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Monthly Archives: August 2014

Hamming It Up

Back in February, Top Chef season 7 winner Kevin Sbraga branched out from his fine-dining namesake restaurant and opened The Fat Ham, a good ol’ fashioned Southern dining establishment. The menu is centered around home-style classics like shrimp & grits, fried oysters and hot chicken. A pimento cheese-topped burger used to be on their lunch menu, but unfortunately, they ceased lunch service a few months ago. I had really been looking forward to trying that burger, as pimento cheese is a Southern staple. I even tried a pimento-topped burger in Nashville, but was unimpressed. Well, the burger gods must have heard my prayers, because The Fat Ham just brought the burger back, offering it only on Friday & Saturday nights after 9 PM (kind of like Atlanta’s Holeman & Finch, who at 10 PM each night, serve up a limited 24 burgers). Not only that, the burger comes with fries and is paired with a shot of Four Roses bourbon and a Neshaminy Creek beer (AKA “the Citywide” special) for a mere $18. Considering the burger itself is a 6 oz Wagyu beef patty, it’s probably the best deal in town.

I was not asked how I wanted my burger cooked, but it was a perfect medium-rare (anything else on that quality of meat would practically be criminal). The bun was soft and fluffy, baked in house in the same sesame seed topped style as the table rolls and the slider rolls used for the fried oyster sliders. The pimento cheese was gooey and slightly browned on top, the red peppers and pickles in the cheese giving the burger a nice, tangy kick.. With no toppings other than the cheese, it was simple and delicious. I just wish I didn’t have to wait until 9 PM on the weekend to eat it – I’d order this bad boy all the time!

Burger rating: “A”

Rockin’ Burgers

So you’ve decided to go out and catch some live music. You’ve pushed through crowds to get a beer and a good spot to watch the band when your stomach begins to rumble. You know you should’ve eaten before the show but now here you are, minutes away from seeing  your favorite band and you’re hungry. What will you eat? Well, I’ve got a few burger suggestions from some local venues to help you out.

First up, Festival Pier. This re-vamped, outdoor space on the Delaware River plays home to Michael Shulson’s (of Sampan & Izakaya fame) Independence Beer Garden Truck, a mobile outpost of the newly opened beer garden on Independence Mall. The burger here is a simple patty topped with lettuce, tomato, pickled red onion, mayo and provolone on an onion roll. Considering the food is coming out of a truck while trying to accommodate a massive festival crowd, my burger was cooked perfectly medium without me even having requested such. It was juicy and delicious, showing that the crew running this truck has gotten handling long lines down to a science. Plus, they take credit/debit cards, so you can save the rest of your cash for an overpriced $12 can of Miller Lite! They also offer hot dogs, hoagies, fries, mac & cheese and grilled Mexican-style street corn.

Next, Boot & Saddle, a revived musical institution on South Broad Street catering to the indie and local music scene- with the occasional big name act on the bill (check out the events calendar for upcoming shows). With a solid craft beer selection and a menu created by George Sabatino, it sure beats your average dive bar fare of peanuts and PBR. The burger here is topped with smoked gouda, chili relish and braised pork belly (!).  My only issue with the burger itself were that I wished there had been perhaps a glaze or sauce to accompany the pork belly; the chili relish didn’t really add anything to the burger and the single piece of lettuce underneath just seemed out of place. It was also paired with a house-made ketchup that was far too citrus-y to use for dipping, although I did add a little on one bite of the burger to try and give the pork belly some more flavor. Otherwise it was perfectly cooked to medium as requested, another rarity you might not find in a dive bar.

 

Burger Ratings:

Festival Pier “A”

Boot & Saddle “B-“

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling

Some friends wanted to play Quizzo this week and since two of us live Roxborough/East Falls area, we were able to convince the other “City Folk” to take the train out to our turf. We found ourselves at Billy Murphy’s Irish Saloon, just blocks from the East Falls SEPTA Regional Rail station. We also found out it was $4 burger night! The burger is an Angus patty topped with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayo and onion on a Le Bus roll. My friend asked the waitress if the onion was raw or cooked (I hate raw onion and normally just pick it off if it comes on a burger). She said it was raw but if we wanted, they could cook it. GAME CHANGER! Of course I wanted my onion cooked.

The burger came out pretty quickly since we beat the pre-Quizzo crowd. It was simple, no frills bar burger. The bun – a Le Bus Brioche – was slightly larger than the patty, but luckily not by much. The burger was cooked past my requested medium to almost well done, but it wasn’t bad; the Angus meat still had a nice flavor to it. I ordered a side of onion rings and slapped one of those bad boys on top of the burger, which really amplified the taste and gave it a nice little crunch. It was certainly better than the burger I had last week, and a steal at only four bucks! If it was cooked perfectly, I could definitely see this being my go-to neighborhood burger. Guess I’ll just have to try it again when we go back for Quizzo next week!

Burger rating: “B”

Waving The White Flag

I haven’t eaten many burgers on the University City/West Philly side of the city, mostly because the options are limited to fast-casual chains that I’ve already eaten at or bars where college kids hang out that also happen to serve food. However, White Dog Cafe seemed promising, as their farm-to-table, locally sourced menu seemed to cater to something other than the Bud Light & chicken wings crowd. Coming in for happy hour, I went with the double cheddar burger – a patty made of meat from Green Meadow Farm in Lancaster – which came topped with grilled red onion, tomato, lettuce and smoked bacon mayo.

The presentation was unique and the burger patty was perfectly proportional to the bun. It was requested medium and was perfectly pink upon first bite. However, it was all downhill from here. The bun had gotten incredibly soggy as a result of the run-off from the patty, despite putting the lettuce underneath it to act as a kind of ‘diaper’. I quickly started to run out of bottom bun as I tried to rectifying the soggy bottom situation. The cheese and the bacon mayo were completely tasteless. The burger had no flavor, wait, scratch that – the burger tasted almost watery and while pink in the middle grew increasingly colder and less edible with each bite. I eventually became so disgusted by the watery taste that I took the lettuce & tomato off in case they were contributing to the weird flavor. They weren’t. That, combined with the incredibly unwelcoming service I received from the staff (which I won’t get into here, as this isn’t Yelp), I didn’t even want to finish the burger. But I eventually did, grabbed the check as quickly as I could, and bolted. I’m just glad that I only paid $10 for this burger rather than the hefty $17 dinner menu price tag. It certainly doesn’t make me excited about eating on that side of the river anytime soon (that is, unless I’m getting Spotburger).

I just don’t seem to have much luck at places with “Dog” in the name, it seems – maybe it’s because I’m a cat person?

Burger rating: “D-“

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