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Category Archives: brunch

Fit to be Square

Everyone in Philly’s familiar with Rittenhouse Square. It’s pretty much the hub of Center City west of Broad Street. You go there to see and be seen. To dog watch, people watch, read a book, meet your friends, eat some fro-yo, take a nap, etc. But just a few blocks is a different square – Fitler Square. You’ll find the same gorgeous tree and Brownstone lined streets, but a much quieter vibe compared to Rittenhouse’s hustle & bustle. And on a gorgeous, 72 degree day in November, that’s exactly where I decided to head for lunch. Given the weather, I found it appropriate to stop into Fitler Dining Room and try their Endless Summer burger, topped with pepper jack cheese, lettuce, green pickled tomato, goddess mayo. I sat down, stripped off all the layers I’d put on when it was 45 degrees at 7:45 AM, and basked in the glory of open windows and warm sunlight while waiting for my food to arrive.

The burger arrived cooked just slightly over medium to medium-well, yet still had a lot of bloody, juicy runoff. My hostess/server joked when she seated me that the soup of the day – if I were crazy enough to order it given the day’s warmth – was tomato. Instead, the only tomato I was interested in was the pickled green one underneath the large, hand-formed patty, which gave the burger a nice, sweet crunch. The house-made bun was just slightly larger than the burger, but I only found myself with 1-2 meatless bites. The Goddess mayo was light and refreshing with herbaceous undertones that didn’t overpower the burger flavor. Endless Summer was more than just a clever moniker; it really did take me back to those warm, breezy summer days and backyard barbecues with every bite. But don’t let this summer pass you by: the burger is only available on Fitler Dining Room’s lunch & brunch menus, so get over there while the weather is still amazing!

Burger rating: “B”

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Need A Lift?

Over the holiday break, I finally got to try Cafe Lift for the first time, hitting it up mid-week to avoid the weekend brunch crowds. While I had my heart set on a delicious frittata that day, a burger special on their board caught my eye and I knew that I’d immediately have to come back to try it (especially since I really enjoyed the burger at their neighbor/sibling restaurant across the street, Prohibition Taproom). So I did! Their burger consists of two smashed & stacked Kensington Quarters grass-fed beef burgers topped with a fried egg, caramelized onions, provolone and a whole grain mustard aioli.

The burger came paired with a healthy, mixed green salad (I know you guys love your fries, but this is a mostly breakfast place, after all). The fried egg covered almost the entire burger, so I only managed to get this peek-a-boo picture. The runny egg yolk tasted delicious and created a beautiful mess all over my plate – and myself. The shiny, buttery brioche helped soak up all the yellow runoff. The caramelized onions & provolone pairing were great. The provolone wasn’t too sharp or overpowering, and the mustard aioli gave it a little extra kick. The burger patties themselves were cooked to well (and continued to cook while I was eating so that they were slightly too dry when I reached the last few bites) but you could taste the freshness in the grass-fed beef. I get the whole “smash” style, but they could have come off the grill a little sooner and been a little bit juicier – and then this burger would have been amazing!

If you’re going to come in and check it out (ain’t no shame in eating a burger at 10 AM), don’t forget your piggy banks – Cafe Lift is CASH ONLY! (and BYOB, so bring your flask, too).

Burger rating: “B”

a.Pretty Good Burger

A few weeks ago, some friends & I stopped into High Street on Market for brunch where the menu is crafted by one of Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs, Eli Kulp. We loved the sandwiches and pastries there so much that we made this month’s brunch stop at a.Kitchen, where Chef Kulp recently took over the menu this past spring. Naturally I was excited to try the burger on the brunch menu: a Creekstone Farms Black Angus patty topped with cave-aged cheddar, mayo and pickles on a house-made sesame bun.

The presentation looked amazing. I almost asked for ketchup for the potatoes, but they were so soft and perfectly seasoned, I didn’t even need it. The burger patty was thick and proportional to the bun. My only complaint was that when I picked the burger up, the bottom of the bun was very soggy (luckily, the bottom bun was also pretty thick so it didn’t fall apart). The meat was juicy and flavorful, despite being cooked slightly more medium-well than medium (one of my friends also ordered the burger & got hers prepared medium-rare, and it was plenty red inside). The cave-aged cheddar paired well with the house mayo, giving the burger a good, tangy flavor, and the pickles added some sweetness and crunch. The quality of the meat and freshness of the ingredients definitely made it a solid brunch selection. Even though the patty was a pretty hefty size, it didn’t leave me feeling super stuffed or weighed down like some bar burgers tend to do – which means you’ll have plenty of room for some of their delicious, house-baked pastries as well.

Chef Kulp just added a more bar-esque version of the burger to the menu next door at a.Bar, so I will definitely have to go back and check that one out, too!

Burger rating: “B+”

High Society

There’s certainly no shortage of places in Philadelphia to get good food and cocktails. So when Society Hill Society opened in Headhouse Square a few months ago, I knew I’d have to add it to my list. And then all my friends started raving about their burger. “Best burger I ever had!” “Only $8!” “I don’t even like burgers but this was so good!” Once I heard their reviews and saw pictures all over social media of how good it looked, it immediately got bumped to the top. I popped in for brunch on Sunday after checking out the Headhouse Farmers Market, which is where Society Hill Society sources many of its ingredients from. The burger is a no-frills sirloin & brisket blend patty topped with lettuce, onion and tomato on a house-made potato bun. You can also add cheddar cheese for $1, which I did.

