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2016 Burger Brawl

Hello again! I know it’s been a while, but I came out of retirement this weekend and put my burger eatin’ pants on to check out the 6th annual Philadelphia Burger Brawl. I last attended the event back in 2013, but was glad to see it has gotten bigger (moving down to Xfinity Live!) and better since then – this year adding both the “Taco Takedown” and a cocktail competition.

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Out of the 29 burger competitors, I think I tried all but 5 due to a combination of the heat, some of the burgers not being ready yet during the VIP hour & simply being way too full. Here are some of my favorites (You can also check out more pictures from the event on our Facebook page):

The N’duja Jawn from Taproom on 19th – a Pat LaFrieda patty topped with N’duja spreadable salami, fresh mozzarella & tomato conserva on a Conshohocken Bakery potato roll. Definitely giving you lots of South Philly Italian flavors!:

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The Dandelion’s burger – A house blend beef burger topped with parmesan cheese, Brooklyn brine pickles, roasted shallot vinaigrette, lemon truffle dressing & watercress.

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Valley Beach’s (At Valley Forge Casino) Wipe Out burger topped with bacon, nacho cheese sauce, pico de gallo & a spicy cilantro aioli:

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So who were the winners? In the Judge’s Choice category… Pineville Tavern with their Million Dollar Bacon Burger!

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And the People’s Choice… Lucky’s Last Chance with their PB&J bacon burger! They also won People’s Choice in 2013!

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My only issues were the heat (which can’t be helped, obviously. It’s June) & that many burgers were past my preferred temperature of medium, due to health dept restrictions. Also: I was too full of burgers to try any of the tacos! Otherwise, everything about this event was fantastic. I love that they moved it to a bigger venue to give people more space to move around and spread out (and loosen up those waistbands). The former venue was a school parking lot that was very small & cramped & there wasn’t any seating. VIP Burger Brawl attendees got access to a covered outdoor bar at Xfinity Live & other attendees also had access to several patio areas with ample seating & tables to sit, relax & play some games like giant Jenga & cornhole. I’m definitely looking forward to attending again next year!

I’m also looking forward to posting more burger deliciousness for you! It may not be as regular (ie: weekly) as before since I’ve pretty much eaten almost every burger in Philly, but what’s summer without some good burgers? I’m planning to do a few burger “field trips” to showcase stuff outside the Philly area, as well as a special post about the burgers I ate on my recent trip to Japan, so stay tuned!

On The Lamb

Avance had some pretty big shoes to fill after taking over the former Le Bec Fin space last Fall. But despite a string of somewhat scathing reviews regarding their prix fixe main dining room, there’s been nothing but praise for the Border Springs Farm Lamb burger that’s become the crown jewel of their bar menu. In fact, the burger just won them Judge’s Choice at the 2014 Philadelphia Burger Brawl. The burger is topped with feta & rests on a red onion marmalade, and comes paired with a side of crispy panisse (that’s “chickpea fries” for you non-French speakers).

The burger came on a beautiful, seeded brioche bun. Lamb is definitely one of those delicate meats that you can’t afford to overcook, and this patty was cooked to a perfect medium-rare. The fresh, saltiness of the feta and the sweetness of the red onion marmalade worked amazingly well together, enhancing the flavor of the meat. It was succulent, juicy and finger-lickin’ good. If the burger wasn’t $18, I’d probably eat one of these a week (Oh wait, Border Springs has a stand at Reading Terminal Market, so I can!) It was hands down the best burger I’ve had in Philadelphia in a long time. Stop in just before happy hour ends at 5:30 to pair it with a $10 cocktail and they’ll be ready to fire one of these bad boys up for you when the kitchen opens for dinner service.

Burger Rating: “A+”

 

The Re-visit: 500 Degrees

The last time I ate at 500 degrees I hadn’t created this site yet, even though I did make my review of the place my very first post! Since I did a revisit with the burger at London Grill after having reviewed it without posting pictures, I figured I’d go ahead & give 500 Degrees a 2nd time around as well. So, just to catch you up – 500 Degrees is owned by Rob Wasserman, who also owns Rouge in Rittenhouse Square and organizes the annual Burger Brawl. Their menu has been revamped a little bit since my first trip two years ago. I opted for “The Classic” – your choice of cheese, lettuce & tomato – cooked medium, and a side of truffle tries.

