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
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.
Cast in the eerie shadows of the twin towers of the Limerick Nuclear Power Plant lies the Philadelphia Premium Outlet Mall, a mecca for consumers that in just a few days will cast its siren song southward to lure Black Friday shoppers and welcome their efforts to spur the economy through ritualistic spending at Nike, Adidas, Jockey, Le Creuset and the thankfully curable Perfumania (not to mention food offerings such as the painfully punny Chinese stand called Asian Chao).
What was even just a few months ago a barren field now teems with activity, forever in the present with today’s hottest fashions and modern trends. At the exit ramp off of Route 422 drivers are offered barely the chance to turn away from the mall, almost by centripetal force their cars are willed to turn left and ease into the acres of available free parking. But for those who can fight the potent inertia of drastically reduced prices on factory seconds and previous year’s stock (or perhaps more realistically forestall their entry into the maelstrom for a few moments) there is a reward for steering your car to the right at the end of the ramp – The Hilltop Drive-In.
In stark contrast to the not so accurately named outlet mall (anyone from these parts will know they are nowhere near Philadelphia, Google Maps pegs it at just over 29 miles from City Hall to the Wilson’s Leather Outlet), the Hilltop sits as a pink-hued reminder of a bygone era and the simple pleasures of a pre-fast food chain dominated burger landscape.
Make no mistake, this is not the best burger you will ever eat, but the overall experience makes it well worth the effort and miles. Add equal parts classic architecture, hand-spun milkshakes and malts, black and white photographs and retro signage and you’ve got yourself the ideal destination for a lazy Sunday drive to the far reaches of the suburban Philly telephone area code.
On this my second trip to the joint I ordered the California Cheeseburger, so-named for the appearance of (gasp!) vegetables which, at a time in our country, must have been viewed as exotic and otherworldly, just like the Golden State. Two perfectly acceptable fast food size and style beef patties were joined on the white, squishy burger bun by a piece of American cheese, sliced raw onions, tomato, shredded lettuce and mayo. (I substituted the kaiser roll which this sandwich is usually served on for a regular burger bun due to my long held belief that a kaiser roll has no business being near a burger.)
I had forgotten the pure pleasure of eating a burger with heaps of mayo on it. Despite the results of A Hamburger Today’s “Favorite Condiment” poll back in August, far too few of the burgers we eat have mayonnaise on them. Why not? Adding more fat to a burger seems like a no-brainer, and at the Hilltop, which uses some brand that bridges the chasm between Hellman’s egginess and the sweetness of its arch enemy Miracle Whip, the gooey-ness continuum that is created with the inevitable mingling of the white American cheese and mayo is pure perfection. That moment of self-questioning “was that the cheese or the mayo?” works well in the burger as grease delivery vehicle equation.
The Hilltop’s roots reach back to the 1950′s when it was a Carvel outpost and the shakes and malts served today are legit. I had a chocolate malt on my first trip and it was perfect, deeply chocolaty with flecks of slightly bitter malt powder. Soft-serve cones and sundaes are available as well and I can imagine in the summer time they do a fare bit of business cooling off the locals with these treats.
One of the great surprises of The Hilltop is that they serve Good’s Potato Chips from nearby Adamstown, PA. An old-school producer of no-frills, fried in lard chips, Good’s have become a strictly rationed treat in our house (Philly area folks can get them closer to home at The Head Nut in Ardmore) and as served here are the perfect accompaniment to your burger. They also offer pretty good french fries, McDonald’s style thin cuts fried up crisp and tasty, but when presented with the chip option they slip into second place.
Special mention must be given of their crab bisque soup. With our proximity to Baltimore and the Chesapeake Bay, decent crab doesn’t seem like it would be too hard to come across, but it certainly wasn’t expected in this kind of setting and truly stole the show on our first visit.
Huge thanks to ModBetty of Retro Roadmap for bringing The Hilltop to my attention via her great post and pictures (special notice should be given of the early ’50′s black and white image she shares of the Hilltop as a Carvel -complete with a rogues gallery of patrons straight out of central casting). Her site is packed with other great info and she is the rare Keystone state resident with actual duckpin bowling experience.
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).
Note in the comments section of the last post from the owner of the Wynnewood location says “July 4th should be the first day for Elevation Burger.”
Plus, interesting story in the Wall Street Journal about Twitter Imposters, the last place I expected to read about Elevation Burger…weird tale though -> read full story here or excerpt below.
At Elevation Burger, a seven-outlet chain owned by Elevation Franchise Ventures LLC, a vendor in March found an unauthorized Twitter profile with tweets promoting rival Z Burger. Hans Hess, Elevation’s founder and chief executive, complained to Z Burger and Twitter, which later suspended the profile after a letter from Mr. Hess’s lawyer.
