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Beast of the Northeast

I know you guys like burgers, but do you LOVE burgers? Well, Zagat does and to show that love, last week they partnered with restaurants all over the U.S. to create special burgers in honor of #ZagatLovesBurgers week. Representing Philadelphia was two-time Burger Brawl Champion, The Blue Duck, with their “Beast of the Northeast (Philly)” burger: a wild boar and beef patty, topped with smoked Gouda, sweet tomato jam, duck bacon, and crispy Sriracha onions on a brioche bun.

Since the meat was a boar/beef blend, I didn’t expect to be asked how I wanted it cooked, but it came out on the medium-medium well side; the patty pocketed with pink spots where the beef blend was located. The tomato jam gave the burger a nice sweetness to counteract the smokey gouda. The bacon was nice and crispy. But they forgot the Sriracha onions! (Probably for the best – you guys know by now I’m a wimp for hot/spicy stuff.) Despite the ingredients & the “beastly” nickname, the burger itself was much lighter than I expected, meaning I didn’t feel heavy and grossly full afterward. Which meant that I had room for their signature Blue Duck Fries: hand-cut fries that are tossed in duck fat, then topped with smoked gouda cheese sauce & shredded duck confit. Seriously. Don’t leave without getting these fries or you’ll be sad like the guy sitting next to me was!

The Blue Duck is a bit off the beaten path from downtown Philadelphia, but definitely worth the trip. I can’t wait to come back and try their regular burger – and to crush some more duck fries!

Burger rating: “A”

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From All Sides

Long time South Philly bar staple Triangle Tavern recently had new life breathed into it earlier this year after having been closed for over half a decade. Located at the triangular intersection of East Passyunk, Reed & 10th streets, the Triangle has been given an upgrade by the Royal Tavern/Khyber Pass Pub/Cantina team. And keeping with the South Philly flair, they’re serving up spiked water ice (a godsend given that the Rita’s across the street shuttered last year) and Italian classics like spaghetti & meatballs and eggplant parm. There’s also a burger on the menu, topped with bacon, provolone & a long hot. Normally, I’d be remiss to order a burger at a restaurant that caters to a particular ethnic cuisine, but I love the burgers at Royal Tavern & Khyber, so I took my chances.

My burger came out & the first thing I noticed was the lack of fries. I guess at $12, I had wrongly assumed that I would get something on the side other than a giant pickle & pepper? But what the burger lacked in accompaniments, it made up for in size. The patty was massive! At least 10 ounces, cooked perfectly to medium & had an amazing char on the outside. The housemade bun was soft and proportional to the patty and made great work of holding back all the juicy runoff from the meat (having a “lettuce diaper” underneath helped as well). The bacon was nice and crispy and the cheese, gooey with a little bit of sharpness. I didn’t eat the long hot because of my wimpy palette, but I could certainly smell how hot it was! In the end, I was thankful that the burger hadn’t come with fries because the patty was so big, I could barely finish it all! I’ve had burgers that I’ve failed to finish because they were terrible or I ran out of bun, but this guy was just too much meat for me to handle.

If you’re heading to the Triangle for brunch, I strongly suggest ordering a Bloody Mary – it comes with a meatball garnish! And dat’s a spicy meatball!

Burger rating: “B”

Summer Beer Garden Series: Independence Beer Garden

I never made it over to the Independence Beer Garden last season, but I did check out their mobile truck when it was parked over at Festival Pier and had a really solid burger. I was excited to get over to check out the IBG this year and hoping for the same result burger-wise. The burger here comes topped with cheddar, bacon, lettuce & tomato on a potato bun.

Even though this burger is $8 with no sides, the presentation was certainly nicer than the $9 burger I got last week. The patty was also much thicker! It was cooked perfectly to medium as requested and was flavorful & juicy. The bacon was crisp & the cheddar cheese thick & gooey. Plus, burgers just taste better on a potato bun! It was the perfect backyard burger & it pairs great with any one of the amazing Summer beers on tap (I went with a Shiner Ruby Redbird & the Yards IBG Wheat).

Burger rating: “A”

Summer Beer Garden Series: La Peg

I had every intention of spending a beautiful, warm, sunny July 4th evening outside imbibing on alcoholic beverages & eating grilled meat. However, Mother Nature had other plans so I was forced to eat inside at the bar of La Peg – one of the newest restaurants on the Delaware waterfront, brought to you by FringeArts. I opted for the namesake Fringe Burger, topped with bacon and caramelized onion marmalade, red wine reduction, pickles, a smear of delice de bourgogne, and corn shoots on a house-baked brioche bun.

So, while the burger to bun ratio was perfect, it was maybe a little too perfect. The burger was on the small side & the size of the house-made bun plus all the negative space on the plate made it seem comically small (especially considering it was $9). While the burger was tasty, juicy and cooked to medium as requested, I just couldn’t get over the (metaphorical) bad taste this was leaving in my mouth. Then again, this is probably my own fault for eating at a French restaurant on America’s birthday! I should have opted for The Americaine: a baguette topped with cheeseburger, lettuce, tomato, onion, cornichons, ketchup, mayonnaise, french fries (stuffed in the sandwich). French fries stuffed in the sandwich?! If that doesn’t scream ‘MURICA!, I don’t know what else does. I’ll be sure to come back another day when the weather is better to try it – and maybe even catch one of the movies showing this summer as part of the FringeArts Outdoor Movie Series!