My burger was a little more on the medium well side; I’m guessing because I took it to go & it was probably still cooking in the middle on my way back to work. They’ve moved on from the super shiny brioche buns I remember from my previous trips, and the bun was nice and soft, holding up well through each bite. Crisp, fresh plum tomato slices topped the patty. The meat itself has an excellent flavor; just the right ratio of fat to lean meat to produce some juice without being bland and dried out. And considering both my burger & fries ran about $11.50 including tax (adding extra for the truffle fries), I would definitely rather spend the dough on this burger then some place like Five Guys for the same price. It was a solid, delicious, sit-down restaurant quality burger in a fraction of the time! So beat the other fast casual crowds at lunch time and check out 500 Degrees instead.

Burger rating: Previously given a “B”, upgrading to a “B+”.

2013 Burger Brawl

I was so upset that I had to miss the Burger Brawl last year that I made sure that I did not miss it again this year! As soon as I found out, I got my tickets and waited (impatiently), plotting all the delicious burgers I was going to enjoy. In case you’re not familiar, the Burger Brawl was started in 2011 by Restauranteur Rob Wasserman of Rouge/500 Degrees fame (who I got the pleasure of meeting by accident while taking a much needed burger time-out), and the proceeds go to support local Philadelphia-area schools by constructing new technology labs. Past winners include London Grill and Bobby Flay (which just so happen to be two of my favs).

I’d already tried a handful of the competitors that were participating this year and my strategy was to cover the burger bases that I hadn’t touched on yet like Misconduct Tavern and Percy Street BBQ (whose burger topped with ham and a cured egg yolk just happened to be my favorite of the bunch).

Percy St BBQ’s burger entry

There were all kinds of burgers on display in the competition, in many different shapes and sizes. Some decided to go the “slider” (or “mini burger”, if you want to get technical) route like Rouge and 10 Arts.

Rouge “slider”

Others were grilling up full sized patties and then slicing them into halves (like Table 31) or quarters (like The Industry); a slightly better strategy and easier to get out to the masses.

Table 31’s Burger Entry

The Industry Burger

There were burgers with crazy toppings like South Philly Tap Room’s Ham-Hamburger with Scott Schroeder’s Super Ham Salad, and Silk City’s Banh Mi Burger, which on top of the Vietnamese influences, contained a layer of liver pate! (Plus they both had awesome, detailed burger illustrations!)

I made it about halfway through the burgers before I eventually gave up and decided to take a timeout for about an hour. But unfortunately by the time I was ready for Round 2, most of the burger stations left were all out of meat! Luckily, I didn’t miss too many that I hadn’t already had like Alla Spina, The Dandelion and London Grill. The one I was most disappointed about missing was George Sabatino’s burger (his station was near the entrance when I came in, but his grill wasn’t set up yet). Luckily, Morgan’s Pier re-opens this Thursday, so I’ll have all summer long to try out this crazy burger that is supposed to be dipped in liquid nitrogen and deep fried!

So who were the big winners? The People’s Choice award went to Lucky’s Last Chance of Manayunk for their Peanut Butter, Bacon & Jelly burger! (Nice to get some neighborhood pride going!) I know that combination of things on a burger sounds kind of scary, but it was actually really good – and I don’t even like jelly!

Lucky’s Last Chance

And the Judge’s Choice went to Fat Jack’s BBQ for their “Ultimate Memphis Mauler Burger” topped with… Well, just read the description below; it’s certainly a mouthful:

Ultimate Memphis Mauler Burger

My indigestion considered, the Burger Brawl was an amazing event with an even more amazing turn out. I definitely can’t wait to check it out again next year – Hopefully it will be even bigger and better! And while you’re waiting for next year’s Burger Brawl, check out the rest of this year’s awesome burger action on our new Facebook page (Don’t forget to “LIKE” us while you’re there!): Facebook.com/ASideOfKetchup

The Vulgar Chef

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