The burger looked amazing when it came out. The patty and bun were proportional, although certainly smaller than the monster I got last week. I did however find myself running out of burger the more bites I took, so I tried to pace myself and only had about one bite at the end that was just bun. The house-made bun was nice and soft, and it was nice to see something other then a shiny brioche roll for a change. Since the burger patty was small and thick, it did come out slightly more on the medium-well side, but was very juicy and flavorful. It was also topped with some kind of house-made ketchup that was was ridiculous delicious. Paired with hand-cut potato chips and a pickle, it was the perfect treat for a Sunday afternoon, and definitely worth the expedited trip.

Burger rating: “B+”

Feel the Beet

So here it is: my final veggie burger post to wrap up Meatless March. It’s been a long, strange 31 days and appropriately enough, today’s veggie burger comes from Strangelove’s. I’ve already had one of their regular burgers before and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I was really interested in trying their veggie burger, which is made with beets & lentils. I understand that beets are not for everyone (they’re gross, they taste like dirt, etc), but beets are another one of those foods I’ve eaten in the past year that I never liked before (oysters being the other) & have learned to love; it’s all about preparation (like the AMAZING beet tartare I had at Zahav)!

The veggie burger comes topped with a cucumber slaw & harissa mayo. It’s also super reddish-pink (because of the beets, duh)! Since I was eating brunch with a group, I was worried I was going to wind up with “toddler syndrome” (where whatever your eating winds up all over your face beyond your control) and just have a mouth covered in pinkish-reddish blotches (Thankfully, that’s what napkins are for!). The cucumber slaw added a great crispy texture to balance with the softness of the veggie patty, as well as a little bit of sweetness. The patty was moist and perfectly proportional to the bun, and the mayo gave it just enough of a spicy kick to dull down the “dirt” flavor, but not overpower it. Just a great overall array of flavors; I enjoyed it tremendously.

So which of the four veggie burgers I ate this month was my favorite? Honestly, I loved all of them! From the quick, no frills patty at HipCityVeg to the farm to table creation at Kennett, I sampled a pretty wide spectrum of veggie burgers, each with their own unique qualities. And just like snowflakes, no two veggie burgers were alike; each one was a perfect representation of the establishment that created it. I’m glad that I was able to show that you don’t have to just eat at some boring, organic, Portlandia-esque hipster vegan place to get a meal that tastes great (and also that veggie options can still fill you up the same as meat based ones) Hopefully my little meatless experiment inspired some of you to go on your own veggie burger expeditions. We’ll be back to eating meat again next week – and I’m drooling already just thinking about my first bite of a juicy, medium cheeseburger in over a month!

Grubbin’

Nearly two weeks into Meatless March, I’ve been finding myself bombarded with delicious depictions of meat at every turn. I would probably even eat a McDonald’s cheeseburger right now if one were put in front of me, but I’m standing strong! This week, my tremendous will power led me to Grubhouse, a South Philly luncheonette known for its “Best of Philly” award-winning bacon pancakes and tater tots wrapped in bacon and a burger topped with pork roll and scrapple; basically meat plus meat with a side of meat. I decided to throw the staff for a loop and order a veggie burger (They actually had a veggie burger on their menu?, you ask. Yes Virginia, they have veggie burgers in South Philadelphia).

Look at all those actual vegetables in there! A far cry from the pre-shaped, monochromatic veggie patties I’ve eaten in the past. I was delighted to learn that all the veggie burger patties are made in house with fresh, sauteed vegetables – red onion, carrots, celery, bell pepper – and white beans & panko as binders. The patty was ample sized (they are hand formed, after all) and very proportional to the bun. It came topped with broccoli rabe and had a smear of garlic mayo on the bottom bun to give it a little extra flavor. Some patrons might be skeptical about ordering a veggie burger here at first, but it was surprisingly one of the freshest and moistest veggie burgers I’ve had thus far. (Maybe next time I order their veggie burger, I’ll get a side of those bacon wrapped tots, too!)

While the menu is rather meat-heavy, there’s still a few options for Vegetarians like french toast, waffles, and your requisite breakfast egg dishes. They also offer a $12 prix-fixe weekend brunch menu, which includes dessert, and they’re BYOB. So why wait outside a restaurant for 2 hours on a Sunday morning with the hungover masses? Head on down to Grubhouse and get more bang for your buck instead!

Sunnyside Up

I know I’ve had my issues with brunch in the past, but Sunday mornings are quickly becoming my favorite part of the week. I mean, what’s not to love about brunch?! A whole menu full of both sweet and savory foods plus a socially acceptable atmosphere in which to get completely wasted before noon? It’s a beautiful thing! This time, I decided to keep it local and check out Derek’s in Manayunk so I could sample their brunch burger: a 1/2 pound prime sirloin patty topped with a fried egg and bacon (plus the option to add cheese for $1 more; I went with cheddar).

In a rather bold move, I opted to order the burger mediumrareas I feared that dining outside of Center City might mean receiving a burger closer to well done if I ordered it medium (I was also splitting the burger with a friend who wanted to order the burger rare, so this was our middle ground). The burger did come out pleasantly pink inside, somewhere between medium-rare and medium, much to my surprise and delight. When the burger arrived, the bun was doing a little wiggle as it floated on top of the poached egg underneath. It was pretty cute; kind of like when Jell-o jiggles! The bacon was thick and crispy and the bun soaked up all the juices of both the meat and egg yolk quite nicely. It was a tasty burger, but nothing spectacular. And as far as burgers I’ve had that were topped with fried eggs & bacon, it was certainly no Cyclops from Sketch Burger. But if you happen to be in Manayunk during the Sunday brunching hour, I would definitely check it out. (Oh, and did I mention Derek’s offers $2.50 mimosas?)

Burger rating: “C+”

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