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Category Archives: philadelphia

Celebrating The Shack

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Shake Shack, and while their original New York City location in Madison Square Park has been getting a different special “Celebrity Chef” collaboration burger every day this week, the Philly Shake Shack outposts certainly weren’t left out of the festivities. Philadelphia chef Marc Vetri created his own “Carbonara Burger“: Shake Shack’s signature Pat LaFrieda patties topped with pecorino cheese, black pepper, bacon & a fried egg. Putting a fried egg & bacon on top of a burger is pretty much the key to my heart, so who needs one of those crazy shrimp & butter topped creations going on in NYC when I can get one of these bad boys right near home?

On top of being a renowned chef, Marc Vetri also created the Vetri Foundation, which is committed to healthy eating & living, and ensuring that the children of Philadelphia have access to nutritious meals both in their schools and in their communities. One dollar from every Carbonara burger sold is going directly to the foundation, so you can do good while eating good (ok, so maybe a burger topped with a fried egg & bacon isn’t the best meal for you, but it certainly is delicious!)

You guys will have to act fast, though. The burger is only available until this Sunday, June 15th – at all three Philadelphia Shake Shack locations (Sansom Street, University City & King of Prussia) – or until I eat them all, whichever comes first!

Out on a Limb

This winter was brutal but thankfully, Spring has finally sprung! Thanks to this weather warmup, I can finally venture further out in the city once more – or perhaps I should say “branch out” – as this week’s adventure took me to Bourbon & Branch in Northern Liberties. Formerly an old neighborhood bar called Liberties, the space has been slightly updated while also keeping a kitschy & old timey feel (ie. bartenders with curled mustaches, cocktail menus pasted into the pages children’s books). The menu is pretty meat-heavy, as bar food can tend to be. I opted for a make-your-own burger option, upgraded to two 5 oz. patties instead of one, and topped with cheddar.

The menu states that the burger comes with lettuce, tomato & onion but my burger came out completely bare. I was really disappointed. I mean, look how sad all that meat looks alone on the bun! Even though I was asked my temperature preference, because I knew the patties would be so small I wasn’t expecting them to be medium/pink inside. They were still moist & flavorful, but I think I would have enjoyed the burger more with some kind of vegetable buffer. Normally, I would have felt food shame eating such a pile of meat by itself, but my dining companion had me beat; he ordered a 4-piece fried chicken platter with bacon mac & cheese! (We’re convinced a busser came by & asked if he could wrap up the rest of the food because he wanted to prevent my friend from having a heart attack.) The bun was soft and slightly buttery, and since there wasn’t any drippage from the meat, I didn’t have to worry about a soggy bottom.

Speaking of bottoms, Bourbon & Branch also plays host every first Wednesday of the month to the Beauty & Brains Burlesque & Variety show! The food may not have been so hot, but the lovely ladies (and gent!) performing upstairs certainly were!

Burger rating: “C-“

Oh, You Fancy, huh? : Burger Edition

Happy 2014! It’s a new year and we are back in the burger eatin’ saddle. I’m really looking forward to this year because I’ve got a couple of big milestones coming up. Next week, A Side of Ketchup will hit its 100th post! I am promising to make it a super special, action packed (?), burgerlicious treat, so check back for that. Also, I am turning the big 3-0 this month as well! To celebrate, I’ll be dining at the Zahav chef’s counter and will (hopefully) be able to recap all 10 amazing courses for you guys, provided I don’t slip into a food coma first. Additionally, I’m heading to Las Vegas at the end of the month for some extra celebrating and will be recapping the best burgers & other delicious delights Sin City has to offer.

So we’ve already had our first big snow storm of 2014 and what better way to have spent my snow day then lunching at Butcher & Singer. Their elusive “lunch only” burger (Monday-Friday) is probably one of the best deals in town at a mere $10.95! (That’s steakhouse quality at Five Guys prices) The burger is a whopping 10 oz Filet Mignon patty on a brioche bun, topped with English cheddar and caramelized onions. You’ve also got a little iceberg lettuce, tomato, pickles and “secret sauce” on there as well, and they give you a ton of fries. (I couldn’t even finish them all!)

The burger came out cooked perfectly medium, as I would expect from a place that makes meat temperature their main business. I loved everything about this burger. The meat was juicy and bloody, with an amazing char on the outside. The bun was thick and soft, withstanding all the drippings (although I did have to take my time eating it to ensure that I wouldn’t run out of bottom bun first). It’s a good thing that the hostess seated me in a corner where no one else had to look at me because I was destroying this bad boy! I was kind of embarrassed about the way my napkin looked afterwards, but hey, that’s what you get for serving something this amazing at a fancy, white tablecloth place, right?

Look how massive this thing is!

It was an all around excellent burger (Stephen Starr is not messing around, folks!) and definitely the right way to kick off a new year of burger eating, especially at the price point. I highly suggest – nay, I demand! – taking a long lunch break to get the Butcher Burger. Both your stomach & your wallet will thank you!

