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No Kid Hungry

This summer sure has been a hot one! Feeling like I’m walking on the surface of the sun every time I leave the house has limited my usual burger-eating enjoyment, as well as impeded my backyard BBQing (Who wants to stand in front of a grill when it feels like 105 degrees out?). Luckily the weather cooled down this week just in time for Shake Shack to team up with No Kid Hungry and Al Roker for a special burger. The Roker Burger is a 100% all-natural Angus burger topped with Niman Ranch BBQ pulled pork, double American cheese, red-eye mayo and pickles. And every $1 from the burger sales will go to helping No Kid Hungry in its efforts to end childhood hunger in America. I’m always down to eat burgers for a good cause, so I headed over to my local Shake Shack to check it out.

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I thought the burger was great. I loved the sweetness of the BBQ sauce and the pulled pork was juicy and tender. I also loved the crispy sweetness of the pickles (my usual go-to burger at Shake Shack is the Smoke Shack, so I’d been missing my pickle fix). And a burger topped with BBQ pork is the perfect way to combine your summer favorites!

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If you wanna try it, you better hurry – it’s only available in Shacks nationwide from now until Friday, August 26th (So run like you’re in the White House about to poop your pants… just try not to in the process).

KFB (Korean Fried Burger)

Now that I’ve gotten back into the burger eating game, I’ve been trying to find new, interesting & off the beaten path burgers to check out around Philly. I remembered reading about Southgate‘s Bulgogi burger a while back so I figured I would add it into my rotation. Then, while checking out their menu online, I discovered that their brunch menu had a different burger – a deep fried Katsu burger! If you’ve been a long time reader, then you’ll know that a few years ago while I was in Seattle, I visited a place called Katsu Burger & it was amazing! So I rushed right out this weekend to check it out.

The Katsu Burger at Southgate is a panko breaded beef burger topped with gochujang aioli & shredded romaine, so a Korean take on the katsu style vs. the Japanese version I had in Seattle.

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It took a long time for my burger to come out and with good reason – the patty was HUGE! I figured this was done to ensure that the meat was cooked all the way through. Sure enough, upon first bite, the burger was cooked right between well to well done. There was still a little bit of juice dripping out so thankfully it wasn’t like eating a hockey puck. The breading seemed a little heavy and since the patty was so thick, it got this dark brown color from being in the fryer for so long making it look burnt.

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The burgers in Seattle were a much thinner patty and therefore cooked faster, ensuring that the coating didn’t burn. And because it fried for so long & was so big, it filled me up very quickly. I could barely eat any of the red pepper flecked fries. I really wanted to like it more. I thought the concept and flavors were good, but the execution could have been better. I’m looking forward to coming back for dinner sometime to check out the (non-deep fried) Bulgogi burger soon.

Burger rating: “C”

Konnichiwa, Burgers!

I’ve eaten a lot of burgers in the past few years. While most of them have been in Philadelphia, I’ve also taken my burger adventures to Seattle, Vegas, Portland, NYC, Nashville and Louisville. That’s some pretty good domestic coverage! Well, I figured it was time to take my skills (aka my burger loving palate) overseas on a vacation – to Japan!

Now I know when you think Japan, burgers aren’t the first thing to come to mind, but the Japanese have a pretty big obsession with burgers, too. Remember Burger King Japan‘s Windows 7 promotion of 7 burger patties on one bun?

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Or their all-black burger (which, once it made it stateside gave everyone green poop!)?

