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Category Archives: bad

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-“


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”

Philly’s Best Burger? Part 3: SquareBurger

Shake Shack is a burger institution in New York City. From their original location in Madison Square Park, they expanded rapidly throughout the city and are slowly taking over the globe with outposts recently opened in Westport, CT, Miami and even the Middle East. So piggybacking on the outdoor burger, shakes and fries trend, Stephen Starr (who pretty much monopolizes Philadelphia with his various themed dining establishments) opened a little burger hut in Franklin Square a few years ago known simply as “Square Burger”. Notorious for milkshakes containing TastyKakes butterscotch krimpets that can only be consumed through wide straws, Square Burger is the closest Philadelphians can come to enjoying a burger outdoors short of grilling in their own backyard.

I’d heard plenty of good things about Square Burger, so I set out July 4th weekend poised to dive into one of the most talked about burgers in town. Sure enough, when I arrived in Franklin Square the line was long; but that meant it had to be worth it then, right? When I finally got to the front of the line, I ordered a cheeseburger, fries and a drink and waited patiently for my meal to be ready. Despite the long lines Square Burger endures, every burger is cooked to order so you don’t have to worry about food sitting out – and that’s how a good burger should be made.

I took my sack of food and sat at a nearby picnic table, enjoying the warm and sunny day. As I snacked on their fresh cut shoestring fries, I removed the burger from the bag and was kind of surprised by its miniscule size. Then I unwrapped the paper to reveal a tiny, squished mess. This was it?? I had just paid $4.75 for something the size of a 99 cent McDonald’s hamburger. Well, then it better be the best damn burger I’ve ever tasted, I thought to myself.

Yep. This is what it looked like. They should change the name to Sad Burger.

Upon the first bite, I knew that this was a major burger fail.
This is what every one has been raving about? It seriously tasted like a generic, fast food restaurant burger at 5 times the price. Overwhelmed by the pickles and fried onions, I could barely even taste the meat. I guess it was a good thing I got fries too because I wasn’t about to pay $4.75 for another burger after that one had left me empty both in my stomach and in my wallet. My guess is most people probably come for the fancy shakes and then just shell out for the burger while they’re there as an afterthought. (And the shakes probably fill in the rest of whatever remains from the four whole bites of burger you’ve just eaten.)

Anyway, about a month or so later, I actually went to Shake Shack for the first time and was blown away. Square Burger couldn’t even hold a candle to a Shake Shack burger. Shake Shack’s burgers have tomato and lettuce, options you’re not given at Square Burger, which help to compliment it perfectly. Not to mention a nice, thick delicious juicy patty on a soft bun, which doesn’t look like someone sat on it when you get your order – plus crinkle cut fries! It just goes to show that you can try and imitate something but you can never duplicate it.

Ahh! Much better!!

Square Burger rating: “F”
Shake Shack rating: “A”

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