Burger Rating: “A”

Business Lunch

Working in Center City leaves you all kinds of options for lunch: fast food, fast casual, food carts, your office vending machine. But sometimes you just need a nice, relaxing sit down spot that isn’t the cafeteria or your desk. Matyson is certainly a place that fits the bill: small, upscale, and there’s no bar (It’s a BYOB) so you don’t have to explain to your boss why you’ve come back to the office smelling like a brewery. I chose Matyson for several reasons: 1) proximity to my office (a whole two blocks away!), 2) owned and operated by the same awesome team behind Cheu Noodle Bar and 3) They had a $10 burger on their lunch menu. The Matyson Burger comes topped with lettuce and tomato, but you can accessorize however you please for a few shekels more (I added cheddar to my burger for a buck), and it is paired with fries or a salad (or Parmesan truffle fries for only $2 more). When I walked inside, I was instantly hit with that sweet truffle oil smell, so clearly, I had to go with the truffle fries.

The burger came out fairly quickly, a must for us business types with limited lunch hours. The bun was a buttery brioche style, housing a fairly large patty underneath. Temperature wise, the burger was cooked medium as requested, although I prefer a little bit more of a pink center (The meat used seemed very similar to the mix that comprised Cheu’s Ramen Burger over the summer). Crisp lettuce, a nice sized tomato slice (hidden beneath the bun in the above pic) and a little sprinkle of salt & pepper gave it a very fresh taste; it was very similar to the way I cook my own burgers at home. Definitely a solid burger choice if you’re lunching downtown, and a great place to bring co-workers and business associates if it’s a “working lunch”; just make sure you tip well on the company tab!

Burger rating: “B+”

(Still Not So) Good Dog:The Revisit

Since I gave 500 Degrees the benefit of a revisit a while back, as they were one of my first posts without pictures, I decided to do the same for Good Dog (especially since I did not have a “good” experience there the first time around). Last time I visited around lunchtime on a Friday, so this time I picked happy hour on a Thursday. Despite the draw of their namesake “Good Dog” burger (stuffed with Roquefort cheese and enjoyed by a certain mayor of Flavortown), I again opted for a regular burger topped with cheddar – as a proper revisit should have you referencing your original source material. The patty is 1/2 lb ground sirloin and it’s topped with lettuce & tomato on a brioche bun.

The burger came out much faster this time and with a touch of pink in the center. As you can see from the picture, the patty didn’t entirely fill up the bun, but I didn’t find myself with a lot of excess bun left over, so that was good. Now here was problem: even though the burger was dripping with bloody, juicy goodness onto my plate, the meat itself tasted pretty dry and flavorless (probably attributed to a 90/10 lean-fat ratio). Did it suck? No, but it still left a lot to be desired at the end of the day. But hey, maybe I’m just doing this wrong! Maybe I have to get the Good Dog burger for my chance at burger enjoyment here. (They say third time’s a charm, right?)

Burger Rating: “D+”

(Milk)Boy, what a burger.

Milkboy is a one-stop shop kind of place: coffee cafe, bar, music venue and restaurant (home to their signature, heart-clogging menu item: the bacon bowl). I’d been to a few shows here but I’d never actually sat down to eat, so I figured why not get my grub on while listening to some good tunes? Their cheeseburger comes on a toasted brioche bun and is topped with a house mayo, lettuce, tomato and provolone. You can also add bacon, chili and a fried egg for just a few bucks more, but I opted to keep it simple.

I was a little worried about the size of the burger compared to the bun: It looked like it was dwarfing the patty! But I was able to retain all meat inside the bun and without a lot of excess bun left over. The patty was nice and juicy. It wasn’t very thick so there wasn’t a lot of pink inside, but I was happy with the temperature and it had a great overall flavor. The bun was super shiny and extra buttery, which paired well with the seasoning of the meat. A single tomato slice was thick, fresh and proportional to the burger, but the random pieces of lettuce were a little awkward (I’m guessing they came from a prepacked salad mix). And the best part of all? It was under $10!! So grab a burger, grab a beer and check out some amazing local musical talent.

Burger rating: “B”

Feeding Frenzy

Unless you’ve been living under a rock this past Summer (which is entirely possible, and I’m not here to judge), the Ramen Burger has been sweeping the food scene coast to coast. Yes, a burger sandwiched between two “buns” made from what you ate that entire last semester of college because you ran out of money for groceries. And who better to bring the trend to Philly than the awesome gang over at Cheu Noodle Bar! For one night only, the noodle joint was cranking out McD’s inspired versions of the hot, new food craze, including a Tonkatsu (fried chicken) patty and their own Cheu-ized version of the Filet O’ Fish.

I might be more inclined to eat at a fast food place if I could request to “combo that jawn”.

All the ramen buns were being fried up on the fly, so naturally there was a bit of a wait. But that’s what we’re all here for, right?

