Well before Carl’s Jr. introduced their “foot long cheeseburger,” and certainly centuries before our bodies will have evolved to the point where we actually need a foot long cheeseburger, the folks at Joe Beez in Kingston, NY have been serving up these stunners to the joy and wonderment of locals and bleary-eyed burger blogging tourists alike.
“Conveniently” located amidst one of Kingston’s many commercial districts (Have metal fabrication needs or perhaps you are looking for a cap for your pickup truck? You can scratch that itch and more all within a stone’s throw of this joint), Joe Beez is a throwback to another time and place where manly men who bend metal with their bare hands (see above reference to nearby metal fabricator) would come each day for their requisite hectares of lunch meats.
Nearly 100 different sandwich options literally scream for your attention, leaping off handwritten, multi-colored construction paper signs tacked to the joint’s walls. They’ve adopted Carnegie Deli’s schtick of paying homage to celebrities by naming subs after them – Jerry Garcia, Bobby Flay, Heavy D, Winnie The Pooh and Dustin Pedroia are just a few of the notables. Whittling down the list of burgers wasn’t easy, but if they are going to make a claim with one called the “Real Burger King” then I felt I should see for myself how they hoped to ride to the title.
The bar stool-lined dining room is small and crowds up quickly during lunch time so we took our sandwiches to-go and cracked them open at a picnic pavilion outside the Kingston Zoo (which was surprisingly good and free to boot!). Splayed out on the table with it’s wrappings torn asunder, the R.B.K. revealed its true self – a gloriously freakish lovefest of burgers, bacon, “veggies” and cheese, all served on a darn nice sub/hoagie roll (which I didn’t expect outside of Philly) – without guilt or remorse.
Here is your shopping list if you care to to recreate this one at home:(2) 1/4 lb. beef patties, each patty sliced in half (cooked up perfectly on a flat top by the way) Cheddar cheese, blue cheese and Swiss cheese A rasher of bacon
Grilled onions Grilled peppers Frank’s style hot sauce Hot peppers
And, if you are in Philly you might want to try and grab a Wawa foot long sub roll. The Joe Beez version, produced by Kingston’s own Deising’s Bakery, is squishy just like Wawa’s hoagie rolls.
Slap all of that together and you’ve got yourself a mammoth sandwich which, weighing in at well over a pound. The drive to the zoo took just long enough for all of the ingredients to truly combine and congeal and the heat trapped inside the wrapper actually steamed the roll a bit, meaning all parts of the sandwich were texturally similar – more harmonious than homogeneous. After several days of near forced vegetarianism on our vacation to Woodstock, NY, this sandwich satisfied all of my meat cravings and actually proved too much to eat, at least in the presence of my children who may (or may not) wish for me to be present at their future graduations and weddings.
So does it deserve the title of “The Real Burger King?” Probably not. That bar is just way too high and at a minimum would require a more focused approach to the burgers, which when separated from the pack and eaten alone were only about pub grade, due I think more to cooking skill than quality or heritage of the beef. Where this burger does excel though is in delivering a heaping amount of food without sacrificing taste. This is no easy task and maybe there should be some title in the monarchy reserved for the rare few that can achieve this feat. If I lived in Upstate New York this would be a routine stop (mercifully they do offer smaller versions of their sandwiches, too) and it is easy to see why Joe Beez consistently earns rave reviews for being way more than your average sub shop.
Joe Beez stands staunchly counter to the whims of popular opinion in our country by continuing to offer a burger called the “Big Ben Rothlisberger” (ingredients roll call: burgers, ham, bacon, capicola, 4 kinds of cheese, peppers, onions, ad infinitum). This absolute clusterf**k of a sandwich seems even more fitting now as its impact on your body is akin to crashing a motorcycle if not clearly identifying yourself as someone with incredibly poor judgment (nutritional or, ahem – otherwise).
