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Monthly Archives: June 2013

A Fail at the Falls

In an effort to try and scope out more dining spots in my area (the oft-neglected, outskirt neighborhoods of Philadelphia known as “Roxayunk Falls”: Roxborough/Manayunk/East Falls), I found myself at the Falls Taproom on a drizzly Thursday night. Some friends of mine frequent there pretty often and had good things to say. The beer menu was solid with a great selection of drafts and bottles, and the dining menu was definitely a step up from your average bar food staples boasting charcuterie boards, mini tacos flatbreads, and even vegan wings. Naturally, I went for the beef burger; also available with bison & lamb meat, as well as a black bean option. It was topped with smoked bacon, aged cheddar and a red onion jam on a brioche bun. But first, I decided to start with some fried pickles.

I was pleasantly surprised by the pickles. They were nice and thin, slightly breaded and fried to a crisp without being the thick, soggy, over-crumbed pickles you might get other places. The serving was quite generous and I polished off a fair portion of them with at least 1/4 of the plate still left over. The menu says it’s paired with tabasco mayo; I didn’t really notice a kick to it but it was still pretty tasty.

Finally, my burger came out. I decided to go with sweet potato fries instead of regular fries, which turned out to be a bad move. There were so many fries that I barely made a dent in them after having eaten almost the whole plate of fried pickles. (I also realized that maybe I’m not a big fan of sweet potato fries; they were just kind of mushy tasting and not nice and crisp like hand-cut fries would have been.) I was one of maybe three other tables in the restaurant when I came in and the other two tables hadn’t ordered yet, so when my burger I requested to be cooked to medium came out well done, I was kind of shocked. I just don’t understand how kitchens can have a hard time cooking a burger to the requested temperature for a customer, especially when they aren’t busy. So, my burger was overcooked, flavorless and dry. The bacon on top, buried beneath the cheese, was also dry as well. And the bun was dry! The red onion jam added no flavor whatsoever. It was just not a pleasant experience at all and was almost completely unpalatable, no matter how much ketchup I started dousing it in.

I understand that sometimes kitchens have off nights, but for one of the most simple items on a menu that a customer can order, I found it to be unacceptable.

Burger Rating: “F”

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A little bit of love for Bisou

I very rarely venture out into my own neighborhood, but I decided to keep it close to home and head out the recently revamped Bisou (formerly Gemelli) on Main Street in Manayunk. Switching things up from their previous incarnation, Bisou has gone bistro – and put a burger made with La Frieda meat on it’s menu (the key to my heart!). The burger is also topped with aged cheddar, caramelized onions, and a house special sauce all underneath – surprisingly – NOT a brioche bun! (For which I was most grateful.)

I ordered my burger medium and despite being one of the few diners in the restaurant, my burger was cooked to almost medium well. Thanks to the magical La Frieda meat however, my burger was still nice and juicy – even though I do like it a little more pink. The caramelized onions also gave the burger a nice flavor. (I wish that was a topping choice at more places. I’ve gotten them on a burger at London Grill in the past as well and it was equally delicious.) And the bun was nice and soft and slightly toasted. Paired with a Hell or High Watermelon, this burger was definitely a nice treat on a warm day.

Bisou also has lots of other great menu items, plus jars of macerated fruits hanging out behind the bar to mix into some refreshing margaritas or mojitos. So don’t be scared to head out of the comfort zone of Center City! Manayunk’s just a train ride away.

Burger rating: “C+”

Thai one on at Circles

Circles is the quintessential Thai hot spot in Philadelphia, with locations in South Philly and Northern Liberties. And in honor of the NoLibs’ location launching their new lunch menu (hmm, seems to be a new lunch trend!), they recently gave away free – yes FREE! – burgers to kick things off. Naturally, I had to be there to check it out and braving a three-day heat wave, I made my way in to Circles just before noon to try their Sai Oar burger:  Ground lamb and beef sirloin topped with fried onions, fried egg, lettuce, tomato, onion, cheddar and served with tomatillo sauce.

The burger came out with a really cool fried tempura onion on top and a side of chips and pico de gallo. I loved the lamb/meat mix. It made the burger really juicy and succulent, and the fried egg was a great touch (because who doesn’t love a fried egg on a burger?). I love the gooey, yolky mess that you get and can soak up with the bun. There were a lot of really nice flavors throughout the whole dish, from the sweetness of the tomatillo sauce to the crisp tang of cilantro in the pico. I mean, a burger from a contemporary Asian restaurant? Who’da thunk it!?

Pair it with a Thai Iced Tea (AKA ‘that orange thing everyone’s drinking’ – said by the guy sitting next to me) and you’ve got yourself an unbeatable lunch combo!

Burger rating: “B+”

Cheu Carefully

What’s that? You haven’t been to Cheu Noodle Bar yet? Well what are you waiting for!? Ever since their noodle pop-ups at Matyson last spring (and their previously controversial name), there’s been much buzz around Ben Puchowitz & Shawn Darragh’s Asian inspired cuisine. And now that they’ve finally secured their own brick & mortar spot, the only thing you have to worry about is beating the crowds to get there.

I stopped in on a Friday night around 7 and snagged a spot at the counter where you can see the chefs doing their thang, listen to funky fresh beats and check out the dope art lining the walls; this certainly isn’t your typical ramen spot, that’s for sure. I was waiting for a friend so I figured I’d get some appetizers in advance and promptly ordered up some pork belly dumplings that were on special, BBQ pig tails and some pork belly & cheeseburger buns to start, plus a bowl of ramen since it was a little bit chilly out. Everything came out quickly and was delicious – and good thing my friend didn’t show up right away because I’m not sure that I would have been willing to share!

BBQ Pig tails: fall off the bone delicious!

Pork belly dumplings in chili oil: because you can never get enough pork.

I don’t want none unless they got buns, hon.

Ramen: The broth was nice and rich. Bet it’s even better on cold days, too!

The menu is ever changing, with lots of weekly specials in addition to their small plates and noodle offerings. So bring a friend or two (or three), some beers (it’s BYOB) and head over to Cheu to order practically everything on the menu. Or check out their new lunch menu starting TODAY! (6/5) and every day (except Tuesdays) from 12-2 PM. Trust me, it’s worth it.

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