(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.
I’m not a huge fan of college basketball, but tourney time lights a little spark in just about everyone. Living here in the burbs outside Philadelphia, I annually adopt a small rooting interest for the Villanova Wildcats as they march towards the Final Four. Since I can’t talk X’s and O’s when it comes to hoops, I’ll offer the only advice I can for those interested in the tourney- a recommendation for a good burger spot to catch the ‘Cats opening round game against Robert Morris on Thursday. Game time is 12:30pm which means you can probably time your office escape perfectly to catch a good chunk of the game and grab a bite to eat. For those who feel the need to be close to the hub of activity (and can’t make it to Providence, RI), for my money, the best place to go close to Nova is The BRGR Joint in Bryn Mawr.
Safely within stumbling distance for the college crowd on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, daytime finds the place exceedingly quick and not overly crowded – with two ridiculously huge TVs normally pegged to a news channel, though I’d be willing to bet they’ll be airing the game. The burgers are akin to Five Guys, though thankfully much lower on the grease scale. I usually order mine with a fried egg on top, but can vouch for the quality of most of their topping combinations (tons of toppings like 5G or Elevation Burger). They’ve recently introduced two new burger/fries/soda combos (a one patty “lil” cheeseburger with fries and a drink is $5.99 and a two patty “regular” cheeseburger with fries and drink is $6.99 – with egg or bacon an additional $0.99) making things even easier on the wallet. Special kudos for the fries at BRGR Joint. They are on par with the burgers taste-wise and come in regular and sweet potato varieties. If you are coming with a friend you’d be wise to order one of each (and maybe a third order with their chili ladled on top).
The tattoo motif of the dining room belies the true demeanor of the place, which is exceedingly friendly. These are true burger folks who know their stuff and are sincerely interested in delivering a great burger experience every time you stop in. Each time I go I try to bring a new person with me and I know others are doing the same – this is the kind of place you really want to see succeed because they seem to have their hearts in the right place.
So plan your excuses now and I’ll probably see you at BRGR Joint around 12:30 Thursday, just in time for tip-off.
The BRGR Joint
1011 W Lancaster Ave
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
Truffle Butter? In Fishtown? Oh how the neighborhood has changed.
Ok, the neighborhood hasn’t changed that much, but Sketch has raised the bar when it comes to decadent ingredients with their Truffle Butter Burger. Served on a Le Bus bun (spread with said butter), atop a bed of caramelized onions (with more truffle butter) and slathered with a dollop more truffle butter for good measure, this burger pretty much glistened with flavor. The patty itself is 8 oz. of 80/20 ground beef cooked ideally just shy of medium ensuring that it was super-moist even beyond the butter’s assistance. All told, this was a superb burger from a place we’ve been meaning to hit for some time since missing FWTS’s Burger Club meeting back in September.
Sketch calls itself a Vegan-Friendly Burger & Shake Shack and although we didn’t have anything Vegan, we did order up some of their homemade mac & cheese for our daughter. With 4 cheeses and a secret spice or two, the mac was a hit and would stand up well on any menu. We also ordered one of the daily specials, a dish called Hong Kong Style Pulled Pork, which was a mix of supremely tender pork and Hoisin sauce served in an Asian bun (yeast rolls). Served three to an order and looking like mini tacos, these were completely unexpected and would probably warrant a burger-less return trip. The Belgian-style frites are served with a choice of dipping sauces and we chose the traditional Aioli. Crispy on the outside and mashed potato smooth on the inside, they rank high among fries in the city.
Sketch itself is a pretty funky spot on Girard not too far from Johnny Brenda’s and Kung Fu Necktie, which will certainly come in handy the next time I can sneak out to a show. The place is beyond child friendly, with crayons and paper on the table and ample wall space to hang your burger-related artwork as you are waiting for your food to arrive. Boylan’s Cane Sugar Cola in the self-serve fridge was a pleasant surprise and next time we’ll be certain to check out the shakes, including a Vegan shake option, and there certainly will be a next time. The Burger Club knocked it for being pricey and it was ($8.50 for the truffle burger), but it is only fair to add that the value was pretty high, too. Each dish was clearly created from scratch with tons of creativity and attention to detail. Yes, $30 for a Sunday family lunch is above our norm, but we left feeling as if we had gotten our money’s worth.
