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Making it Grain

Now that I commute to the suburbs every day, trying to find new and interesting burgers is like a scavenger hunt. Luckily, I can drive home through Chestnut Hill and Mount Airy if I so choose, giving me more options than Irish pub food or chain restaurants. This week, I stopped into newly opened Cresheim Valley Grain Exchange in Mount Airy as I saw on their Facebook page that Mondays were half-price burger nights (and you guys know how much I love a good burger deal). Their Farmhouse burger is an all natural, grass-fed beef patty topped with Cooper sharp American cheese, Applewood bacon, bibb lettuce and sweet tomato jam on a potato bun.

The burger came out cooked perfectly medium, the grass-fed beef juicy and flavorful. The sweet tomato jam wasn’t overpowering (which I had been concerned with initially when reading the menu) and added a nice tang. The cheese was gooey and the bacon was thick cut with a good crunch to it. The potato bun was so soft and delicious, it was like eating a burger that was sandwiched between a cloud! Good burger to bun ratio; I never once worried about a soggy bottom bun or running out of bun before burger. For having only found out about this place hours before eating here, the Grain Exchange really knocked it out of the park on the first try!

Burger rating: “A-“

Mon Petit Burger

I’m feeling a little French this week as I just checked out Bardot Cafe, a sexy new bar in Northern Liberties named after French film femme fatale, Brigitte Bardot. But don’t let the name of this post dissuade you: the burger here was not “petit” by any means. This massive, thick patty, topped with caramelized onions, lettuce, and mahon cheese underneath a sexy, seeded bun will have you saying, “Oui, Oui!”

The burger came out cooked perfectly medium as requested. It was delicious and juicy, the caramelized onions and cheese pairing nicely with the flavor of the meat (And if you guys didn’t already know, caramelized onions are one of my favorite burger toppings). The piece of lettuce underneath the burger acted as a diaper of sorts to avoid that dreaded soggy bun. The only problem that I had was the burger to bun ratio: Oh sure, from the picture above, everything looks pretty proportional. But once you start chowing down, you start to run out of bun pretty quickly since the burger patty itself is so sizable. I tried to compensate as much as I could but still found myself with a few bites of just meat at the end.

Oh, and if you’ve still got room for dessert after all that burger, the Cocoa Banana Bread is très bien!

 

Burger Rating: “B+”

 

Suburban Burgers: MaGerk’s

When I used to commute to Montgomery County daily, I drove past MaGerk’s in Fort Washington every day. Once a month or so, the office would congregate there on a Friday afternoon for happy hour, but surprisingly, I had never eaten there before! Since it’s on my drive home and Mondays just happen to be half-price burger night, I figured I would check it out. There are about five burger options to choose from, including an avocado topped California turkey burger & a build your own Angus burger option. I opted for the build your own topped with cheddar cheese and bacon (for an additional 50 cent each) – because, hey, why not? It’s half price!

The burger was cooked slightly above medium so not completely pink in the center, and “smashed burger” style with a nice char on the exterior. The bacon was crispy but didn’t have much flavor; I couldn’t really differentiate it from the burger itself unless I happened to look at where I was taking a bite. The Angus beef was a little too greasy for my liking, but luckily a lot of that grease was caught by the shiny, soft potato roll it was perched on. The burger usually comes with chips, but I opted for fries for an extra $2 – especially when the bartender mentioned they were waffle fries! All said and done, the burger – including the add-ons of cheese, bacon & fries – wound up being less than the 8 oz pour of Southern Tier Pumpking I paired with it ($8 for the beer vs $7 for the burger). It was a pretty decent bar burger, but I was glad that it was half-price because I probably wouldn’t get it a regular night. (Never say never, though: all drafts are $3 on Tuesdays from 5-9 PM, so you may need something to soak up all that beer!)

Burger rating: “C-“

Suburban Burgers: Forest & Main

My job has “banished” me to the lovely suburbs of Montgomery County for a few weeks, so in addition to taking in the scenery of fall foliage and soccer mom-mobiles, I figured why not check out what kind of burgers the ‘burbs have to offer? First up in the series, Forest & Main Brewery in Ambler. Friends have had nothing but good things to say about the brewery, and I’ve tried a few beers that have popped up on tap around Philly, so I knew this had to be my first stop. Plus, on Tuesday nights during Happy Hour (5-7 PM), their F&M burger is only $10! Not long after I arrived, the guy sitting next to me had his burger brought out to him and I said, “YES! GIVE ME ONE OF THOSE RIGHT NOW!”

The burger is topped with PA Noble Aged Cheddar, bacon mayonnaise (!!!) and comes with lettuce, tomato, red onion, and a house-made pickle & chips housed under a shiny, brioche bun.

The burger was cooked perfectly medium and was nice & juicy. And the bacon mayo? OMG! How did I ever live life before without this? I know that the whole “bacon fad” is still kind of a lingering thing, but this was solid – tasty & amazing – really enhancing the flavor of the burger without overwhelming it with a bacon-y taste. All the ingredients were fresh and local. I was completely blown away by this burger, as well as all the beers Forest & Main had on tap. The suburban burger bar has been set so high straight out of the gate that I feel ready to embrace any future disappointment. Get yourselves on a train from Center City as soon as possible and come try this burger now!

Burger rating: “A”

Bare Necessities

Bareburger, an organic burger chain that started in Queens, NY, just opened its first Philadelphia outpost about a month ago. I’d heard lots of great things about it from friends in NYC so I was especially excited to check it out. The burgers come in a variety of base meat patties like bison, goat, elk, wild boar, turkey and of course, your standard grass-fed beef; all meats used are hormone-free, free-range, and humanely raised. They also offer a variety of vegetarian & gluten-free options on the menu in the way of salads and sandwiches. I opted to go the “build your own” burger route, topping a beef patty with lettuce, tomato, aged cheddar, mayo & ketchup on one of their whole grain sprout buns.

Considering the size of the burger, it seemed a little pricey (the “build your own” option starts at $8.80). Plus add on toppings and sides and you’re looking at $12-$13 dollars without even factoring in a beverage (Bareburger does have a liquor license and offers a variety of draft beer and wine). I’m not sure how big the specialty meat patties are, but hopefully they were bigger than this. The patty was very thin and cooked right to medium, much like the patties over at The Industry, making for a very disappointing bun-to-burger ratio. And while it was tasty, I’m not sure I could put organic, ethical eating over the high price tag. There are far better burgers in this city that source their meat locally that offer a much better and bigger patty. But if you’re interested in checking it out, Bareburger offers a burger, fries & drink lunch special Monday through Friday for $11.95!

Burger rating: “C”

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

The Vulgar Chef

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