Now here is the dilemma…under what possible circumstances would you ever find yourself in Kingston, NY (if going to Joe Beez is not enough to convince your wife)? Let me offer you some suggestions torn straight from our recent vacation itinerary. The Saugerties Lighthouse is incredibly cool and the 1/2 mile hike through the marshlands is the perfect balance of effort and payoff. Bard College, just across the very bridge that breathes life into Kingston, has a Frank Gehry designed theater and a huge piece of modern art by Olafur Eliasson called “The Parliament of Reality” which alone may be worth the trip upstate. Big Pink, the namesake of The Band’s 1968 debut album “Music From Big Pink” is less than 1/2 hour from Joe Beez and with the benefit of GPS and a favorable tail wind you may actually find this house. Stop by and spend a moment wondering how Bob Dylan and the boys ever found this place while even mildly impaired.Click here for additional pictures Joe Beez 40 South Manor Avenue
Kingston, NY 12401-3628 (845) 334-9501
(2) “Krust” pastries from Golden Krust (Jamaican meat patties without the meat)
(1) “Baconzilla” from Checkers
1. Flip your “Baconzilla” over and remove bottom bun, replacing it with one of the “Krust” pastries.
2. Flip the burger over again then take the top bun off the “Baconzilla,” replacing it with the remaining “Krust.”
Like a Rastafarian cousin of the legendary Luther Burger (a bacon cheeseburger served on a Krispy Kreme donut) with a bit more heft. Perfectly stratified layers of sweet, salty and savory.
Ensuring that the burger and pastries are warm is key which means that you will need to identify a Golden Krust and Checkers in close proximity to each other. Thankfully in Philadelphia this is not that difficult. The easiest spot to pull this off is in North Philadelphia near the Olney Septa Terminal (pick up your Golden Krust at Broad & Olney and then drive 2 minutes further north to the Checkers at 5600 North Broad Street). You can also grab your GK just up the street from the Tower Theater in Upper Darby and then grab the Baconzilla at the Checkers at Lancaster and W. Girard). Not in Philadelphia? Check out each joint’s webpage for locations – Golden Krust – Checkers/Rally’s.
Although tall in stature, the concoction does press down nicely and despite appearances is not unwieldy to eat except for the flakiness of the “bun.” Eating one is shame-inducing (a la KFC’s Double Down), but you only go around this world once so you may as well give it a try.
The “Krust” alone is a decadent item, with an amped up taste no doubt owing to some shortening, and mouthfeel akin to baklava. As previously noted in this blog, the “Baconzilla” is in my mind, the undisputed heavyweight champion of fast food burgers. A mind-altering melange of turbo charged beef, as much bacon as the preparer either feels like or remembers to put on, an equally random amount of cheddar cheese sauce all topped with ketchup and mayonnaise. Normally served on a perfectly acceptable fancied up burger bun (think Wendy’s larger burgers if you don’t have a Checkers near you), the “Baconzilla” lives up to its monster themed name.
The grilled cheese sandwich leftover in the “Baconzilla” bun is a worthwhile meal in itself. The remaining cheese mixes perfectly with the leftover ketchup and mayo to create an oozy, cheese whiz-esque neon orange sauce.
Question For The Comments Section:
Aside from the ubiquitous KFC/Taco Bell combination, which two fast food joints would you like to see team up? What magical creations would they create? (FYI, the comments link has moved to the top left of the post, in the section next to the post title.)
Flushing, NY 11354-5429
The three sweetest words in the English language may just be “Free Bacon Upgrade” and that is exactly what I encountered at Joe’s BestBurger in bustling Flushing (Queens), NY last week. Until the end of April (hurry!) they are offering free bacon with your double cheeseburger combo and the perfectly cooked pork planks gild the lily on what has to be one of the best fast-food style burgers you can grab on the East Coast.
I am going to consciously try to avoid the name of the West Coast place that has the same “keep it simple” style and coy “secret” menu because I think at the end of the day it is a frustrating and fruitless comparison. Let’s face it, as much as those of us on the right side of the continent can opine about…oh heck, I’ll just use their initials…INO, we just can’t get it. Every so often some of us can hop on planes and head westward to get our fix, but the majority of the time we have to search out reasonable facsimiles and Joe’s completely nails it for me.