Burger rating: “C”

Summer Beer Garden Series: Drury Beer Garden

It was a long, harsh winter but summer is finally here! I’m excited to spend as much time outdoors soaking in the sun and warmth as I can, and along with that, spending time in all the great outdoor spaces that have started popping up around Philadelphia in the past few years.  We sure have plenty of places to drink outside and naturally, you’re going to want to eat, too. So for the entire month of July, I’ll be highlighting the burgers around town at various beer gardens. First up: Drury Beer Garden, located behind Opa. You can either access it by heading down that sketchy alley where McGillin’s Olde Ale House is (you know the one) or through the rear door of Opa’s dining room.

 

The DBG Double Down Burger is a two handed, double decker delight: two 5 oz patties topped with house cured bacon, sharp cheddar, beer sauce & a giant tomato slice. I wasn’t asked how I wanted the burger cooked and was worried that the size of the two patties would result in their being cooked to medium-well/well done, but they came out surprisingly pink (I think due in part to the hand-formed shape of the patties). The giant tomato slice made the already large burger a little awkward to eat, but I managed my way around it. The ciabatta-like bun was thick, which was good since there was a lot of grease/meat juice runoff; the bun helped to catch a good deal of it. While the presentation looked nice, it seemed a little cumbersome serving it on the board. The seasoned, hand-cut fries started sliding off and the meat juice/grease that had run off the burger started to pool in the center. I was worried that the busser/bartender would get splashed with it when they cleared my plate! There also wasn’t any place to put condiments (I wasn’t given any and I wish I’d had some kind of aioli or ketchup to enjoy the fries with). Weird plating aside, the burger was really tasty and, paired with a Dogfish Head Festina Peche, a great way to spend a sunny afternoon!

Burger rating: “B-“

Hunger No Longer

There’s been a big movement to eat ethically lately, with people are quickly growing conscious of the dangers of growth hormones and GMOs, opting for organic or local products, as well as ensuring that those who are growing and harvesting their foods aren’t being exploited. It’s not just about feeling good physically when going shopping or going out to eat; it’s about feeling good mentally as well. And at Hunger Burger (located in the famous Reading Terminal Market), they’re doing just that. In addition to using only the freshest ingredients and 100% hormone & antibiotic free all natural Black Angus beef, with every burger that is sold, they will donate a burger to feed a child in need – supporting local charities like Philabundance & No Kid Hungry. On my visit, I opted for the Philbert Burger (named for Filbert Street, which is adjacent to the market): topped with American cheese, green leaf lettuce, tomato, smoked bacon and their specialty HB sauce.

The burgers are smashed & griddled in a fashion similar to Smashburger, leaving a bit of a crispy char on the outside of the patty. They’re served on a soft potato bun and are on the smaller side (but don’t worry – you can order the burger as a double if you’re famished!) It was simply seasoned and really tasty. The menu said to ask if you want it topped with pickles, but the cashier asked me if I wanted a pickle and of course I said yes! It was a little bit on the pricey side (about the same range as Burgerfi across the street or Shake Shack), but worth it knowing that my money would be going to benefit someone in need. They serve crinkle cut fries just like Shake Shack as well, but with a lot more crunch! There’s even a variety of dipping sauces you can order for an additional fee ($1.50 – also a little pricey) if you choose. So next time you’re in Reading Terminal, think before you eat and let that tummy rumbling guide you over to Hunger Burger!

It Takes A Village

National Burger Month has come to a close sadly, but I celebrated it the best way I knew how: by eating my 100th unique burger in Philly! I knew I had to make it a good one, so of course I chose the crown jewel of burgers: The Whiskey King at Village Whiskey – An 8 oz patty topped with maple bourbon glazed cipollini onions, Rogue bleu cheese, Applewood bacon, lettuce, tomato and – the pièce de résistance – seared Foie Gras! Check out these two beautiful glamour shots below:

The burger was cooked perfectly to medium as requested and was super juicy. Luckily the burger was sandwiched between a giant seeded bun & had a “lettuce diaper” to help restrain some of the runoff. This was definitely a two hander! I took my time with it, trying to make sure that the burger didn’t slip away from me. The bacon was crisp, the onions nice & sweet, the bleu cheese was the perfect blend of creamy, tart & salty, and the foie gras was buttery and delicious. I did eventually run out of burger and had a little bit of bun and tomato left over, but I was just proud of myself for making it through this bad boy. I almost gave up halfway through, but I persevered!

On my way inside, I noticed this sign for the Better Burger Project, a challenge on behalf of the James Beard Foundation, encouraging restaurants to create a more delicious, healthy & sustainable burger by blending in finely chopped mushrooms to their burger mix. I normally hate mushrooms, but I would be interested in trying this! So keep an eye out at your local restaurant to see if they’re participating, or stop by Village Whiskey this summer to try their entry into the Better Burger Project: The Woodland Jewel Burger.

Burger rating: “A-“

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