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Go Fly A Kite!

There are lots of places on my burger to-do list. Some of them are places that are new to me, but a lot of them are places that I’ve been before but haven’t had a chance to try the burger. Case in point: Kite & Key, frequented many times during stops on the Craft Beer Express, yet never ordered from the food menu – until now! I stopped in for lunch to check out their signature Kite & Key burger, a ½ pound ground Angus beer patty topped with cheddar cheese, bacon and fried shoestring onions on a toasted brioche bun.

The burger was ordered medium but came out slightly more on the medium-well to well done side, with a nice char on the outside of the patty. The bacon was nice and crispy and the onion strings gave everything a nice little crunch. The burger to bun ratio was perfect. While the burger itself may not have been as juicy as I would have liked, I still really enjoyed it. If you’re heading out for Philly Beer Week events this weekend, definitely swing by Kite & Key’s annual Throwdown in Franklintown event and fuel up with one of their burgers!

Burger rating: “C”

OH baby!

Oysters are one of my favorite treats on a warm, summer day when you don’t feel like eating something heavy. Oh, I know there’s that old stigma about not eating them during months without the letter “R” in them, but they’re just so light & fresh! So imagine my surprise when I found out that Oyster House combines both my favs in one meal: I’m talking about the OH burger – a burger topped with a fried oyster! It also comes topped with blue cheese and grilled onions on a brioche bun.

The burger came out perfectly cooked to medium as requested – it had been a while since I saw a nice, juicy pink center like that! The burger to bun ratio was good and I didn’t wind up with a soggy bottom. Unfortunately, it was kind of downhill after that. The fried oyster had way too much breading on it and was weighing down the top bun. Whenever I tried to take a bite, it would slip the top bun away from me! I also could barely taste the oyster over the breading. And the blue cheese was so salty and overpowering, I could barely taste anything else, either! They were very sizable little blue cheese chunks, which I was able to scoop up with some of the chips, but with each bite of burger, nothing else filled my mouth except blue cheese flavor. It was really disappointing. A milder cheese would definitely have been better – as well as a light batter on the oyster. Sometimes the best of both worlds isn’t always what you hoped it would be. Next time, I’ll just stick to buck-a-shuck!

Burger rating: “C+”

A Real “Tree-t”

It seemed like I’d all but exhausted the burger options around my job, especially those that only serve burgers during lunch. That is, until a few weeks ago when The Treemont announced that they would start a lunch service and that they would be adding a burger to that menu! So I threw my soggy salad in the trash and headed over to check out the Treemont burger, topped with short rib, smoked onion jam & Comte cheese. The burger comes with your choice of a salad or potato skins; I felt guilty over my tossed packed lunch, so I chose the salad option.

I wasn’t asked how I wanted the burger cooked, but it came out almost well done. Luckily, it was salvaged by the delicious short rib on top, which was tender and juicy. The cheese was thick and gooey. The onion jam gave the burger a nice, savory flavor without being too sweet. My favorite part might have been the bun; it had the flavor & consistency of a pretzel bun, but without the salt on top. It was well proportioned to the patty, although I did find myself with one final bite where there was only bun remaining. It was thick and helped to soak up all the runoff from the short  rib, the jam, the cheese, and what appears to be some kind of aioli smeared on the bottom bun. If this bad boy had been cooked perfectly to medium temp, it might just have gotten an A!

Burger rating: “B”

Hip To Be Square

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – National Burger Month is here! I’m super excited to celebrate by eating some really great burgers this month and will be capping the whole thing off by eating my 100th unique burger here in Philly (meaning I’ll have eaten a burger at 100 different places around town; clearly I’ve eaten more than 100 burgers, guys!), so stay tuned for a special post highlighting that. Kicking things off this week is the burger at Square 1682, inside in the Hotel Palomar. Available only on their daily lunch menu, the 1682 burger comes topped with Amish cheddar, bread & butter pickles, lettuce & tomato.

I ordered the burger medium, but it came out more on the medium-well side; there was a burst of bloody juice on the first bite but very little pink on the inside. The meat was flavorful, but would have been better cooked at my requested temperature. The outside of the patty had a nice char to it and made it taste like a Burger King Whopper, which I liked. The Amish Cheddar had a great flavor – slightly sharp but also very creamy. And I loved the sweet & sour flavors of the bread & butter pickles. The burger to bun ratio was on point, with the bun being slightly toasted. I tried a little bit of the chipotle aioli on a few bites, but didn’t really care for it and stuck with my go-to condiment of choice, ketchup. The lunch menu also features the Rittenhouse burger, topped with avocado, arugula, sprouts, tomato jam and local goat cheese, and the weekend brunch menu has a breakfast burger topped with Lancaster aged cheddar, pork roll, fried egg, onion rings! There’s a little something for every burger lover, so stop by and try one – or all three!

