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Last one out of Flavortown

This week we celebrated July 4th, which means we are smack dab in the middle of summer. And what are two things that are synonymous with summer? Burgers and outdoor concerts. A few years ago, I showcased burgers at some local venues here in Philly. And while BB&T Pavillion (AKA Susquehanna Bank Center AKA Tweeter Center, depending on how old you are) may seem like it’s part of the Philly music scene, it is technically in Camden. More than just the name has changed in the past few years – the food and beverage offerings have changed as well; a sure reflection on the thriving food & beer scene in Philly and South Jersey. There are now a myriad of craft beer stands (such as local NJ breweries River Horse & Flying Fish) and stationery food trucks set up throughout both outdoor areas, as well as inside the arena itself. There’s even a stand where you can get Chickie & Pete’s Crab Fries – everyone’s favorite ballpark staple.

And then, as I was heading to my seats. I saw this:

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“Is this real life?!”, I thought to myself. I mean, there is only one FlavorTown, headed by one fiery haired celebrity chef, right?? Sure enough, I rounded the corner and found the stand for Guy’s Burger Joint, with Guy’s smiling face and questionable facial hair staring right back at me.

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I evaluated the burger options – all fairly basic and in the $13-$16 range (which is about as much as you would expect overpriced venue food to cost). Well, it’s now or never, I thought to myself. I have to do this, right? I mean, it’s my duty as a burger blogger to eat this burger topped with whatever “Donkey Sauce” is so that other people don’t have to. So I saddled up to the counter, ordered a “Real Cheesy” – which is an 80/20 ground chuck blend patty topped with L.T.O.P (lettuce, tomato, onion & pickle; not to be confused with Kanye’s TLOP) S.M.C (super melty cheese) and a liberal slathering of the aforementioned Donkey Sauce (what I learned was a “jacked up” secret mayo sauce) on a buttered & toasted roll.

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Being that this was a QSR at a very large music venue, my burger was not cooked to order & was presented to me from a warmer mere seconds after ordering. The presentation of the burger itself wasn’t entirely terrible, save for the 2 inches of shredded lettuce topping it and hiding the sad burger patty. I did have to double check that they actually put a tomato on there (you can just make out its very pale red sliver). Once I got both my hands on it, the burger was much thicker than I had anticipated. Sure it was probably a frozen patty, but honestly, it tasted much better than some of the frozen patties I’ve ever had. The “Donkey Sauce” was bland and flavorless, there was entirely way too much lettuce & the only saving grace was the butter-griddled bun. The pickles were reminiscent of a cheeseburger at McDonald’s and all I could think was, “Oh my god I just spent $14 on an overpriced McDonald’s cheeseburger”.

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Compared to the sad looking slices of (probably $9) pizza I saw people carrying around, this is probably one of the best food options at the BB&T Pavilion (which really isn’t saying too much, I guess). So if you haven’t eaten before the show, or if you just get really drunk on $16 premium drafts and need to feed the beast, get yourself a ticket to Flavortown and check out Guy’s burgers.

Burger Rating: “Triple D”

 

 

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Heavenly Burger

Hi there, burger loving friends! I apologize for the gap in posting but September has been a super-busy month between Labor Day, weddings, a vacation (to New Orleans! I’ll be sharing some of the delicious food I ate there in an upcoming post) and of course – the historic visit of Pope Francis to Philadelphia! And keeping with the (holy) spirit of the weekend, I checked out the burger at Pub on Passyunk East, better known as the P.O.P.E. of South Philadelphia.

They were having a big party all week long leading up to the event with special themed beers like Philadelphia Brewing’s Holy Wooder & Manayunk Brewing’s Papal Ale, which I both tried. The burger itself is an 8 oz. patty, topped with cheddar cheese, a fried green tomato, grilled red onion and basil mayo on a buttery brioche bun.

The burger came out perfectly medium as requested and was flavorful and juicy. The cheddar cheese was gooey and the grilled onions were delicious (even if there were a few too many of them). The fried green tomato was tasty, but eventually popped out of it’s breading. However, the tomato remained crisp & not hot or soggy like fried tomatoes can sometimes be. The breading that was left behind also remained crispy, giving a little crunch to the burger. The flavor of the basil mayo was nice and I alternated between dipping my fries and my burger into it. The burger-to-bun ratio was proportional as well, although the patty did shift a bit throughout my meal so I had to eat my way around it a bit. Despite having been to POPE on several occasions, this was my first time sitting down to a meal here and I really enjoyed it. They also have lots of vegan options as well for your non-meat eating friends. I bet the real Pope would have blessed this burger – it was fit to be canonized!

Burger rating: “A”

OH baby!