For the DIY set, here is a recipe for truffle butter which shouldn’t be too difficult to make at home.
For more information on Fishtown visit fishtown.com.
A few months back my brother-in-law began raving about a new burger joint that had opened out his way in West Chester. I have a lot of faith in his recommendations for other things so I was definitely looking forward to checking out Buddy’s Burgers, Breasts and Fries (double entendre intended?) as soon as we could and on a recent Saturday I finally got my chance as our families met up for lunch.
I won’t be the first (or last) person to compare them to Five Guys, but I’ll say a comparison to them is only fair in menu configuration (little buddy = 1 patty, buddy = 2 patties) and in the offering of a myriad of toppings. Anything further would be a slap in the face to Buddy’s as everything they do is superior to the ever growing chain – from the burgers to the fries.
Their toppings menu is slightly more extensive than at Five Guys and opened up the opportunity for me to concoct a slightly Mexican themed burger to satisfy my spicy tooth. Pepper Jack cheese, avocados, jalapenos and caramelized onions worked perfectly on the more than generous griddle cooked single patty that I ordered. Served up on an over-sized sesame seed specked bun, the meat-to-toppings-to-bun ratio was perfect without going overboard (I can’t imagine having the second patty would add too much besides bulk – on me).
The fresh cut fries are perfect, too. A small is more than enough for two people but you probably won’t want to share them. Huge flecks of salt set up camp on most of the fries giving you that great crunch when your teeth meet up with them.
One of the interesting features of Buddy’s is that it is actually two restaurants in one, though both have separate entrances. The adjoining restaurant? The Salad Stop. You could see the tumbleweeds rolling down through the dining room while at the same time Buddy’s was bustling. It is an interesting combo that forces a pretty serious gut check as a look to the left towards the salads reveals perhaps how we should be eating, while a look to the right towards the burgers reveals how we really want to eat. My inner Michael Pollan was conflicted for about 2 seconds.
West Chester is off the beaten path for Philly folks, but Buddy’s is worth the drive out one weekend. Two doors down is an Iron Hill outpost and a bunch of other top-notch watering holes line Gay Street. Baldwin’s Book Barn isn’t too far away and provides hours of entertainment searching for a rare book or quiet nook to read, and perhaps providing enough time to build up your hunger again to head back for another burger or a quick stop at West Chester’s legendary hot dog stand Jimmy John’s.
7638 Castor Ave Update: now located at 6501 Castor Avenue
The best new burger in Philadelphia is an absolute mess! An ungodly train wreck of ingredients served to you in a location devoid of glitz, glamor, panache or any of the other adjectives our beloved city’s slew of worthy new burger joints can lay claim to. It is primal, carnal, evil and glorious. It is more Ronaldo than Ronald. It is 5 inches tall and a hemisphere of flavor wide. It is the reason I may never have to venture into Newark, NJ again.
I present to you the X-Tudo Hamburger-Hubcap-sized sesame seeded roll – check Beefy grilled patty – check Gooey mozzarella cheese – check Perfectly fried egg – check Leafy green lettuce – check Fire-engine red tomato – check Fried slices of boiled ham – check Crunchy potato sticks – check Juicy corn niblets – check Blasts of mayo and ketchup for good measure – check and check
Game-Set- Match, checkmate, “you sank my battleship“, Yahtzee! and “boom goes the dynamite (as uttered by Cleveland Brown)” all wrapped up in wax paper and delivered piping hot on a plate.
I was first introduced to the concept of Brazilian hamburgers by Jason Perlow’s review of Hamburgao in Newark on his pioneering food/tech site offthebroiler. After that, and thanks to the coincidence of some of my work locations being in that neck of the woods, I trekked to the Ironbound to get my hands on a Cheese Egg as often as possible. And whenever possible I dragged others, first my wife and daughter and then later my boss and some work colleagues. The Brazilian version of a hamburger just rewrites the rules and is guaranteed to be a memorable experience (even if it were bad – and they have never been – it would be memorable for so many reasons including the atmosphere, the language and the ubiquitous pastries). Now to find a location so close to home serving these gems…needless to say I’m a happy happy guy.
