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No Kid Hungry

This summer sure has been a hot one! Feeling like I’m walking on the surface of the sun every time I leave the house has limited my usual burger-eating enjoyment, as well as impeded my backyard BBQing (Who wants to stand in front of a grill when it feels like 105 degrees out?). Luckily the weather cooled down this week just in time for Shake Shack to team up with No Kid Hungry and Al Roker for a special burger. The Roker Burger is a 100% all-natural Angus burger topped with Niman Ranch BBQ pulled pork, double American cheese, red-eye mayo and pickles. And every $1 from the burger sales will go to helping No Kid Hungry in its efforts to end childhood hunger in America. I’m always down to eat burgers for a good cause, so I headed over to my local Shake Shack to check it out.

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I thought the burger was great. I loved the sweetness of the BBQ sauce and the pulled pork was juicy and tender. I also loved the crispy sweetness of the pickles (my usual go-to burger at Shake Shack is the Smoke Shack, so I’d been missing my pickle fix). And a burger topped with BBQ pork is the perfect way to combine your summer favorites!

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If you wanna try it, you better hurry – it’s only available in Shacks nationwide from now until Friday, August 26th (So run like you’re in the White House about to poop your pants… just try not to in the process).

Beast of the Northeast

I know you guys like burgers, but do you LOVE burgers? Well, Zagat does and to show that love, last week they partnered with restaurants all over the U.S. to create special burgers in honor of #ZagatLovesBurgers week. Representing Philadelphia was two-time Burger Brawl Champion, The Blue Duck, with their “Beast of the Northeast (Philly)” burger: a wild boar and beef patty, topped with smoked Gouda, sweet tomato jam, duck bacon, and crispy Sriracha onions on a brioche bun.

Since the meat was a boar/beef blend, I didn’t expect to be asked how I wanted it cooked, but it came out on the medium-medium well side; the patty pocketed with pink spots where the beef blend was located. The tomato jam gave the burger a nice sweetness to counteract the smokey gouda. The bacon was nice and crispy. But they forgot the Sriracha onions! (Probably for the best – you guys know by now I’m a wimp for hot/spicy stuff.) Despite the ingredients & the “beastly” nickname, the burger itself was much lighter than I expected, meaning I didn’t feel heavy and grossly full afterward. Which meant that I had room for their signature Blue Duck Fries: hand-cut fries that are tossed in duck fat, then topped with smoked gouda cheese sauce & shredded duck confit. Seriously. Don’t leave without getting these fries or you’ll be sad like the guy sitting next to me was!

The Blue Duck is a bit off the beaten path from downtown Philadelphia, but definitely worth the trip. I can’t wait to come back and try their regular burger – and to crush some more duck fries!

Burger rating: “A”

Summer Beer Garden Series: Morgan’s Pier

Ok, so technically Morgan’s Pier isn’t a beer garden per se (and technically, I’ve already been there before), but it is outdoors and they do serve beer, so it totally counts! Not to mention, they’ve been changing up the chef lineup every year since it opened in 2012 (this year it’s being helmed by Nick Elmi of Top Chef fame), so it’s a whole new menu to try out. So how does it compare to my last visit? I started with their signature Watermelon Ricky – a 21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon poured over lemon juice & watermelon puree. It’s the perfect refreshment for a hot day.

For eats, I went with the backyard burger – topped with lettuce, pickles, sharp American cheese and house sauce. You can add on coleslaw, fries or beans for an extra $3 so I said why not? The burger was only $7 (seems I’m on a bit of a downward sliding scale from my previous beer garden trips thus far).

I wasn’t asked how I wanted the burger cooked, but it came out perfectly medium; bright pink inside and perfectly juicy. It was a simple backyard burger on a potato bun – tasty and no frills. I’ll definitely have to come back with a bigger appetite to try the double stacked Pier burger that comes topped with local bacon made by 1732 meats. I would skip the fries, though. Compared to my last trip where I got a mountain of hand-cut seasoned fries for $3, these were clearly straight from a bag frozen fries (my gut totally said coleslaw, too, which proves that you should always go with your gut).

Morgan’s Pier is open 7 days a week and there’s plenty of room around the pier to hang out with your friends or fly solo and sit by the water watching the boats come in. Plus there’s Quizzo on Tuesdays, brunch on the weekends & live music pretty much every other night of the week. Even better: come on a night when the Camden Riversharks have post-game fireworks and you’ve got an amazing view!

