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Paradise By The Neon Light

“Though it’s cold and lonely in the deep dark night…”

Nestled just a few blocks off East Passyunk’s main strip lies a storefront with twin neon signs like glowing beacons enticing you to come inside. That place is Fountain Porter, home of the $5 burger. That’s right, folks. Five bucks. One Abe Lincoln. There are no frills and no gimmicks. If you want a burger, you come here (and hopefully you do, because other than some bar snacks, that’s the only item on the menu).

The burger comes on a soft potato roll topped with lettuce, tomato and American cheese (pickles on the side, ribbed for your snacking pleasure). Standard. Simple. Perfect char on the outside, delicious and juicy on the inside, just the way a good bar burger should be. Pair this bad boy with a side of crispy, hand-cut fries and you’re “gonna go all the way tonight“.

Burger rating: “B”

One Night In Paris

Ahh, mes amis! Here we are with another week of traveling home from the ‘burbs and eating burgers. This time I decided to venture through Chestnut Hill, stopping into Paris Bistro inside the Chestnut Hill Hotel. A burger when there’s all this delicious french food on the menu? But of course! What Parisian doesn’t love a good “Royale with Cheese”? And this one comes topped with Gruyere cheese and sweet pepper relish.

The burger came out topped with adorable little cornichons and was cooked perfectly medium on the inside. The meat was just so succulent and juicy, I didn’t even need to put ketchup on it. The house baked brioche bun was soft with a nice, outer crust (much better than those generic shiny brioche buns at other places). It was also lightly toasted and extra buttery which added a great taste to the burger. The Gruyere was gooey and slightly salty. That, combined with the flavor of the peppers (which I picked off because I’m not a big pepper person), really complemented the meat. There were also sliced plum tomatoes and lettuce as additional toppings (hidden by the bun), and a side of aioli that almost tasted like the “Bloomin’ Onion” sauce but not as overpowering. I smeared a little of that sauce on the bun and barely tasted it – but in a good way! I would have been angry if the aioli was the only thing I could taste. Everything about this burger was so delicious and amazing – Or should I say – C’est Magnifique!

Burger rating: “A”

In The Navy (Yard)

Thirty years ago when my dad was stationed in the Navy, he spent a lot of time here in Philadelphia down at the Navy Yard. Back then, I bet he never imagined one day his daughter would be living in Philly and enjoying delicious, roasted fare right inside the gates he passed in and out of every day. That’s right – this week’s burger adventure takes us to Marc Vetri’s newly opened, Lo Spiedo. Aside from pork ribs, chicken and a spit-roasted octopus (!), Lo Spiedo also cooks up Creekstone Farms brisket and uses that brisket in it’s burger. You can opt to get it topped with bacon, cheese or grilled onions, but who likes to choose only one topping? I went with cheese AND grilled onions.

The burger also comes with lettuce and tomato, and a side of ketchup & mayo for your shoestring fries (seriously, fries dipped in ketchup & mayo is the best). The burger was cooked slightly more on the medium well side, but was still delicious and juicy. The brisket patty was super moist and flavorful; I can’t wait to try a regular cut of it. The bun was a soft, seeded roll, perfectly proportional to the patty, and didn’t get soggy from any burger juice runoff. The grilled onions also added a nice flavor. And for $10 during happy hour, it was a steal! Just make sure you bring your appetite: there are so many other amazing snacks on the happy hour menu that we might have gotten a little overzealous and ordered almost all of them. But no matter how full you are, don’t forget to finish your fries!

Burger rating: “B+”

Keeping It Local

It’s been a long time coming, but I finally made it out to West Philly to try the final link in the “chain” of amazing beer bar/restaurants from the people who brought you Strangelove’s, Resurrection Ale House and Memphis TaproomLocal 44. So far, all three have had pretty solid and delicious burgers. Would Local 44’s burger – topped with house-made American cheese, pickles, BBQ 1000 island, and lettuce – hold up to the others?

The pickles were more sour than I’d prefer, but the smokey tang of the BBQ thousand island helped mellow them out. Unfortunately, my burger was cooked past medium to medium-well. While lamenting my overcooked burger, a nearby table was seen sending their burger with a warm, pink center back to the kitchen. Alas, someone else had gotten my perfectly cooked burger and had the nerve to reject it! But despite the inaccurate temperature, the burger was still rather tasty. The only other downside was the burger to bun ratio was way off. The picture above is hiding the empty space of the bottom bun, but just know that I eventually gave up on the excess bun altogether. I tore the rest of the bread off and finished the burger without it, instead of trying to eat my way around to compensate for the lack of bun. It might not have been the “golden child” of the burger family, but it was still a treat.