Since the pop-up started at 6, I decided to try and get there as early as possible in case a line started to form. 5:30 – no one was there yet, so I felt a little weird just hanging around outside by myself and sat across the street in a park like a creeper, keeping an eye out. Finally, a small group started to gather around 5:45 and at 5:57, we were allowed inside. I took a seat at the counter, I placed my order, and by some miracle of the Ramen Burger gods (or maybe just the fact that I was one of the few solo diners), I got served the very first ramen burger of the night!

View from the top: The noodles look so cool!

The burger looked AMAZING! The ramen bun held together well enough after the first bite, but began to unravel as I continued eating. It was messy, but probably the best kind of messy you could ask for. The burger itself was delicious and juicy, cooked perfectly medium. The homemade “special sauce” gave it a nice flavor. And while I don’t normally care for raw onions, they were just thin enough that the taste didn’t bother me. Plus, how can you have a “Big Mac” without the onions? The fries were garnished with some bonito flakes; they were supposed to have been drizzled with a miso truffle sauce, but I didn’t mind since I prefer to dip then to have something coating my fries (plus I just dipped them in the leftover special sauce).

Ramen Burger cross-section: So many layers!

An older gentleman was seated next to me at the counter and had actually wandered into the pop-up purely by accident. He had heard it was a noodle place, so he was surprised by the strange burger happenings of the evening. I told him about what was going on, and that he should brag to all his friends tomorrow that he went to one of the hottest food events of the year. His Filet O’ Fish on ramen bun was arriving just as I was leaving, so I hope he enjoyed himself! I heard they ran out of food just around 9 o’clock, which is not surprising at all judging by the crowd of people waiting outside when I left. As for the ramen burger itself, I’m not sure if it would be something that I would eat regularly, but it was definitely fun to try.

So what’s next for whacky food concoctions that cause people to wait in ridiculous long lines for hours on end? Will someone put a cronut between two ramen buns? Guess we’ll just have to wait and see!

Picnic on the Pier

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you should know by now that Morgan’s Pier is the ultimate summer hot spot in Philly. There’s a huge selection of draft & bottled beers, cocktails, frozen drinks, games, the Little Baby’s Ice Cream‘s cart, DJs & bands on the weekends, an AMAZING view of the Ben Franklin Bridge (Oh, and the Delaware River too, I guess) – and most importantly – FOOD!

The kitchen this year is helmed by none other than Philadelphia Magazine’s Best Chef 2012 winner, George Sabatino. But he’s not serving up your run-of-the-mill bar food; he’s putting his own twist on some classic favorites. Case in point: the burger. Oh, sure. From the outside, it looks like your typical BBQ charred patty on a potato roll. But the patty goes through a fun, scientific adventure before it makes its way to your mouth. First, it’s vacuum-sealed and put into a hot water bath. Then, it’s flash frozen in liquid nitrogen. And finally, the burger is deep-fried (you heard that right) to either medium or well done, topped with a scoop of American cheese, some veggies & their housemade thousand island dressing, and sent to your waiting belly. (It comes paired with a little pickled veggie salad.)

But, if you want fries you can have em. A small order will only set you back $3 and you better bring some friends, because there are a LOT of fries!

The corn on the cob is grilled and slathered with lobster butter, with a lime on the side. At $6, it’s a little pricey for corn, but still pretty tasty.

Wash it all down with a Watermelon Ricky: A Hell or High Watermelon beer poured over watermelon simple syrup & lemon juice:

Morgan’s Pier is a great spot for any type of group, young or old. It’s got one of the most eclectic crowds in the whole city and it has something for everybody. (Seriously, if you bring someone here and they aren’t enjoying themselves, you should probably stop being their friend.) Plus, it’s a great place to watch fireworks on the Riverfront while enjoying a cold beverage or two. So swing by sometime this summer and check it out!

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

In LOVE with Vernalicious

Every week, LOVE Park on 16th and JFK has a rotating lineup of some of the finest food trucks in Philadelphia. (Try saying that last part 5 times fast!) This Tuesday I conveniently forgot my lunch and the very awesome VERNALICIOUS truck was there to save the day!

They’re mostly well known for making an amazing pulled pork grilled cheese and on top of that, they just won the People’s Choice Award at the 2012 Vendy Awards. Once I found out they were parked down the block for lunch, I was really looking forward to one of their other hit menu items: the banh mi.

 

I opted for the tofu banh mi, since I am gearing up for Meatless March (I seriously considered getting  a burger but stopped myself). I’m a big fan of tofu banh mi and was excited to try Vernalicious’ take on the Vietnamese sandwich.

The sandwich was definitely smaller then you would get at a place in Chinatown or on Washington Ave, and it was $6 compared to QT’s $5.50 for a sandwich almost double in size. (I suppose you do have to take into consideration the cost of running a mobile food business compared to brick & mortar, though). The presentation was great and the flavor composition was in the right area. The tofu was nice and moist, and was balanced out well by the crusty bread and crunchy cucumbers.

I would definitely try this again if I was looking for a healthy lunch alternative or sticking to my vegetarian diet post-March. And if you happen to be in the LOVE Park area when Vernalicious is, and the banh mi is on the menu, you should check it out too!

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