Kenny Fried, a publicist representing Z Burger, says owner Peter Tabibian created the Elevation Burger profile on Twitter, as well as profiles in two other competitors’ names, “to be creative and fun in promoting Z Burger” and didn’t intend to be malicious.
Mr. Hess calls the stunt “extremely unprofessional.”
Old stuff below:
Just a quick note to say the sign went up yesterday! Can’t be too much longer now. Lots of activity over the past few weeks means hopefully they will be open before the end of the month. Will update with pics for those interested via the Twitter feed later today.
If this place is half as good as I am anticipating I am going to have to alter my route home from work.
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)
More than a little hat tip to the gents over at BBQ Addicts whose invention, the “Bacon Explosion,” was the creative jumping off point for this monstrosity.
No shot of getting this thing in the New York Times, but my concerns (and those of our crew of culinarily curious friends) were in getting this in our bellies. The idea just seemed like the logical next step and although it took about 3 hours start to finish, it is more than worthwhile trying it out at home for your next get together. This one is guaranteed to stop people in their tracks. As always, I will note that I am not a professional chef and though these directions worked for me, they may not work well for you. This recipe is fairly forgiving so as long as you are certain to cook these beauties all the way through I can see little danger in making a minor misstep (and tons of upside in creating your own variations).
I actually made a Bacon Explosion alongside the Burger Explosion for comparison’s sake. The recipe for the “Bacon Explosion” which is packed with pork sausage is best picked up at BBQ Addicts, though I will note that I tweaked that recipe a little, swapping out the bbq rub for a home spun mixture of salt, pepper and rosemary. The rosemary worked out very well.
Burger Explosion (serves 8-10)1lb 80/20 ground beef 4 slices of white American cheese 9 slices thick cut bacon 3 slices of regular bacon 1 butt of whole grain bread – toasted
1 large egg 2 tablespoons Oyster Sauce
1/3 cup BBQ sauce (any kind will do)
Step 1 – Fry up the 3 slices of regular bacon on a griddle as you would for morning breakfast, when done remove from griddle and pat dry (don’t worry about getting too much grease off, this ain’t health food!)
Step 2 – Take the butt end of the whole grain bread and sop up the rendered bacon fat from the griddle.
Step 3 – Place the bread into a food processor and whir it up for a few seconds to make breadcrumbs (yes, even the breadcrumbs are gonna taste like bacon!).
Step 4 – Put your ground beef, egg, oyster sauce and 3 tablespoons of the bacon-y breadcrumbs into a bowl and mix thoroughly by hand.
Step 5 – Make a 4×5 lattice pattern with the bacon (this may be the most fun part of the recipe)
Bryn Mawr Hospital Cafeteria 130 S Bryn Mawr Ave Bryn Mawr, PA .
Babies don’t come out in real life as fast as they do on TV, so with a few minutes of time on my hands in between contractions, an epidural and the blessed event I figured I’d post about the cuisine here at Bryn Mawr Hospital. This being a hospital and all I was a wee bit concerned about the offerings in the cafeteria (would it be nothing but healthy stuff?), but clearly they are catering to a wide audience with their extensive offerings (salad bar ->nachos bar -> deli sandwiches -> pastries).
Was very happy to see (4) burger options on the menu, advertised as fresh from the grille sirloin. I opted for the cheeseburger (white American), and as you can see from the above it came wrapped a la your typical fast food burger. A self-serve toppings bar was available with some bright red tomatoes, shredded lettuce, sliced onions, pickles and bacon as options. I actually skipped over the bacon (just seemed odd in a hospital – bacon will probably bring me back here sometime soon enough) and loaded up with a few tomato slices.
End product was about 1/3 lb (maybe even closer to 1/2 lb) cooked medium + all the way through and was served on a decent quality kaiser roll. With some ketchup and mustard this baby doctored up to be pretty decent with a very strong beef taste. No doubt this was a Sysco or similar food service burger, frozen until just recently but prepared well for the lunch time rush.
Wife can’t eat anything but ice chips and freeze pops (and nurse wondered what the smell was in the room in a manner that clearly said “who the heck is eating fast food in here!”) so I couldn’t get another opinion on this but it might be the real deal. Not sure how many folks would stop by here for a casual lunch, but if this labor continues any longer (nurse mentioned someone in labor for 3 days…) I might convene a meeting of other burger lovers for further sampling.
Thanks for all of the well wishes to date (have been posting some on Twitter though promised wife I would not “live Tweet” the birth). The world will welcome another burger lover very soon.UPDATE: More burgers will have to wait…he’s here!
