RSS Feed

Category Archives: philly

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.

13516634_905658882890456_5550217844308144050_n

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!:

13511042_905658979557113_4389224553064634629_n

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

13509096_905659339557077_166486482627339372_n

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

13501828_905660639556947_4859877439206053842_n

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

13528951_905660659556945_3521201104750589337_n

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

13524279_905659022890442_4094950557469421584_n

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!

Advertisements

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+”

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!

Room for Improvement

I’ve been spending a lot of time in South Philly lately. Oh, not on the restaurant & shop filled promenade of East Passyunk Ave, but on the opposite side of Broad Street; the seemingly desolate area of the city known as South Philadelphia West. What’s even over there, you might ask? Well, it’s the slow start to what will hopefully be a new foodie paradise with places like the Mexican-Japanese fusion Cafe Con Chocolate, amazing Indonesian spot Sky Cafe and even a Vegan restaurant, Miss Rachel’s Pantry.

Also situated in the area is Taproom on 19th. While the spot was a long time neighborhood institution, the recent introduction of new owners, a new chef and a new look are helping bring craft beer and culinary delights to Girard Estate. I opted to stop by on a Monday night when their namesake Taproom burger is half-price all day: a LaFrieda Blend patty topped with butter lettuce, tomato, pickles, tap sauce and your choice of cheese. On a previous trip, I had split the burger with my dining partner so I couldn’t take a full burger analysis. This time, I had the burger all to myself.

The burger came out with a nice presentation: ample sized patty, lots of pickles, non-brioche bun. Things started to go downhill from here. The bottom bun was hard as a rock. I’m not sure if it was just over-toasted, stale, or toasted to cover up the fact that it might have been stale; it really threw me off, especially since the top bun was fine. The meat was juicy and flavorful, as one can expect from a quality meat like LaFrieda. However, the patty itself seemed to be all over the place. Ordered my usual medium, there were random spots of pink throughout instead of being consistently cooked. And while it started out thick as in the picture above, the back half of the patty seemed slightly smashed & thinned out, and began to fall apart inside the bun.

I was really disappointed since the first burger I had, while only half a patty, was rather enjoyable, well cooked and didn’t fall apart at all like the full burger did. Maybe it was just an off night? I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt because I think the place is a great addition to the still up & coming neighborhood. Hopefully next time I stop in for a burger, I’ll find better consistency.

Burger Rating: “C-“

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-“

Light at the End of the Tunnel

I’ve been on a pretty bad burger streak lately. Even my trip to Vegas didn’t help! (well, ok, In ‘n’ Out burger helped a little) It left me wondering: would I ever be able to break through this burger funk? Or was I destined to let the Polar Vortex infringe on the juicy, delicious treats of months past? Thankfully, the weather thawed out this weekend, and so I ventured forth in search of a tasty burger to lift my winter blues. I decided to check out newly opened spot, The Gaslight, co-owned by Top Chef season 11 contestant and chef at Ela, Jason Cichonski. I’d had the burger at Ela before, but with a new venture comes a new possibility for burger greatness.

The burger at The Gaslight was actually the “polar” opposite of the burger at Ela: an 8oz beef patty topped with aged cheddar, creamy & spicy sauce, smoked pickles, and a seeded brioche bun. I ordered it medium – along with a cleverly named “Bieber” champagne cocktail – and waited. And waited… and waited! I started to sweat a little. The bartender noticed and brought me another drink (The “Miley” this time). A burger shouldn’t take this long, I thought to myself, but this was their opening weekend so I tried to give them the benefit of the doubt. I still felt nervous; they couldn’t let me down, they just couldn’t. I needed this to be a great burger after all the previous burger bummers!

My burger arrived and the second I picked it up, juices poured out the back of it. I breathed a sigh of relief. I took a bite and saw just enough pink in the middle to satisfy me (It was more on the medium well side). The meat was tender and flavorful. We were having a burger breakthrough! The spicy cream sauce was delicious; I even dipped my fries in some of the run-off. The pickles were chopped and sprinkled on top of the patty instead of being sliced, which I liked as well. Their smokiness wasn’t overpowering and they gave the burger a nice, briny flavor. And the bun was completely proportional to the patty; I had no issues with sogginess or running out of bun too quickly. Finally, after a dry spell, I’d hit a burger home run.

