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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).

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!

2 Fast 2 Curious

Every good burger deserves a sequel, but sometimes even not-so-great burgers get sequels, too. As a follow up to last year’s post, The Fast and the Curious, this week I visited fast-casual burger chain BurgerFi, who recently opened a location in Philly near the Pennsylvania Convention Center. BurgerFi is kind of like if Shake Shack & Five Guys had a baby: They use peanut oil on their fresh cut fries, they serve their burgers on potato rolls, they give you a buzzer while they prepare your order, and they’ve got plentiful taps pouring craft beer. They also tout themselves as serving “all natural burgers” using Angus beef and “brand” the outside of the burger bun with a charred BURGERFI stamp. I opted for the BurgerFi cheeserburger: A double natural Angus burger topped with double American cheese, lettuce, tomato, and BurgerFi® sauce.

The burger itself contains two thin double stacked patties like Five Guys and they’re on a toasted potato roll like Shake Shack. Unlike Shake Shack, the patties had a little bit of a grill-top char to them and unlike Five Guys, these burgers weren’t very juicy.  I didn’t think the Angus beef had any flavor to it, unlike the distinct profile of the La Frieda meat used at Shake Shack and the “secret sauce” was also bland and barely existent. As you can see, my burger did not carry the signature BURGERFI stamp (perhaps this is something they don’t have time for during the lunch rush?) and the cheese was barely melted. The fresh cut fries were thick and crispy – they also didn’t give you two pounds of them like Five Guys does, which can be either good or bad depending on which you prefer.

Verdict? For a burger, fries and a drink, the price point was slightly high for a fast-casual chain, coming in around just over $13 while I’ve easily only spent $10-$12 for the same items at Shake Shack & Five Guys. Between the cost and the lackluster food, I doubt I would choose this place over one of its better, tastier counterparts.

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!

If this Shack’s a rockin’

If you’re unfamiliar with Shake Shack, it’s a rapidly growing chain of fast-casual burger joints with origins beginning in NYC’s Madison Square Park, where there was literally just a shack that served burgers, shakes and fries. It has since amassed 6 NY locations (Including the Mets’ own Citi Field), South Beach/Miami, 2 locations in the DC area, Westport, CT and even overseas in Dubai and Kuwait!  

Most recently, Philadelphia got it’s very first on the corner of 20th and Sansom, leading to long lines of eager Philadelphians looking to get their very first taste of a Shackburger. (The comparable option up until this point had been Squareburger in Franklin Square, which you’ll recall I was not happy with upon my visit.) Seating was limited when I went, but they are supposed to be opening up outdoor, cafe style seating soon!



I myself braved the line on a Saturday afternoon after their opening, a line which surprisingly moved pretty quickly. Of course, once you’ve ordered, you still have to actually wait for your food, and so each patron is given a little buzzer device that vibrates and flashes to let them know to come on up to the Shack! 

I saved you guys the trouble of going and ate all the things!



Normally, I wouldn’t be such a glutton, but on Saturdays, the special custard of the day “Coffee & Donuts” contains donuts from Federal Donuts – so I basically had to do it, right? 


“MMMMM – Donut.” – Homer Simpson
Another Philly exclusive for Shake Shack is the Smoke Shack Burger, the first burger at any of the Shake Shack locations to ever be topped with applewood bacon! (Also comes topped with cherry pepper relish and shack sauce.) I thought the peppers gave it a nice little kick & the bacon was delicious!
Peppers playing Peek-a-Boo!
But this wasn’t my only Shake Shack visit in recent weeks; I’d also stopped at the Westport, CT location on my way home. It’s HUGE compared to the Philly location! (But I guess that’s one of the benefits of being in the middle of Suburban CT) 
  Plus this awesome sign out front gives it the ol’ road side burger joint feel.
I just stuck with the basics. I don’t recall the shack sauce being quite as ZINGY! on my first visit to the UES location, and not even so much present on the Smoke Shack burger, but BOY OH BOY! My allergies had been stuffing me up all week and this really cleared me up! They must’ve put extra horseradish or something because it was a doozy! 

Oh yeah, you can totally see all that sauce!

Now if Philly can just get a few better pizza & bagel joints, a more extensive subway system, a baseball team with a higher payroll and a Uniqlo, I might never wanna move! 
( Just Kidding.)

Philly’s Best Burger? Part 3: SquareBurger

Shake Shack is a burger institution in New York City. From their original location in Madison Square Park, they expanded rapidly throughout the city and are slowly taking over the globe with outposts recently opened in Westport, CT, Miami and even the Middle East. So piggybacking on the outdoor burger, shakes and fries trend, Stephen Starr (who pretty much monopolizes Philadelphia with his various themed dining establishments) opened a little burger hut in Franklin Square a few years ago known simply as “Square Burger”. Notorious for milkshakes containing TastyKakes butterscotch krimpets that can only be consumed through wide straws, Square Burger is the closest Philadelphians can come to enjoying a burger outdoors short of grilling in their own backyard.

I’d heard plenty of good things about Square Burger, so I set out July 4th weekend poised to dive into one of the most talked about burgers in town. Sure enough, when I arrived in Franklin Square the line was long; but that meant it had to be worth it then, right? When I finally got to the front of the line, I ordered a cheeseburger, fries and a drink and waited patiently for my meal to be ready. Despite the long lines Square Burger endures, every burger is cooked to order so you don’t have to worry about food sitting out – and that’s how a good burger should be made.

I took my sack of food and sat at a nearby picnic table, enjoying the warm and sunny day. As I snacked on their fresh cut shoestring fries, I removed the burger from the bag and was kind of surprised by its miniscule size. Then I unwrapped the paper to reveal a tiny, squished mess. This was it?? I had just paid $4.75 for something the size of a 99 cent McDonald’s hamburger. Well, then it better be the best damn burger I’ve ever tasted, I thought to myself.

Yep. This is what it looked like. They should change the name to Sad Burger.


Upon the first bite, I knew that this was a major burger fail.
This is what every one has been raving about? It seriously tasted like a generic, fast food restaurant burger at 5 times the price. Overwhelmed by the pickles and fried onions, I could barely even taste the meat. I guess it was a good thing I got fries too because I wasn’t about to pay $4.75 for another burger after that one had left me empty both in my stomach and in my wallet. My guess is most people probably come for the fancy shakes and then just shell out for the burger while they’re there as an afterthought. (And the shakes probably fill in the rest of whatever remains from the four whole bites of burger you’ve just eaten.)

Anyway, about a month or so later, I actually went to Shake Shack for the first time and was blown away. Square Burger couldn’t even hold a candle to a Shake Shack burger. Shake Shack’s burgers have tomato and lettuce, options you’re not given at Square Burger, which help to compliment it perfectly. Not to mention a nice, thick delicious juicy patty on a soft bun, which doesn’t look like someone sat on it when you get your order – plus crinkle cut fries! It just goes to show that you can try and imitate something but you can never duplicate it.

Ahh! Much better!!


Square Burger rating: “F”
Shake Shack rating: “A”

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