Oysters are one of my favorite treats on a warm, summer day when you don’t feel like eating something heavy. Oh, I know there’s that old stigma about not eating them during months without the letter “R” in them, but they’re just so light & fresh! So imagine my surprise when I found out that Oyster House combines both my favs in one meal: I’m talking about the OH burger – a burger topped with a fried oyster! It also comes topped with blue cheese and grilled onions on a brioche bun.

The burger came out perfectly cooked to medium as requested – it had been a while since I saw a nice, juicy pink center like that! The burger to bun ratio was good and I didn’t wind up with a soggy bottom. Unfortunately, it was kind of downhill after that. The fried oyster had way too much breading on it and was weighing down the top bun. Whenever I tried to take a bite, it would slip the top bun away from me! I also could barely taste the oyster over the breading. And the blue cheese was so salty and overpowering, I could barely taste anything else, either! They were very sizable little blue cheese chunks, which I was able to scoop up with some of the chips, but with each bite of burger, nothing else filled my mouth except blue cheese flavor. It was really disappointing. A milder cheese would definitely have been better – as well as a light batter on the oyster. Sometimes the best of both worlds isn’t always what you hoped it would be. Next time, I’ll just stick to buck-a-shuck!

Burger rating: “C+”

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”

Pour Me Another

Just mere steps away from last week’s stop sits The Pour House in Collingswood, another great craft beer bar in South Jersey. They’ve got a plethora of burgers to choose from – 14 to be exact – including their winning burger from the 2013 Battle of the Burger, “The Second Coming“. I almost couldn’t decide which burger I wanted because they all sounded great, but I finally settled on the pretzel burger since I’m a sucker for pretzel buns. The burger comes topped with Vermont white cheddar, sherry onions, chipotle aioli, and bacon.

The burger came out cooked medium as requested, but was extremely juicy and had lots of runoff. Luckily that pretzel bun soaked up a lot of the juices without getting a soggy bottom bun. There was a perfect burger to bun ratio and the bacon was nice and crispy. I loved the flavor of the sherry onions since I’m also a sucker for any kind of caramelized onions on a burger. And of course, the Pièce de résistance: that buttery, salty, delicious pretzel bun. One burger down, 13 more to go!

Burger rating: “B”

In The Navy (Yard)

Thirty years ago when my dad was stationed in the Navy, he spent a lot of time here in Philadelphia down at the Navy Yard. Back then, I bet he never imagined one day his daughter would be living in Philly and enjoying delicious, roasted fare right inside the gates he passed in and out of every day. That’s right – this week’s burger adventure takes us to Marc Vetri’s newly opened, Lo Spiedo. Aside from pork ribs, chicken and a spit-roasted octopus (!), Lo Spiedo also cooks up Creekstone Farms brisket and uses that brisket in it’s burger. You can opt to get it topped with bacon, cheese or grilled onions, but who likes to choose only one topping? I went with cheese AND grilled onions.

The burger also comes with lettuce and tomato, and a side of ketchup & mayo for your shoestring fries (seriously, fries dipped in ketchup & mayo is the best). The burger was cooked slightly more on the medium well side, but was still delicious and juicy. The brisket patty was super moist and flavorful; I can’t wait to try a regular cut of it. The bun was a soft, seeded roll, perfectly proportional to the patty, and didn’t get soggy from any burger juice runoff. The grilled onions also added a nice flavor. And for $10 during happy hour, it was a steal! Just make sure you bring your appetite: there are so many other amazing snacks on the happy hour menu that we might have gotten a little overzealous and ordered almost all of them. But no matter how full you are, don’t forget to finish your fries!

Burger rating: “B+”

Mon Petit Burger

I’m feeling a little French this week as I just checked out Bardot Cafe, a sexy new bar in Northern Liberties named after French film femme fatale, Brigitte Bardot. But don’t let the name of this post dissuade you: the burger here was not “petit” by any means. This massive, thick patty, topped with caramelized onions, lettuce, and mahon cheese underneath a sexy, seeded bun will have you saying, “Oui, Oui!”

The burger came out cooked perfectly medium as requested. It was delicious and juicy, the caramelized onions and cheese pairing nicely with the flavor of the meat (And if you guys didn’t already know, caramelized onions are one of my favorite burger toppings). The piece of lettuce underneath the burger acted as a diaper of sorts to avoid that dreaded soggy bun. The only problem that I had was the burger to bun ratio: Oh sure, from the picture above, everything looks pretty proportional. But once you start chowing down, you start to run out of bun pretty quickly since the burger patty itself is so sizable. I tried to compensate as much as I could but still found myself with a few bites of just meat at the end.

Oh, and if you’ve still got room for dessert after all that burger, the Cocoa Banana Bread is très bien!

 

Burger Rating: “B+”

 

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