, indeed. I can’t wait to get back and check their burger out in its “pure” form.

Burger Rating: “A”

Zin-fully Delicious

While making a weekend trip to South Jersey – for Wegman’s, obviously – we decided to pop into Zinburger, which happened to be in the same shopping center as the Wegman’s in Cherry Hill. Zinburger is a casual wine & burger bar, specializing in novelty burgers made of 100% certified Angus beef and American Kobe beef, which they grind in house three times a day. I didn’t want to go too crazy, so I ordered the Samburger – topped with Nueske’s Applewood smoked bacon, American cheese and 1000 island dressing.

Then I checked out photos on Yelp and immediately changed my order to the Breakfast Burger: topped with a Fried egg, smoked bacon, American cheese, avocado & mayo (I know, I know. That burger should have been my first choice since those are all my favorite things). Just like at Bobby’s Burger Palace, when your server asks how you would like your burger cooked, they confirm back to you with the color & temperature of your order; in my case, Medium, warm pink center and warm throughout.

The burger came out and looked amazing. The house grind meat had a great flavor and the patty was perfectly proportional to the bun. I made sure to keep the giant toothpick thing in the bun to hold everything together for a while so that the toppings didn’t spill out everywhere. The burger was slightly more on the medium-well side – I would have liked to see more pink inside – but it was very juicy. Normally I would ask for ketchup, but I didn’t even need any! I also wish the fried egg had been slightly runny instead of being cooked all the way. I was surprised how delicious it was for a “suburban chain”, considering my last South Jersey burger experience wasn’t so great. I’m definitely glad that I changed my order at the last minute. I would totally have regretted not getting this! The one downside would probably be that the burger doesn’t come with fries, but they have an assortment of onion rings & various fries that are the perfect size to split with another person – if you’re into that kind of thing.

Let’s face it – no one likes food shopping on an empty stomach – so fuel up beforehand at Zinburger. They also have an all day Happy Hour on Sundays where you can get their simple burger for only five bucks!

Burger rating: “B+”

 

On The Lamb

Avance had some pretty big shoes to fill after taking over the former Le Bec Fin space last Fall. But despite a string of somewhat scathing reviews regarding their prix fixe main dining room, there’s been nothing but praise for the Border Springs Farm Lamb burger that’s become the crown jewel of their bar menu. In fact, the burger just won them Judge’s Choice at the 2014 Philadelphia Burger Brawl. The burger is topped with feta & rests on a red onion marmalade, and comes paired with a side of crispy panisse (that’s “chickpea fries” for you non-French speakers).

The burger came on a beautiful, seeded brioche bun. Lamb is definitely one of those delicate meats that you can’t afford to overcook, and this patty was cooked to a perfect medium-rare. The fresh, saltiness of the feta and the sweetness of the red onion marmalade worked amazingly well together, enhancing the flavor of the meat. It was succulent, juicy and finger-lickin’ good. If the burger wasn’t $18, I’d probably eat one of these a week (Oh wait, Border Springs has a stand at Reading Terminal Market, so I can!) It was hands down the best burger I’ve had in Philadelphia in a long time. Stop in just before happy hour ends at 5:30 to pair it with a $10 cocktail and they’ll be ready to fire one of these bad boys up for you when the kitchen opens for dinner service.

Burger Rating: “A+”

 

Celebrating The Shack

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Shake Shack, and while their original New York City location in Madison Square Park has been getting a different special “Celebrity Chef” collaboration burger every day this week, the Philly Shake Shack outposts certainly weren’t left out of the festivities. Philadelphia chef Marc Vetri created his own “Carbonara Burger“: Shake Shack’s signature Pat LaFrieda patties topped with pecorino cheese, black pepper, bacon & a fried egg. Putting a fried egg & bacon on top of a burger is pretty much the key to my heart, so who needs one of those crazy shrimp & butter topped creations going on in NYC when I can get one of these bad boys right near home?

On top of being a renowned chef, Marc Vetri also created the Vetri Foundation, which is committed to healthy eating & living, and ensuring that the children of Philadelphia have access to nutritious meals both in their schools and in their communities. One dollar from every Carbonara burger sold is going directly to the foundation, so you can do good while eating good (ok, so maybe a burger topped with a fried egg & bacon isn’t the best meal for you, but it certainly is delicious!)

You guys will have to act fast, though. The burger is only available until this Sunday, June 15th – at all three Philadelphia Shake Shack locations (Sansom Street, University City & King of Prussia) – or until I eat them all, whichever comes first!

The Vulgar Chef

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