The Picanha Grill Lanchonete is the sister restaurant to Picanha Brazilian Grill, which sits further south on Castor Ave towards Oxford Circle and offers all-you-can-eat rodizio style dining. In fact, the Lanchonete will be moving next door to the grill later this year, which is good news for anyone visiting from the City or the ‘burbs because it makes the trip about 10 minutes shorter (just off the Roosevelt Boulevard). It features a long bar with high chairs for eating while watching Brazilian daytime TV and a row of tables for more refined noshing. In the barren wasteland that is this strip of Castor Ave, the inside of this joint yearns for a hipness above what is both expected and probably attainable considering the rivers of asphalt just steps from any seat in the place.
The menu features several different variations on the kitchen sink theme, with your choice of hamburgers, chicken or hot dogs buried underneath. Even if this wasn’t a burger blog I’d insist that this be your point of entry to the cuisine as, in my opinion, it provides the perfect foundation (both in shape and taste) for the bevy of toppings which run the gamut from the mundane (lettuce) and mandatory (bacon) to the ridiculous (bananas) and sublime (yes, potato sticks belong on your sandwich!).
My Portuguese is negligible, despite a short period of time living in Rhode Island (where have you gone Vinny Pazienza?), so I am still a bit lost as to how the description of my burger on the bi-lingual menu has more ingredients in Portuguese than English? (11 items in Portuguese and 10 in English). I’m jut going to assume the real secret to the deliciousness of this concoction is that magical 11th ingredient which us estrangeiro’s are forbidden to possess (like bikes in the United Arab Emirates or that Goethe quote about “…what we cannot understand”).
Eating this burger gracefully is impossible. Even after cutting it in half (a tactic both to increase one’s ability to grip the darn thing and to cause me to pause long enough to weigh the downside of consuming the whole thing in one sitting) didn’t render it manageable. An ample supply of napkins were key as were the polite pauses in conversation offered by the server who told me about his family in Sao Paolo and his impressions of Philadelphia after having only been here a short time.
In a year where so many great burger joints have opened in the City, the arrival of Picanha Gill Lanchonete has gone completely unheralded. Nary a tweet, yelp or peep from a chowhound has tipped off the masses to this joint, and that is a shame. I hope you’ll stray from your comfort zone at least once to test this place out (or their new location when it opens) because your perception of what makes a great burger will be changed forever.
Additional thoughts…Fries With That Shake‘s friend girlscantell needs to diagram this thing for her next set of placemats….the roll at Hamburgao in Newark is a bit different and much better, but it is about an hour and a half away and will set you back $20 in tolls to get there so I am willing to forgive…I was in the area for business and to test out the kosher burger at Holy Land Grill (located just a few doors down). Not sure if I will ever actually make it there…yes, it is called a hamburger but it has cheese on it, I think cheese is just a given.
Editors note: I am honored to present the first guest post ever here on burgatory.com. Penned by good friend and world-class BBQer, baker, chef and eater, Jim Caccamo, this post is guaranteed to make your mouth water and have you running to a map to figure out exactly where Missouri is (we know it’s there somewhere – in the middle, right?). Look for Jim’s own blog about Technology & Ethics kicking off later this fall.
Beef In a Pork Town
I’ve spent the past twenty years living in beef towns. Chicago, with its Vienna Beef dogs, and Philadelphia, with its devotion to the Cheese Steak, certainly have their charms. But I grew up in the land of bar-b-que–Kansas City, Missouri. Now, I don’t know much about my new home here on the east coast, but what I do know is that few people from Philly know much about my home town. For most people around here, KC is one of those generic places in the thousand mile “flyover zone” between here and the west coast. If people have a sense of it, they think of it as a cow town.
Of course, it’s not a cow town. When I was growing up, it had a population of more than 2.5 million people. The stockyards had long given way to 4 professional sports teams, ballet, opera, and world class art museums. That, and we ate pork, not beef. Bar-b-que, to be specific. There were some good burger places, no doubt. Winstead’s made thin, melt in your mouth burgers. Town Topic did the perfect all-night-diner burger. But Kansas City was a bar-b-que town, with pork ribs at the top of the luscious hickory-smoked, mopped, and rubbed heap.
Today, the city’s food landscape has changed. Don’t get me wrong, bar-b-que is still king. But the city has undergone a dining-out revolution, and now there is a veritable royal family of great restaurants that serve excellent contemporary American cuisine, local favorites, and foods from around the world.