I have a satellite office just a few yards from Joe’s (just passed the guy selling lamb on a stick for $1 – well worth it, too – ask for it spicy) and I always make it a point to drop in for a burger when I am in town. Freshness is a mantra at Joe’s which is initially confounding because the place looks like a cookie cutter fast food joint. Our subsconcious has been trained to expect our meals in 30 seconds flat, piping hot from below pink-ish hued heat lamps, when we encounter this much formica and a battalion of uniformed cashiers and cooks. What Joe’s does is take the best parts from the fast food concept (uniform product, consistent branding and competitive pricing to name a few) and then delivers a hell of a product.
Burgers go on the griddle after you order them and baskets of fresh cut fries wait to dip in the bubbling oil pools until you’ve made up your mind between them and the equally worthy onion rings. The made-to-order cooking means it takes about 3-5 minutes to get your food, but that is time well spent loading up on frothy chocolate soda from one of two soda dispensers (a name brand cola dispenser and another one offering a variety of Joe’s own branded soda).
Burger construction isn’t an afterthought at Joe’s. For my bacon double cheeseburger, the cook prepared the cold bottom bun with a thousand-island style burger sauce, then rests a bright red tomato on top which is then flanked with a piece of lettuce. Each wide and thin (1/4 lb-ish patty) is topped with yellow cheese and a slice of bacon, then one is stacked on the other and carefully balanced with the top bun. The gooey meat stack is then lifted off the griddle with a nice supply of glistening grease still hanging on for the trip to meet its cold cousins before being wrapped up in wax paper and placed on the tray. With the aforementioned fries this is a burger worth driving a couple hundred miles for.
I know what you’re saying, “If this place is so good, why aren’t people raving about it 24/7?” I think this place is under-hyped because quite frankly there are thousands of better things to eat in Flushing. No knock on Joe’s, it is top-notch, but the variety of authentic and exotic Asian food available in a relatively small footprint is mind boggling. Choosing to eat a burger, even for a burger lover like me, means wasting a limited opportunity to eat something else amazing. That said, I encourage you to try Joe’s (or at least engage in some major league gluttony to take in a few of the other offerings in the neighborhood – both above ground and below ground) if only because they aren’t opening an In-N-Out on the east coast anytime soon.
Hungry for more? Read A Hamburger Today’s take on Joe’s from 2005.
Phillies fans take note, Joe’s is maybe a mile away from Citi Field, home of the Mets. Two Sunday day games are scheduled for later in the season (8/15 and 9/12), both 1:10 starts, which means it is perfectly reasonable to sneak up for the day to catch a game and some burgers.
A champagne burger on a beer budget?
Whatever you call it, 500 Degrees offers a truly decadent burger experience, quick-service style, at a price point that should guarantee many happy return visits.
1. All burgers are ostensibly served to-go, but that doesn’t mean they are carelessly tossed into a bag. My burger was accompanied by 3 small containers, 1 was “special sauce”, 1 was fry sauce (even though I didn’t order fries, let’s consider this a happy accident as the sauce was stellar) and 1 was packed with pickles. The special sauce seemed to me to be a riff on an In-N-Out/Shake Shack style sauce, but with a subtle, smokey chipotle taste at the very end. It played nicely off of the well-seasoned, almost perfectly medium-rare burger. Not overpowering in any way, the sauce is a nice compliment to the top-quality meat. The aioli-ish fry sauce had to fly solo with no fries and it did well eaten off fingertips or sopped up by edges of the bun. Will definitely get fries next time. The 3rd container in the bag included pickles and I have to give them extra credit for this. If you were really taking the burger back to your office (or in my case – back to the ‘burbs) and the pickles were already in place on the burger, the juices would seep out (pickle seepage?) and impact the flavor of the burger. Keeping them sealed up and on the side so you can put them on yourself right before you eat the burger couldn’t have been an afterthought for owner Rob Wasserman and his head chef Matt Zagorski. That is true burger-geek stuff, my friends, and I for one appreciate that these guys thought it through that far (then again they could have been trying to streamline the burger construction time – you have your reality and I’ll have mine).*
2. Kudos for wrapping the burger in paper, not aluminum foil. Sure you may argue heat retention, but most people are going to bust into their burgers in mere moments, not hours. Wrapping them in paper is not only aesthetically pleasing but it is also a sign of the care taken in every step of the process. Not that we are talking major league origami here, but wrapping a burger in paper takes time and thought. I am fairly certain my 11 month old could wrap a burger in foil…not a chance he could master the flips and folds needed to put one in paper. It is these “little things” that make 500 Degrees stand out from the pack for me.