Burger rating: “B-“

Story of a Burger

Despite Pennsylvania’s archaic liquor laws (which up until recently required you to buy an entire case of beer from a distributor or buy individual bottles and 6 packs at a significant markup from a completely different store or a bar), there are breweries abound all over of the state – many of them right here within the Philadelphia area. The demand for great beer is so high here that we even have our own annual event celebrating it – Philly Beer Week – which kicks off one month from now. And what goes better with beer than a great burger? This week I stopped into 2nd Story Brewing in Old City (which recently opened in the old Triumph Brewing space) to check out their namesake burger, which comes topped with arugula, cheddar and tomato jam on a Le Bus bun.

The burger was cooked perfectly to medium as requested and was nice and juicy, but not so much so that it would sog up the bottom bun. The bitterness of the arugula was countered by the sweetness of the tomato jam, which was smeared on the bottom bun. It kind of snuck up on me at the end – in a good way! A nice treat for the last few bites. As for their beers,  I tried the Five Mile Ale, a dark, English mild-style beer that had notes of chocolate and toffee, but was light enough to not leave me feeling full the way a porter or stout might. They’ve also got another burger on the menu topped with battered/fried onion & jalapeno, Fritzie’s fondue, and a Tilted Barn farm-fresh egg. I can’t wait to get back to check it out along with a few more brews!

Burger rating: “B”

Back to the Burger

I’m an 80’s baby: the movies, the music and yes, even the fashions – I love it all. Which is why I was excited when I learned that Kevin Sbraga would be making his 3rd Philly restaurant, Juniper Commons, an 80s-themed affair.

However, some people seemed skeptical about the cuisine, and in all fairness, who really wants to relive the dark times of salad bars with sneeze guards and wine coolers when we live in a world now with foraged greens and Foie Gras? Lucky for me, the cheeseburger is a menu mainstay, no matter what the decade. The burger here comes with your standard LTO (lettuce, tomato, onion), special sauce and your choice of cheese (I went with my go-to, cheddar), all on a house-baked, seeded brioche bun.

The burger patty was massive and juicy and cooked perfectly medium as requested. The meat was flavorful and delicious. The only problem was the burger-to-bun ratio: The juiciness of the burger caused bottom bun sogging, which immediately caused me to overcompensate with each bite I took, and I quickly found myself running out of bottom bun. Otherwise, everything else about it was just right. Simple & no frills, the way a good burger should be – and that’s why it’s such a timeless treat. But if you wanna get really 80’s with it, also order up a side of fried smelts (aka fries with eyes!)

Burger rating: “B”

Prime Time

The best part about going home to visit my parents is getting to try new burgers in new places. This trip took us to craft beer & burger joint, Prime 16 in Orange, CT. As our waiter informed us, the kitchen is entirely a scratch kitchen – everything from their sauces to their dressings and in between. They also partner with local farms and businesses for all the other products (meat, veggies, beers), and the beef used in the burgers in 100% grass-fed, hormone-free Angus beef. There were so many different burger varieties, it was hard to decide which one to choose! But I went with the Cowboy: topped with cheddar, smoked Canadian bacon, lettuce & a fried egg since this was the closest to my usual go-to burger. I also upgraded to truffle fries because, truffle fries, duh!

The burger was massive and came on an equally massive (but proportional) potato roll. The burger was nice and juicy, albeit cooked slightly over my requested medium to medium well. The cheddar was gooey and the fried egg was just undercooked enough to let a little bit of yolk mingle in with the meat without making a big mess. The Canadian bacon was tasty and not chewy, as it can sometimes tend to be (like on an Egg McMuffin). You could definitely taste the freshness of the meat. I really appreciate when a restaurant sources their meat locally, using fresh instead of frozen patties. It really makes a big difference! The lettuce underneath the burger acted kind of like a “diaper” to soak up the juices, avoiding that dreaded soggy bottom bun. My only issues were 1) the side of pico de gallo which seemed out of place with the rest of the toppings, so I didn’t utilize it and 2) the truffle fries weren’t nearly as truffle-y as I would have liked, but probably for the best since some places tend to overload the truffle oil and then you can’t taste anything else. There was also a bacon STUFFED burger on the menu that I was checking out, so I’ll have to make another trip home soon to check it out!

Burger rating: “B”

The Vulgar Chef

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