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Monthly Archives: April 2015

Story of a Burger

Despite Pennsylvania’s archaic liquor laws (which up until recently required you to buy an entire case of beer from a distributor or buy individual bottles and 6 packs at a significant markup from a completely different store or a bar), there are breweries abound all over of the state – many of them right here within the Philadelphia area. The demand for great beer is so high here that we even have our own annual event celebrating it – Philly Beer Week – which kicks off one month from now. And what goes better with beer than a great burger? This week I stopped into 2nd Story Brewing in Old City (which recently opened in the old Triumph Brewing space) to check out their namesake burger, which comes topped with arugula, cheddar and tomato jam on a Le Bus bun.

The burger was cooked perfectly to medium as requested and was nice and juicy, but not so much so that it would sog up the bottom bun. The bitterness of the arugula was countered by the sweetness of the tomato jam, which was smeared on the bottom bun. It kind of snuck up on me at the end – in a good way! A nice treat for the last few bites. As for their beers,  I tried the Five Mile Ale, a dark, English mild-style beer that had notes of chocolate and toffee, but was light enough to not leave me feeling full the way a porter or stout might. They’ve also got another burger on the menu topped with battered/fried onion & jalapeno, Fritzie’s fondue, and a Tilted Barn farm-fresh egg. I can’t wait to get back to check it out along with a few more brews!

Burger rating: “B”

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Back to the Burger

I’m an 80’s baby: the movies, the music and yes, even the fashions – I love it all. Which is why I was excited when I learned that Kevin Sbraga would be making his 3rd Philly restaurant, Juniper Commons, an 80s-themed affair.

However, some people seemed skeptical about the cuisine, and in all fairness, who really wants to relive the dark times of salad bars with sneeze guards and wine coolers when we live in a world now with foraged greens and Foie Gras? Lucky for me, the cheeseburger is a menu mainstay, no matter what the decade. The burger here comes with your standard LTO (lettuce, tomato, onion), special sauce and your choice of cheese (I went with my go-to, cheddar), all on a house-baked, seeded brioche bun.

The burger patty was massive and juicy and cooked perfectly medium as requested. The meat was flavorful and delicious. The only problem was the burger-to-bun ratio: The juiciness of the burger caused bottom bun sogging, which immediately caused me to overcompensate with each bite I took, and I quickly found myself running out of bottom bun. Otherwise, everything else about it was just right. Simple & no frills, the way a good burger should be – and that’s why it’s such a timeless treat. But if you wanna get really 80’s with it, also order up a side of fried smelts (aka fries with eyes!)

Burger rating: “B”

Prime Time

The best part about going home to visit my parents is getting to try new burgers in new places. This trip took us to craft beer & burger joint, Prime 16 in Orange, CT. As our waiter informed us, the kitchen is entirely a scratch kitchen – everything from their sauces to their dressings and in between. They also partner with local farms and businesses for all the other products (meat, veggies, beers), and the beef used in the burgers in 100% grass-fed, hormone-free Angus beef. There were so many different burger varieties, it was hard to decide which one to choose! But I went with the Cowboy: topped with cheddar, smoked Canadian bacon, lettuce & a fried egg since this was the closest to my usual go-to burger. I also upgraded to truffle fries because, truffle fries, duh!

The burger was massive and came on an equally massive (but proportional) potato roll. The burger was nice and juicy, albeit cooked slightly over my requested medium to medium well. The cheddar was gooey and the fried egg was just undercooked enough to let a little bit of yolk mingle in with the meat without making a big mess. The Canadian bacon was tasty and not chewy, as it can sometimes tend to be (like on an Egg McMuffin). You could definitely taste the freshness of the meat. I really appreciate when a restaurant sources their meat locally, using fresh instead of frozen patties. It really makes a big difference! The lettuce underneath the burger acted kind of like a “diaper” to soak up the juices, avoiding that dreaded soggy bottom bun. My only issues were 1) the side of pico de gallo which seemed out of place with the rest of the toppings, so I didn’t utilize it and 2) the truffle fries weren’t nearly as truffle-y as I would have liked, but probably for the best since some places tend to overload the truffle oil and then you can’t taste anything else. There was also a bacon STUFFED burger on the menu that I was checking out, so I’ll have to make another trip home soon to check it out!

Burger rating: “B”

Burgers In The House!

There’s no shortage of restaurants in South Philly. Unfortunately, fine dining or family-style Italian places seems to outnumber places serving up good ol’ fashioned burgers. Not that that’s a bad thing, but for the purposes of this blog, it requires a little  more legwork than usual. So I strapped on my sneakers and hoofed it all the way down to 13th & Shunk this week to check out SouthHouse, which opened just a few months ago. The bar has a really cozy neighborhood vibe while also feeling like a chic gastropub. They’ve got lots of great craft beers on tap, as well as veggie and gluten-free options in addition to their upscale bar fare. I opted for their SouthHouse burger: a house made burger topped with roasted red pepper, portobello mushroom, smoked manchego, rocket pesto on an onion poppy brioche.

It took a while for the burgers to come out & when they did, I could see why. They appear to be baked instead of cooked on a flat top grill, which is fine by me (my parents used to cook burgers this way at home in the winter months before the invention of the George Foreman grill, lol). Unfortunately that meant that my medium burger came out slightly more on the medium-well side, with just a wink of pink. Since they also have meatballs on the menu, I’m guessing they used the same seasoned meat blend for the burgers, which gave the patty a really nice flavor. The roll was nice and fresh, thick enough to withstand the juices from the patty. The house-made pesto topping also paired really well with the seasoning of the meat; truly a South Philly Italian burger right here! It was tasty and didn’t leave me feeling stuffed afterwards – which gave me plenty of extra room to pick at their hand-cut fries, which have a seasoning on them similar to BBQ potato chips (finger-lickin’ good!). They also make their ketchup in house and you can choose from regular or pomegranate. Go for the pomegranate – it’s amazing and not overly sweet – definitely a must-try!

Burger rating: “B”

P’unked!

Big news! I’ve recently moved to South Philly because I ran out of burgers to eat in the Manayunk/Roxborough area (kidding… sort of.), so it’s time to cover some new ground. With new ground comes a brand new burger joint on East Passyunk Avenue: P’unk Burger (a play on the shortening of the Passyunk name). They’re serving up burgers, shakes & fries while being committed to using local, organic ingredients. I checked out their traditional burger topped with American cheese, tomato, red onion, P’unk signature sauce (appeared to be some kind of balsamic-ish drizzle? cannot confirm since it does not list exactly what it is on the menu or website).

The menu states that all burgers are cooked to medium unless otherwise requested. My burger was slightly more on the medium-well to well side, but still had a lot of flavor. I could taste the freshness of the grass-fed beef and all the other toppings were very fresh as well. The bun was a little bit on the stale side, but didn’t hinder the overall experience. It was a very simple and fairly tasty burger. They also had a bunch of specialty burgers with different toppings that I can’t wait to come back and try. I’ll be sure to take my time testing them all out, otherwise I’ll have to move again (still kidding… maybe)!

Burger rating: “C+”

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