3. The price is more than fair. $5.75 for the signature “500″ burger with lettuce, tomato, cheddar cheese, bacon and special sauce served on a locally-sourced, top quality bun. Add $2.50 for fries (3 styles – plain, spicy and truffle – I had none this trip) and $1.50 for a soda (pre-City soda sin tax) if you bundle it all up as the #5 combo. It adds up quickly, but not outrageously, to $9.75. A worthwhile splurge.
Though success is never a certainty (especially in the restaurant biz), Wasserman’s thinking here seems to be spot on. Offer more people access to his already highly acclaimed and sought-after Rouge burger by porting it to a more high-traffic neighborhood and shrinking it to a size allowing him to slot it into a decent price point. I don’t necessarily think Wasserman is going to cannibalize business from Rouge with 500. I think they are two distinct experiences, targeting two different demos. 15th & Sansom isn’t Rittenhouse. 500 Degrees is comfortable and well-designed but the average person will be in and out in under 15 minutes. A trip to Rouge warrants no less than an hour to soak in the atmosphere and menu, which is voluminous in comparison to 500′s strategically spartan offerings.
Additional notes…Vegi-terrestrial wife ate half of my burger and then lamented the fact that I didn’t bring home two burgers. Might need to make picking these up a habit to ward off her slow descent toward a raw foods diet…Despite what the Inquirer wrote earlier this week, I am a fan of the new parking meter kiosks. With one just outside 500 Degrees, if the parking gods are with you, you can make a quick stop without having to pay outrageous parking garage prices. Plus, you can pay with a credit card!…I have a satellite work location about 2 minutes from 500 Degrees, and despite the hit I would take with City wage taxes I might need to put in for a transfer.
*Will anyone else back me up on the pickle seepage thing? It is a cross platform pet peeve for me, too. I may hate it even worse on a Chik-Fil-A Chicken sandwich where you get that odd green halo on the chicken patty when you open up the bun to douse it with that cracktastic “Polynesian” sauce.
Quick dinner from a few weeks back when a 1/2 day at work gave me the opportunity to hit up two different farmers markets for ingredients. A Le Bus Whole Wheat Burger bun was the perfect foundation for our burger mix of natural, (primarily) grass-fed beef and chopped bacon ends (oddly shaped, wildly fatty slabs of deliciousness from the Lancaster County Farmers Market in Wayne, PA). Add blue cheese, a fire-engine red tomato and some extra whole bacon ends on top and the urge to go out to a restaurant and spend $15 for a fancy burger is officially curbed. When possible serve your burgers on plates with pictures of surgeons on them – its a karma thing and it fights off the bad cholesterol.
Not too much to offer by way of recipe on this one, more along the lines of advice…we find the beef available at farm stands tends towards the lean side, so chopping up bacon and adding it to the mix prior to forming your patties keeps the burgers moist (in addition to adding flavor). We tested a new (and cheap) cast iron skillet from Ikea and were happy with the results.
Beef from Hillacres Pride
Bacon Ends from S. Clyde Weaver
Tomato from Good Harvest Farms
The Piazza at Schmidt’s
1050 N Hancock St
Philadelphia, PA 19123 (215) 268-7825
A few people are talking about this place online…just a few – read here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here (the rest of the world still has Crystal Pepsi? Seriously? Damn!), here, here, here, here and oh, here. Holy word of mouth! Well, if there is one thing legendary Philly party-promoter Tommy Up knows how to do it is get people talking and with his latest venture, the uber-hip restaurant/lounge P.Y.T., it is clear another thing Up can do really well is run a burger joint.
Self-described as a California style burger bar, P.Y.T. as a concept is well thought out and its location in the middle of Bart Blatstein’s Piazza At Schmidt’s is both ideal and logical. Indoor seating in stylish booths and at the sleek bar will be more popular in colder months, but on a gorgeous day like we had (a rare example of the idea that it is “Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) the piazza-side tables with lime green umbrellas were the place to be.
