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Category Archives: local

Whet Your Whistle

The restaurant space at the corner of 5th & Bainbridge has seen a lot of changes throughout the years. With various openings and closings and being vacant for extended periods of time, residents in the Queen Village neighborhood worried they might never have a steady hot-spot in the hood. Hoping to “reverse the curse” (so to speak), the owners of Brauhaus Schmitz have recently opened  Whetstone Tavern and crafted a menu of classic American cuisine using fresh, seasonal and local ingredients. As you can probably already guess, I headed straight for the bar & ordered the Dad’s Burger – a LaFrieda blend patty on a Martin’s potato roll, topped with cooper sharp cheese, iceberg lettuce slaw, heirloom tomato, diced onion, and pickles. You can opt for a single or a double patty; I went with just one to give it a good baseline. You can pair it with fries, chips or a half salad – I chose fries.

I wasn’t asked how I wanted the burger cooked but it was on the medium-well side. It didn’t matter because I knew the quality of the La Frieda meat would ensure that my burger was moist, flavorful & delicious. Also, it was on a soft Martin’s potato roll, which automatically makes any burger taste amazing. It was on the small side, but still tasty. I loved seeing the little yellow sliver of the heirloom tomato after I took my first bite. The burger also comes topped with a house burger sauce (probably some kind of in-house thousand island variation). I failed to notice that the ketchup listed on the menu was sriracha ketchup so after my first bite, my mouth was on fire! Luckily, I was able to dip the fries in the burger sauce/meat juice run off, which made them extra tasty. The fries were kind of under-salted, so the drippings helped alleviate some of the blandness as well. Next time I will definitely opt for the double decker burger & chips! Also be sure to save room for  one of Pastry Chef Jessica Nolen’s amazing desserts – or you can wait until her new, standalone bakery The Little Bird opens just a few blocks away!

Burger rating: “B”

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Cross My Heart

I was starting to run out of places in South Philly to try burgers, but then Fourth & Cross opened in Pennsport a few weeks ago. My friends are constantly there every weekend for brunch, Instagramming all the amazing dishes this farm-to-table dinette has to offer, so I finally broke down and got over there for dinner. The burger is a 6oz patty of pasture-raised beef on a snowflake bun, topped with an herby mayo. You can also opt to add cheddar, goat cheese and Lancaster Bacon for a few bucks more a piece, so I got mine topped with my go-to cheddar.

My burger came out perfectly medium as requested (since I was the only person in the restaurant at the time and they’ve got an open kitchen layout at the dining counter, it would have been really awkward if it hadn’t). The bun was nice and soft, perfectly proportional to the patty which was cooked on a griddle top & simply seasoned with salt & pepper. The herb mayo was super creamy and flavorful – I just wanted more of it to dip my fries in! And the bread & butter pickles were crunchy with the perfect balance of sweet & sour. I even threw a few of them on my burger. As much as I love cheddar cheese, I probably would have skipped it if I’d known how tasty the burger would be with the mayo alone. I can’t wait to come back and check out more of the menu, which contains mostly locally sourced, sustainable ingredients.

Burger Rating: “A-“

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”

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+”

Fresh From The Farm

Being conscious of where your food comes from these days is becoming more and more important to lots of people. It’s not just about some hippie-dippie Portlandia crap, it’s about supporting small, local businesses; farmers who have been operating farms for generations. Here in Pennsylvania, that’s one of our biggest points of pride – just look at Lancaster County! And lots of restaurants these days are making it a point to partner with local farms and markets to get the best and freshest ingredients. Case in point: South Philly Taproom, who partners with Rineer Family Farms (part of the Lancaster Farmland Trust) for several items on their menu, including their burger! I’ve tried their breakfast burger before, but came back this week for the regular burger as part of an event sponsored by Daryl Rineer to showcase the farm’s products and educate patrons.

Everything about the burger was great. Even though I ordered mine medium (they only give you 3 options – rare, medium, or well), it came out on the medium-well side. Understandable as there were many people there for this particular event so cooking up a lot of burgers at once can be a challenge. I loved the thick-cut bacon on top (my dining partner didn’t even eat all of his so I had to steal more, it was so good) and the smoked cheddar. It was just an all together, tasty and well-rounded burger. And it tasted even better since I knew that the meat was coming from some place nearby and not sitting in a warehouse in god-knows-where after being pumped full of hormones and preservatives!

In addition to the burger, the chicken used for the Southern Fried Chicken, Brussels sprouts, and even the jam for the Taproom’s infamous Fried PB&J all come from Rineer Family Farms! I was also excited to learn that Rineer does a CSA, which can be picked up at several locations around the city including 12th Street Gym and the Rittenhouse Square Farmers Market. Now I can enjoy these delicious burgers right at home!

Burger rating: “B+”

Burger Not So Ugly

I’ve been living around the corner from The Ugly Moose in Manayunk for over four years now but just ventured in for the first time this week to check out their burger. I could have kicked myself for not coming in here sooner. Touting themselves a “Canadian-American pub” on their website, the place has a cozy, ski lodge vibe and an amazing craft draft and bottle list (before you ask, yes, they have poutine!). With a variety of burgers on the menu, I opted for the Ayr-Back Farms burger: topped with locally made, organic cheddar cheese, Applewood smoked bacon as well as lettuce, tomato, red onion.

While the burger itself was pretty standard, I was surprised at how fresh and delicious the cheese was. Some cheeses tend to loose their flavor when they melt, but not this one. It added a great flavor to the burger, which was cooked perfectly medium as requested. The Applewood bacon was crispy without being stringy and the smokiness wasn’t over-powering. Who knew this hidden gem (and I mean that quite literally, as the Ugly Moose is in a shared off-street space on Shurs Lane called “The Garage”, also home to Deke’s BBQ) was just a few blocks away?

Burger rating: “B+”

 

 

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-“

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