Burger rating: “B-“

Una Bella Burger

If you’ve ever been to Atlantic City or the Jersey Shore, then you’re probably already familiar with Luke Palladino’s various restaurant establishments, focusing on innovative Italian cuisine. His latest venture, Palladino’s, brings his talents to Philly’s booming culinary epicenter, East Passyunk Ave, and focuses on Italian food as well as wood-fired steaks and chops. And it just so happens, they have a burger on their menu! Offered at the bar and during brunch, the 8 oz. wood-grilled burger is served on a house-made snowflake roll, and comes topped with Tallegio cheese, thick cut pickles, and smoked chili ranch.

I was skeptical at first when I heard the words “wood grilled”. Would special attention be paid to my requested temperature, or would my burger come out overcooked? This is a steakhouse after all, so I really should have known better – ensuring meat is cooked to the requested temperature is their specialty! My burger came out perfectly medium and was delicious, flavorful & juicy with every bite. The house-made bun was lightly toasted, yet still soft and fresh (although I did have to keep wiping the flour dust off my hands). The cheese was gooey and the pickles had a nice crunch to them. The smoked chili ranch wasn’t overpowering, which was good; this way you could taste the freshness of the meat. The only downside of the meal for me were the accompanying wedge fries, which were too thickly cut and not cooked enough for my liking, and the house made ketchup was way too sweet. Otherwise, the burger was perfect and (especially on the 90+ degree day when I went) didn’t leave me feeling weighed down or super full.

And since Palladino’s is launching their brand new happy hour TODAY (!), you can check out the burger Monday through Friday from 5-7 PM and Sundays from 2:30-5 PM for only $10!

Burger rating: “A”

Hunger No Longer

There’s been a big movement to eat ethically lately, with people are quickly growing conscious of the dangers of growth hormones and GMOs, opting for organic or local products, as well as ensuring that those who are growing and harvesting their foods aren’t being exploited. It’s not just about feeling good physically when going shopping or going out to eat; it’s about feeling good mentally as well. And at Hunger Burger (located in the famous Reading Terminal Market), they’re doing just that. In addition to using only the freshest ingredients and 100% hormone & antibiotic free all natural Black Angus beef, with every burger that is sold, they will donate a burger to feed a child in need – supporting local charities like Philabundance & No Kid Hungry. On my visit, I opted for the Philbert Burger (named for Filbert Street, which is adjacent to the market): topped with American cheese, green leaf lettuce, tomato, smoked bacon and their specialty HB sauce.

The burgers are smashed & griddled in a fashion similar to Smashburger, leaving a bit of a crispy char on the outside of the patty. They’re served on a soft potato bun and are on the smaller side (but don’t worry – you can order the burger as a double if you’re famished!) It was simply seasoned and really tasty. The menu said to ask if you want it topped with pickles, but the cashier asked me if I wanted a pickle and of course I said yes! It was a little bit on the pricey side (about the same range as Burgerfi across the street or Shake Shack), but worth it knowing that my money would be going to benefit someone in need. They serve crinkle cut fries just like Shake Shack as well, but with a lot more crunch! There’s even a variety of dipping sauces you can order for an additional fee ($1.50 – also a little pricey) if you choose. So next time you’re in Reading Terminal, think before you eat and let that tummy rumbling guide you over to Hunger Burger!

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+”

Hip To Be Square

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – National Burger Month is here! I’m super excited to celebrate by eating some really great burgers this month and will be capping the whole thing off by eating my 100th unique burger here in Philly (meaning I’ll have eaten a burger at 100 different places around town; clearly I’ve eaten more than 100 burgers, guys!), so stay tuned for a special post highlighting that. Kicking things off this week is the burger at Square 1682, inside in the Hotel Palomar. Available only on their daily lunch menu, the 1682 burger comes topped with Amish cheddar, bread & butter pickles, lettuce & tomato.

I ordered the burger medium, but it came out more on the medium-well side; there was a burst of bloody juice on the first bite but very little pink on the inside. The meat was flavorful, but would have been better cooked at my requested temperature. The outside of the patty had a nice char to it and made it taste like a Burger King Whopper, which I liked. The Amish Cheddar had a great flavor – slightly sharp but also very creamy. And I loved the sweet & sour flavors of the bread & butter pickles. The burger to bun ratio was on point, with the bun being slightly toasted. I tried a little bit of the chipotle aioli on a few bites, but didn’t really care for it and stuck with my go-to condiment of choice, ketchup. The lunch menu also features the Rittenhouse burger, topped with avocado, arugula, sprouts, tomato jam and local goat cheese, and the weekend brunch menu has a breakfast burger topped with Lancaster aged cheddar, pork roll, fried egg, onion rings! There’s a little something for every burger lover, so stop by and try one – or all three!

Burger rating: “B-“

The Vulgar Chef

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