Since moving to Philadelphia a little over two years ago, I’ve done the cheesesteak thing and am decidedly over it. Every place in Philadelphia claims to make “Philly’s Best Cheesesteak”. Quite frankly, I’m partial to some Steak-Ums and a nice Italian roll made in the comfort of my own home and without all the waiting on lines, excessive grease and hours spent in the bathroom later on that evening. But what I really wanted to know was, where can I find the best BURGER in Philadelphia?
I’d read some local blogs and started doing a little research. It seems the ‘best’ burgers are all somewhere in the $14-$18 range and served at fancy, upscale restaurants. Is that what we’ve come to – backyard BBQ fare being served a ridiculous markups and touted as being ‘the best’? Eventually, I will probably make my way to some of these places. (Village Whiskey, Butcher and Singer and Pub & Kitchen, just to name a few.) But in the meantime, I’ve been checking out the low to mid-range offerings Philly has to offer and am coming up short handed. Maybe those blogs weren’t kidding after all.
One of the first places I checked out was 500 degrees, a little burger joint on Sansom St (between 16th & 17th) that touts truffle fries and thick milkshakes, as well as being owned by one of the restaurants in town with a high-end burger, Rouge. I ordered their classic burger, medium with cheddar and a side of their ‘famous’ truffle fries. I was definitely impressed. The cheddar was oozing and delicious, the burger itself succulent and with all the trimmings (lettuce, tomato, ketchup, mayo), all encompassed by a glazed brioche bun. The truffle fries definitely helped make the meal – slender and crispy and I could barely finish them all. I passed on the milkshake as I knew I’d already be full without it. I left there satisfied and confident that this burger was already ahead of the pack. However, on a follow up trip a few months later, I was disappointed. Where was the juiciness of the burger I had previously had? The brioche bun tasted stale, dry and falling apart as I ate, my meat was slightly overcooked and too much truffle oil was tossed on my fries. Overall, I would give their burgers a “B”.
I would soon come to learn that the brioche bun was not just a special treat; almost every burger place I visited after that offered a burger on a brioche bun – sometimes to compliment a juicy delicious patty but mostly just to trick you into thinking you were getting a beefy masterpiece while masking a truly terrible burger.