I modified my P.Y.T. Burger (toppings are key here) and was able to snap a few pics before eagerly diving in to devour the 1/3 lb.(ish) of beef blanketed (but not buried or overpowered) with a fried egg (preparation nailed – just the slightest bit of yolk ooze), bacon, lettuce, tomato (bright red!), onions, cheese (great melt) and a devilishly sweet onion & mayo secret sauce (note to Colgate – this would make the perfect toothpaste flavor). The burger was heavily seasoned and cooked around the range I requested, not pegged, but to the rarer which is a 1000 times better than going too far. The completed burger stacked pretty high, but everything squished together well and was pretty manageable to eat in mixed company.
As good as the burgers are, the P.Y.T. sign also promotes two other strengths of the restaurant. If the “T: thing” is the burger and the “Y:young” is the music (djs, Steely Dan’s “Kid Charlemagne” was playing as we were leaving – probably not stereotypical but it worked for a Sunday), then “P: pretty” is a really great way to describe the drinks.
As much as I love iBurger (and the hilarious sounds my daughter makes while playing it) I haven’t found a truly useful burger app for the iPhone (note to self – get off high horse and invent truly useful burger app for iPhone). To the rescue comes a new app from foodie grocery chain Whole Foods featuring a full slate of burger recipes presented in a truly slick interface.
Over 25 burger recipes are featured ranging from the uber-healthy (beef and bulgur burgers) to the truly decadent (stuffed burgers with gorgonzola and smoky bacon).
Nutritional info is provided (and thankfully placed strategically so it is easy to ignore) as are diet keys which help point you to offerings that may/may not fit into your diet (you’ll be happy to know that Sliders are good for those who are “sugar conscious”).
One of the best features (though not burger specific) is called “On Hand” which allows you to type in up to 3 ingredients you have “on hand” and then suggests recipes in the library based on that. Pretty handy to have when you are scraping the refrigerator bottom before shopping day.
We’ll be testing out the slider recipe soon and probably checking in on the app while out shopping to see what we can create.
Whole Foods annual “Buck A Burger” sale ends tomorrow (July 7th) I think. We loaded up and cooked off some of their bacon and blue cheese burgers for lunch yesterday (tweet – Rounding out a weird weekend with some Bacon & Blue Cheese burgers from Whole Foods Buck A Burger sale. http://twitpic.com/9eezw10:41 AM Jul 5th from TweetDeck ) – pretty tasty.
ps: If you are a budding iPhone app designer and are interested in helping create the burgatory iPhone app (and enjoy working for free) drop me a line…we actually do have a neat idea!
Sunday night is burger night around the house and this weekend’s version was inspired by a viewing of a PBS The American Experience episode about Buffalo Bill Cody, which when trying to cook and tweet at the same time somehow morphed into a reference to Dabney Coleman’s early 1980′s sitcom Buffalo Bill (see tweets here – heck, sign up to follow if you wish).
What made these burgers even more special was that the beef and bacon were procured from our local farmers market. In most parts of the North East farmer’s market season has just kicked off and that is great news. Within walking distance of our house are a bevy of delicious, seasonal options produced and sold by the person behind the till. Stories, suggestions, recipes and heart are all within easy reach of the consumer and we are all a bit better for taking the time to slow down and interact on a more personal level with our food and those that grow it. Of course these markets are famous for their veggies but we have found that many offer great quality meats as well. Whether “farm-raised,” “grass-fed,” “organic” and/or “natural” meat, options abound and include not only beef from cows, but good quality bison and small-batch bacons.
Not so much a recipe on this one…more a parts list:85/15 all-natural ground beef Thick-cut all-natural bacon Ultra-sharp cheddar cheese Onion rings BBQ sauce Whole-wheat Telera rolls
Bobby Flay calls his version a Cheyenne Burger.
Carl’s Jr.’s call it a Western Bacon Cheeseburger.
Dabney Coleman Fever movie on YouTube (kiss 8 1/2 minutes of your life goodbye before clicking)