Into this mix comes Blanc Burgers + Bottles, a burger place in the Westport neighborhood that opened in 2006. Blanc is an independent boutique-burger restaurant that focuses on quality. Their menu is trim, focusing on burgers, fries, and beers. The beer selection is great, with a variety that is balanced between local, national, and international microbrews. They do a few appetizers and some great “adult” milkshakes (see later).
But the focus here is the burger. Their beef burgers are half-pounders made from a custom blend of tenderloin, ribeye and NY strip steak. They are going for the taste jugular. The buns are baked daily at a local bakery. They make their own pickles. They do hand cut fries and sweet potato fries, and local brew Boulevard Pale Ale battered onion rings. To top the fries, they make their own ketchup, whole grain mustard, and chipotle aioli, all of which are vibrant and flavorful. They do offer bison, pork, turkey, mahi mahi, and lentil burgers, but I didn’t try them, so I can’t help you there.
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.
50 E Wynnewood Rd
Wynnewood, PA 19096-2013
I first posted about Elevation Burger way back in February so needless to say the anticipation has been building for a while on this one…and I am happy to report that Elevation Burger did not disappoint.
With a mantra of “Ingredients Matter,” what many have dubbed the “healthy Five Guys” opened their first store here on the outskirts of Philly over the 4th of July weekend. It took me a whole 2 days to get down there thanks to holiday festivities but lunchtime Monday was destined to be all about Elevation Burger.
Four of us from work headed over and I was not surprised to run into another burger-loving friend already waiting in the short queue ahead of us. Word seems to have spread fast as they had a decent lunchtime crowd already for their first work-day service.
I opted for the Cheeseburger, as opposed to the Elevation Burger (1 patty vs 2 patties) and was presented with one of the best upsell attempts I have ever heard…”We find men are more satisfied with the Elevation burger (double) as opposed to just the single.” Ah-hem. Innuendo aside, I still stuck with the single burger (a rare show of restraint) in order to justify getting a side of fries and a soda.
As you can see from the picture, the burger itself is aesthetically pleasing. It is clear that they spend a lot of time training their staff to present the product well and I appreciate when a burger joint does that (ex: Shake Shack or In-N-Out) as opposed to just slapping together ingredients. I ordered my burger with lettuce, tomato and “Elevation Sauce” which I was told was a creamy, light tomato sauce. Either an homage to INO or even Big Mac sauce, I found that the sauce really didn’t add too much flavor to the package. It didn’t distract or ruin the taste, just didn’t add that much. To be honest, that is my only complaint. The burgers at Elevation are 100% organic, grass-fed and free range and you definitely can tell that something is different about the patties. Well seasoned and served on a squishy bun with a nice hunk of cheddar cheese (non-processed!) my cheeseburger was a winner. The best part may have been the complete lack of that icky, weighed down feeling (strangely enough this was a negative factor for my co-workers). The absence of greasiness meant no strong desire for an afternoon nap which could help productivity back at the ranch.
As good as the burger was, I have to say the fries are even better. Fresh cut shoestring style and crisped up perfectly in 100% olive oil (no trans or saturated fats), these were probably the best fries I’ve had in a long time and everyone in the group agreed they were the highlight of the meal. A side order was enough for 2 of us to split, though in the future I’d easily order one side just for me because they were that good (perfectly salted, each one tasted like that idealized vision of a McDonald’s fry we conjure up but have only ever experienced maybe once or twice in our lives).
Bonus points for Pibb Xtra as a fountain selection. Having spent time growing up in the south, seeing Pibb Xtra, which is the “new” name for “Mr. Pibb,” triggered lots of nostalgic memories. And despite Mitch Hedberg famously maligning Pibb’s lack of advanced education (“Mr. Pibb is a poor imitation of Dr. Pepper. Dude didn’t even get his degree.”) I’d choose it every time over the much fizzier Pepper.
The menu also features fresh-scooped ice cream milk shakes made with Blue Bunny ice cream. I didn’t have one, but they were hand-dipping a lot of them and I am sure I’ll get around to that at some point (maybe Jess @ Fries With That Shake will beat me to it).
Located half-way between my work and home I am going to have to try hard to avoid filling up one of their “7 Club” cards each week. Congrats to the team that has been working so hard on getting this location open and good luck to them keeping the steady stream of people coming. Keep delivering a good product and they will (and the demos of this area seem ideal with a Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s in short driving distance the health-concious bent should play well).