I’m gearing up to do Meatless March next month (Keep me in your meat-eating prayers, guys), but The Gaslight also has a veggie burger people have been raving about, so I’ll be sure to come back and check it out.

Burger Rating: “B”

The Splatty Awards!

Welcome all to our 100th post! In honor of this milestone, I bring you a little something I like to call “The Splatty Awards!”: recapping the best things I have been eating, drinking & doing for the past year or so.

Best food item that comes in a jar: Tomato Conserva at In Riva 

Briefly removed from their winter menu for a few weeks in December (in which I cried into my pillow every night), the Tomato Conserva is back in action!

This sweet bruschetta will have you licking the jar clean & begging for more!

Best New York City to Philly transplant (other then myself): Shake Shack

Danny Meyer’s fast-casual burger joint quickly gained a fandom on Sansom Street in the summer of 2012, and expanded this year with outposts in University City & King of Prussia.

The Smoke Shack was initially conceived for the Philadelphia location, but has expanded to all Shacks globally.

Best food I used to be terrified of but now can’t stop eating: Oysters

Yeah, they’re slimy and salty and weird and jiggly, but they’re also delicious!

I’ve been making it my mission to hit every buck a shuck & half price oyster night in town.

Best pop-up: Lucky Old Souls’ Patty Melt Pop-up at Kennett

 When the LOS truck’s engine went kaput this fall, the team at Kennett lent them a hand – and their kitchen – for the evening to raise money for a new one.

And maybe I’m a little bit biased because it was my suggestion to turn out patty melts; a once in a blue moon burger special they were serving up on East Passyunk last spring.

Best Beer Drinking Event: Philly Beer Week Opening Tap

I’ve been partaking in Opening Tap for the past two years now, and seriously, if you’re not making this a priority during PBW, you’re missing out.

Opening Tap showcases the best and brightest of the local Philadelphia beer scene under one roof (the Independence Visitors Center, to be exact). But remember, it’s a marathon – not a sprint!

Best Beer Drinking Event Involving Animals: Summer Ale Fest at the Philadelphia Zoo

Great Beer + Local Food + Adorable Animals = One of the most awesome times you will ever have. Don’t forget to take a selfie of yourself “drinking a beer” with a tiger!

Most of the animals are actually awake compared to a day trip, and zoo docents are on hand to provide detailed information on your favorite critters.

Best Happy Hour (tie): Sampan and Alla Spina

Sampan gets the advantage as they have happy hour 7 days a week from 4-7 PM, but Alla Spina offers some great bar bites and their Victory Brewing beer collab, Novello, for only $3!

Don’t miss Sampan’s edamame dumplings or the pretzel bites with beer cheese at Alla Spina (they come in an adorable wooden piggy)!

Best Brunch: Jerry’s Bar

The Brunch crowd mourned the loss of Cafe Estelle for many months, but Marshall Green’s famous & delicious sticky buns have finally found a new home in Northern Liberties.

I hated Bloody Marys until I tried the one at Jerry’s and now I’m hooked. Seriously – best Bloody Mary ever!

Best Restaurant: Spot Burger

But isn’t Spot Burger a food truck?”, you’re probably asking yourself. Well, who says a restaurant needs to be defined by four brick walls?

 SpOt Owner/Grillmaster Josh Kim is the hardest working man in these streets right now, and he proves it on a weekly basis with his innovative specials (like a $10 Lobster Roll this summer), as well as his philanthropic efforts. He supports dozens of college organizations and local charities, frequently running specials and donating portions of his proceeds to these causes. He’s been a champion for food truck rights in Philadelphia, residing on the board of the Philly Mobile Food Association, and turned the corner of 33rd and Arch St into the “Food Truck Mecca”. So next time you see his yellow cart around, grab some grub; you won’t be disappointed! Spot serves up one of the best burgers in town.

And that concludes our awards ceremony! I hope you’ll at least check out some of the places and foods I love, in addition to the delicious burgers I recap for you guys each week. Got any great places and foods you think I should try? Post em up in the comments section and maybe they’ll wind up on my “best of” list next year!

Life is Short. Eat hard!

Our Endless Search for Fantastic Food!

Food, Sweat, and Beers

That's what this girl's made of...

The Burgervore

- relishing life one burger at a time -

In Search of Beer

Finding all the best beer events in Philadelphia.

22nd & Philly

One Hungry Woman

bridges, burgers & beer

a gastronomical and culinary adventure in the life of a bridge engineer