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A Tokyo boutique burger shop, J.S. Burgers Cafe, is even doing Ghostbusters themed burgers as a promotion for the upcoming film:

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I traveled all over Japan while I was there, so I’ll be showcasing three burgers from three different regions. The first burger is from Ishigaki, an island located in Okinawa Prefecture that is part of the Yaeyama island chain. The island is famous for it’s free range cows that provide excellent quality beef. Located near the downtown ferry terminal is Kitauchi Farm Hamburger Shop, a small, unassuming food stand in front of a large souvenir store. I ordered the Kiwami Burger (instead of going for the nearly $25 filet steak burger), topped with lettuce, red onion,”ratatouille” (which was really just pickle & onion relish), dauphinoise and possible some kind of mayo or cream sauce, on a brioche bun. The burger was very juicy (although cooked completely through for Japanese food safety reasons) and the meat was like nothing I’d ever had before. It didn’t leave me feeling heavy like certain ground chuck or beef blends can be in America.  It was cooked smashed-style and was very fresh and delicious. It paired nicely with a can of Orion, a local Okinawan beer!

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The next place I traveled to was Hakodate, located on the north most island of Japan known as Hokkaido. It is home to a local burger chain known as Lucky Pierrot, which has a very unfortunate & creepy clown mascot. Also: Their most popular burger isn’t even an actual hamburger! It’s a fried chicken sandwich known as the “Chinese Chicken Burger”, which comes topped with lettuce and Japanese mayo. They love it so much, there’s a giant replica of one inside of of the shops.

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It’s also the only “burger” you can order as a meal set, which includes an iced tea & a mug of french fries topped with a cheese sauce & has chili underneath them (which was a pleasant surprise when I was eating them). The chicken was juicy and had a crispy breading on the outside; the glaze on them was also not too sweet or sticky. Hakodate was very cold & rainy, so this was the perfect meal for that weather. It warmed me right up!

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Finally at the end of my trip, I arrived in Tokyo where I dined at Blacows. All the burgers here are made with 100% Japanese black wagyu beef. I opted for the Avocado Cheeseburger, which was roughly $15; kind of on the high end price-wise for burgers in America, yet considering what this type of beef would cost in the U.S., it was practically a steal!

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The burger came topped with tartar sauce, marinated onion, Colby Jack cheese & slices of fresh avocado on a seeded, shiny brioche bun. There were also a few potato wedges & cornichons on the side. It took a long time for the burger to come out since they cook them all the way through, but it was still surprisingly juicy and delicious. Wagyu beef is so moist and tender; it truly is better than every other beef patty I’ve ever had. I’ll be sad to have to return to 80/20 blends and ground chuck or shortrib, but don’t worry, Japan – I’ll be back to eat more of your delicious burgers again soon!

Last one out of Flavortown

This week we celebrated July 4th, which means we are smack dab in the middle of summer. And what are two things that are synonymous with summer? Burgers and outdoor concerts. A few years ago, I showcased burgers at some local venues here in Philly. And while BB&T Pavillion (AKA Susquehanna Bank Center AKA Tweeter Center, depending on how old you are) may seem like it’s part of the Philly music scene, it is technically in Camden. More than just the name has changed in the past few years – the food and beverage offerings have changed as well; a sure reflection on the thriving food & beer scene in Philly and South Jersey. There are now a myriad of craft beer stands (such as local NJ breweries River Horse & Flying Fish) and stationery food trucks set up throughout both outdoor areas, as well as inside the arena itself. There’s even a stand where you can get Chickie & Pete’s Crab Fries – everyone’s favorite ballpark staple.

And then, as I was heading to my seats. I saw this:

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“Is this real life?!”, I thought to myself. I mean, there is only one FlavorTown, headed by one fiery haired celebrity chef, right?? Sure enough, I rounded the corner and found the stand for Guy’s Burger Joint, with Guy’s smiling face and questionable facial hair staring right back at me.

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I evaluated the burger options – all fairly basic and in the $13-$16 range (which is about as much as you would expect overpriced venue food to cost). Well, it’s now or never, I thought to myself. I have to do this, right? I mean, it’s my duty as a burger blogger to eat this burger topped with whatever “Donkey Sauce” is so that other people don’t have to. So I saddled up to the counter, ordered a “Real Cheesy” – which is an 80/20 ground chuck blend patty topped with L.T.O.P (lettuce, tomato, onion & pickle; not to be confused with Kanye’s TLOP) S.M.C (super melty cheese) and a liberal slathering of the aforementioned Donkey Sauce (what I learned was a “jacked up” secret mayo sauce) on a buttered & toasted roll.