Found this in my daughter’s play kitchen the other day…as best I can tell it is a double burger with tomato and egg (with the tomato in between two burger patties…pretty revolutionary!). If this were available in a restaurant, I would order it! Can you say “proud poppa”?
A few month’s back my daughter received the Melissa & Doug’s Wooden Sandwich Making Kit, which features a myriad of sandwich making options. The folks at M&D must be burger fans because one of the “meat” options is clearly a hamburger (it even comes with a seeded burger bun) and most of the toppings work perfectly on burgers (in the real world). Tomatoes, lettuce and pickles are joined by ham, egg and two different types of cheese to offer hundreds of options for imaginary play.
At 3 years old my daughter has already carved out some fairly sophisticated burger tastes, having been dragged (along with mom) to joints up and down the east coast. From Shady Glen Dairy to Monk’s, Ted’s Steamed Cheeseburgers to Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage, she’s seen and sampled some of the best burgers around, so watching her play with this set and create her own “dream burgers” gives me a bizarre sense of pride. Thankfully mom is around to ply her with vegan/vegetarian food most of the time to avoid her truly taking after dad.
I can just see the Juno-inspired Hamburger Phone in her room when she is a teenager (if phones even exist by then).
If you have a little burger lover at your house, they might like this book.
It is one of our favorites and gets quoted at least once a week…”I’m not a burger, I’m a boy!”
Survey Says: American’s are bored with burgers.
The quick service industry’s forgotten step-child, Arby’s, commissioned a survey and found that American’s are bored with fast food burgers. They are too greasy (55% agreed), too dry (40%) and the quality of meat is poor (45%).
“Roastburgers offer a tasty new way for burger lovers to satisfy their cravings while avoiding burger boredom,” says Steve Davis, Arby’s Chief Marketing Officer. “
So basically what Arby’s has done is swapped out ho-hum ground beef for the taste sensation that is their trademark roast beef.
The results…well…ummm, how do I say this…not as bad as I thought it would be.
The All-American Roast Burger I had for lunch, and it’s relatives the Bacon & Bleu Cheese and Bacon & Cheddar RoastBurgers, clearly benefit from some super-secret chemistry straight out of the flavor labs of New Jersey, because darnit…the RoastBurger actually tastes like a fast food hamburger. Again, I am left completely frustrated by how easily my taste buds can be tricked by science, but I guess that is the point with modern day fast food. The Oxford University Museum of Natural History bails me out a little here noting that the taste buds are easily tricked (in general, not specifically by this sandwich, but someone should definitely take this back into a lab and experiment).
More from an Arby’s Press Release:
All-American Roastburger – Features Arby’s thinly sliced, oven-roasted roast beef with fresh lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, ketchup, mustard, and a secret sauce served on a specialty roll
Here is the skinny on this “burger.” Easily 1/4 lb of roast beef which because of its shape/folding meant the sandwich stands pretty tall and seems substantial. Any hint of that special sauce, which someone on these here Interwebs actually compared to IN-N-OUT‘s secret sauce (?), was completely overpowered by the beef flavorings sprinkled on the sandwich (the Arby’s website even features an eerie animation showing the beef fleck coating process). Ketchup and mustard, the tried and true burger toppings, along with lettuce, tomato (very red – not always the case at fast food joints), raw onion and pickle were all present. Even the bun was better than your average fast food vessel. I’d compare it (favorably) to a BK Whopper.
That said, the whole concept just seems wrong to me. A roast beef sandwich shouldn’t have to aspire to be anything more than a roast beef sandwich and a burger by its nature has no equal in the world of meat-on-bun concoctions. But of course this is all about marketing and market share and so Arby’s, known as the #2 franchise sandwich chain in the country (behind Subway), has dipped their toes in the ultra-lucrative burger pool in launching this line. Interestingly, they could potentially steal market share from their sister restaurant, Wendy’s, by offering a burger experience which caters to a more high-end fast food eater.
- Close your eyes and it tastes like a pretty darn good fast food burger
- Really red tomato, crispy lettuce and tasty raw onions – all fine toppings which would be well placed on a burger
- Price – Arby’s is offering a free RoastBurger (with the purchase of a drink) via a coupon on their website (exp. 2/9/09)
- Mouth-feel: The meat just disappears in your mouth, like cotton candy or those weird Japanese shrimp chips.
- The whole “better living through chemistry” vibe you get when seeing the flavor flecks and tasting the overpowering beefiness of this sandwich.
40mg of cholesterol 1390mg sodium 46g carbs 2g fiber 15% of your recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C (!)
Bonus feature: Recipe to make your own Jamocha Shakes…previously the only reason anyone went to Arby’s.