And speaking of treats, don’t leave Local 44 without getting an order of their amazing hush puppies – Trust me, you won’t regret it!

Burger rating: “B”

Feeling Hollow

This week’s “trek back from the ‘burbs” landed me in Mount Airy once again, this time at Goat Hollow (not to be confused with Goat’s Beard in nearby Manayunk). I’d heard good things about the burgers here so I figured it was worth checking out. They had four specialty burgers which you can get with your choice of beef, chicken or veggie – as well as a lamb burger that is listed under their sandwiches. I opted for the signature Goat Hollow burger, topped with pickled pork belly & provolone – because I love pork belly (even if I have had some hit or miss run-ins with it used as a burger topping in the past).

The burger came out and looked pretty promising. However, once I picked the burger up, the beef looked like it was a frozen, pre-formed patty, which was kind of a let down since I’d heard such good things. When I took it bite, it was definitely not medium as requested and quite overcooked, which confirmed to me that it was probably a frozen patty. The pork belly was overpowered by the pickled flavor and also very overcooked and chewy. The sharpness of the provolone clashed sharply with whatever was used to pickle the pork belly, giving it a harsh, bitter flavor. The bun, a boring brioche. With no other toppings aside from a smear of the same aioli they gave me for my fries, this burger definitely left me feeling hollow. I was disappointed because the atmosphere inside was cozy and they were playing tons of my favorite 80’s songs (The Smiths, A-ha, Men at Work and the Talking Heads twice? Yes please!). Oh well, at least the draft list was decent!

Burger rating: “C-“

Burger Not So Ugly

I’ve been living around the corner from The Ugly Moose in Manayunk for over four years now but just ventured in for the first time this week to check out their burger. I could have kicked myself for not coming in here sooner. Touting themselves a “Canadian-American pub” on their website, the place has a cozy, ski lodge vibe and an amazing craft draft and bottle list (before you ask, yes, they have poutine!). With a variety of burgers on the menu, I opted for the Ayr-Back Farms burger: topped with locally made, organic cheddar cheese, Applewood smoked bacon as well as lettuce, tomato, red onion.

While the burger itself was pretty standard, I was surprised at how fresh and delicious the cheese was. Some cheeses tend to loose their flavor when they melt, but not this one. It added a great flavor to the burger, which was cooked perfectly medium as requested. The Applewood bacon was crispy without being stringy and the smokiness wasn’t over-powering. Who knew this hidden gem (and I mean that quite literally, as the Ugly Moose is in a shared off-street space on Shurs Lane called “The Garage”, also home to Deke’s BBQ) was just a few blocks away?

Burger rating: “B+”

 

 

Hot Diggity!

Growing up in New York, hot dogs were pretty much a required part of my food pyramid along with cheesecake, bagels, knishes and pizza. Nothing beats that first bite into a Sabrett’s hot dog. So I was especially excited when I moved to Philadelphia and discovered Hot Diggity – a “haute” dog eatery on South Street that showcases the various awesome regional hot dogs the U.S. has to offer – uses Sabrett’s dogs! That excitement was maximized this summer when Hot Diggity decided to add burgers to their menu! And while I haven’t been enough of a glutton to put a hot dog on top of a burger yet, I did recently check out their Mexi-cali burger, which is kind of like the meat patty version of my fav Hot Diggity dog, the Fiesta Dog. It comes topped with chipotle mayo (also my fav dipping sauce for their Belgian-style fries), lettuce, tomato, onions, jalapeno (which I ordered without because I’m a wimp), guacamole, and tortilla strips on the same delicious Liscio’s rolls they serve their hot dogs on. It was messy and delicious. Now the hardest part of my trips here will be deciding whether I want a hot dog or a burger!

Oh, did I also forget to mention that this summer I entered Hot Diggity’s annual “Dog Days of Summer Amateur Cook-Off” in Headhouse Square? Check out the creation below that won me “Best Homage”: The South Street Schmitter!

The Vulgar Chef

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