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Being that this was a QSR at a very large music venue, my burger was not cooked to order & was presented to me from a warmer mere seconds after ordering. The presentation of the burger itself wasn’t entirely terrible, save for the 2 inches of shredded lettuce topping it and hiding the sad burger patty. I did have to double check that they actually put a tomato on there (you can just make out its very pale red sliver). Once I got both my hands on it, the burger was much thicker than I had anticipated. Sure it was probably a frozen patty, but honestly, it tasted much better than some of the frozen patties I’ve ever had. The “Donkey Sauce” was bland and flavorless, there was entirely way too much lettuce & the only saving grace was the butter-griddled bun. The pickles were reminiscent of a cheeseburger at McDonald’s and all I could think was, “Oh my god I just spent $14 on an overpriced McDonald’s cheeseburger”.

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Compared to the sad looking slices of (probably $9) pizza I saw people carrying around, this is probably one of the best food options at the BB&T Pavilion (which really isn’t saying too much, I guess). So if you haven’t eaten before the show, or if you just get really drunk on $16 premium drafts and need to feed the beast, get yourself a ticket to Flavortown and check out Guy’s burgers.

Burger Rating: “Triple D”

 

 

2016 Burger Brawl

Hello again! I know it’s been a while, but I came out of retirement this weekend and put my burger eatin’ pants on to check out the 6th annual Philadelphia Burger Brawl. I last attended the event back in 2013, but was glad to see it has gotten bigger (moving down to Xfinity Live!) and better since then – this year adding both the “Taco Takedown” and a cocktail competition.

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Out of the 29 burger competitors, I think I tried all but 5 due to a combination of the heat, some of the burgers not being ready yet during the VIP hour & simply being way too full. Here are some of my favorites (You can also check out more pictures from the event on our Facebook page):

The N’duja Jawn from Taproom on 19th – a Pat LaFrieda patty topped with N’duja spreadable salami, fresh mozzarella & tomato conserva on a Conshohocken Bakery potato roll. Definitely giving you lots of South Philly Italian flavors!:

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The Dandelion’s burger – A house blend beef burger topped with parmesan cheese, Brooklyn brine pickles, roasted shallot vinaigrette, lemon truffle dressing & watercress.

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Valley Beach’s (At Valley Forge Casino) Wipe Out burger topped with bacon, nacho cheese sauce, pico de gallo & a spicy cilantro aioli:

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So who were the winners? In the Judge’s Choice category… Pineville Tavern with their Million Dollar Bacon Burger!

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And the People’s Choice… Lucky’s Last Chance with their PB&J bacon burger! They also won People’s Choice in 2013!

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My only issues were the heat (which can’t be helped, obviously. It’s June) & that many burgers were past my preferred temperature of medium, due to health dept restrictions. Also: I was too full of burgers to try any of the tacos! Otherwise, everything about this event was fantastic. I love that they moved it to a bigger venue to give people more space to move around and spread out (and loosen up those waistbands). The former venue was a school parking lot that was very small & cramped & there wasn’t any seating. VIP Burger Brawl attendees got access to a covered outdoor bar at Xfinity Live & other attendees also had access to several patio areas with ample seating & tables to sit, relax & play some games like giant Jenga & cornhole. I’m definitely looking forward to attending again next year!

I’m also looking forward to posting more burger deliciousness for you! It may not be as regular (ie: weekly) as before since I’ve pretty much eaten almost every burger in Philly, but what’s summer without some good burgers? I’m planning to do a few burger “field trips” to showcase stuff outside the Philly area, as well as a special post about the burgers I ate on my recent trip to Japan, so stay tuned!

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+”

The Vulgar Chef

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