What does nostalgia taste like?
For folks in the Philly suburbs, today it tasted like the idealized version of the Gino Giant they have been dreaming of since the regional chain named for one of pro football’s earliest off-field entrepreneurs, Gino Marchetti, ceased to exist in the early ’80s.
For those who braved the opening day crowds it must have truly seemed like “Everybody Goes To Gino’s”. Others, like me, benefited from the benevolence of co-workers who are lucky enough to have offices within Whopper-throwing distance of the new location on Rt 202 in King of Prussia (across from the King of Prussia Mall – either the Court or the Plaza, I can never remember which is which…the one I’m talking about has the Apple Store).
Is it possible that the Gino Giant would still taste the same after all those years? Like Lou Reed crooning in the Velvet Underground classic Sweet Jane “Those were different times” and indeed they were. The fast food landscape in 1982 bears little resemblance to today. Oh sure, many of the same players are at the top of the charts, but what is offered up now on their plastic trays is worlds apart. While the market leaders have continued to hone their successful strategy of peddling highly processed foods “designed” to ensure unwavering consistency of taste (while severely minimizing any possibility of food borne illness and/or human error requiring dumping of the product), upstarts like Five Guys and Elevation Burger have blazed a new trail with hand-formed patties cooked fresh (and with accompanying doneness variations). Where my memory, and this commercial, remind me that Gino’s originally strove to be in the first category, the modern day version aims to compete head-on in the new, more “upscale” genre.
The Giant is still the Giant, a pre-Big Mac era “Big Mac” (not sure if they beat Wright’s Dairy-Rite to the punch, or the countless other joints that back in the day slapped secret Thousand Island-style sauce on top of twin patties, shredded lettuce and double cheese) and I have to say that despite a 20 minute journey in the car, mine held up well. The meat itself was very tasty (two 1/4 lb beef patties), the sauce perfectly piquant, the shredded lettuce acted as unobtrusive roughage and the American cheese was extra-gooey. The Giant is served up nicely on a sesame seeded squishy roll and wrapped in paper (hallelujah!). Visually, it looks identical to a Five Guys cheeseburger , but I’d give Gino’s a bit of a nod because the burger didn’t come with that side order of meat coma which Five Guys always tends to bring on because of the amped up grease quotient (this isn’t necessarily a knock, because as we all know Vitamin-G is an essential part of every growing boy’s diet). The car ride and the fact that the place was mobbed and required workers to do everything in double-time meant it was less than photogenic by the time it arrived, but taste trumps all in this game. I am eager to sneak over in the near future to test out another and also try their fries and the item besides the Giant that they are most fondly remembered for, their fried chicken.
Welcome back, Gino’s. We honestly couldn’t have expected you not to change, but in this case change might be a good thing.
It bugs the heck out of me that the sandwich is called the “Gino Giant” and not the “Gino’s Giant,” yet the chicken version is called the “Gino’s Chicken Giant.” I am not grammaratarian (should be a word if it isn’t), but man it hurts my brain to type it without the “‘s.”
This 1971 commercial paints a terrifying picture of the effect drinking soda can have on children. The winded kid at the end telling us to hurry up and get to a store before all of the kites are gone seems ripe for Michael Pollan’s picking. Bonus at no additional cost to you – awesome mid-Atlantic region accents on the twins at the :10 second mark (love how they say “to go.”). And for those that might ask, that is not a younger me at the :21 second mark, though I do have those glasses and (before it began to recede) I had that hair.
The Commodore 64 was released in 1982, the year the Gino’s chain was sold to the Marriott Corporation and folded into their Roy Rogers’ business.Gino’s Burgers & Chicken 611 West DeKalb Pike (Route 202) King of Prussia, PA 610.265.5900
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
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).
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!
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.
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!
A new burger joint is opening soon in the Philly Burbs and this one has an interesting hook sure to pique the interest of the local Whole Foods/Trade Joe’s set.
Elevation Burger is described on their website as:
… a quick and casual restaurant offering 100% organic, grass-fed, free-range beef burgers.
Ok, count me as excited because of one important adjective in that description: grass-fed. Organic is great and sure I’d love to know that the cows lived a nice life on the range, but the fact that they were grass-fed is key. When it comes down to it, cows that eat grass just taste better. Time Magazine wrote about it in’06.
From a recent Elevation Burger press release:
Elevation Burger is a rapidly growing, fast casual concept serving 100% USDA-certified organic beef burgers and fresh-cut fries cooked in heart-healthy 100% olive oil. Founded by husband and wife entrepreneurs Hans and April Hess in 2002, the chain prides itself on an “elevated” experience and an organic, fresh approach that puts people and product ahead of profit. The first location opened in 2005, offering Northern Virginia a health-conscious menu bursting with flavor. Hans and April’s belief that “Ingredients Matter” has brought the restaurant rapid success and popularity. Driven by their passion for delicious food that’s organic, sustainable and fresh, Elevation Burger began franchising in 2008. Restaurants are 1,500-2,000 square feet and seat 50 to 150 guests with outdoor seating.
Outdoor seating is probably unlikely at the Wynnewood location, which fills the spot once occupied by Alex Long Chinese Cuisine in the front retail row of the Wynnewood Shopping Center (your typical suburban strip plaza with an Old Navy, BB&B, Genuardi’s and Borders).
Having never been to one, Elevation Burger sounds to me like a mix between Five Guys and Chipotle, which should play well in my flexitarian household. The fact that they even have two varieties of veggie burgers on their menu has me pretty excited (though the two pattied + cheese “Elevation Burger” would still probably win out most times). Editors Note: One of these days I’m going to have to write about the wealth of great veggie burgers in this area…the ones at the Penn Valley Pub in Narberth are actually better than the beef burgers (which is pretty darn good, too).
If you are interested/motivated maybe you can apply to be the General Manager? According to the monster.com posting, this is one of five locations coming to the area.
No idea on the opening date or further details but I will update if/when I learn more. Until then, here are a few reviews of the Falls Church, Va location.
via Menupages (D.C.)
Bittman rains slightly on the grass-fed parade in his NYT Blog here.
One more thing – the folks that created this place seem to truly understand the nuances of a good burger…check out this graphic from their website on the crucial topic of burger-to-bun ratio!
Ardmore, PA 19003
JR Monaghan’s opened a few months ago to fill a niche in the Main Line dining scene, that of a semi-respectable, family-friendly sports bar. With tons of TV’s, loads of autographed pictures and beer pitcher specials every night, they’ve gained quite a following (1,2,3).
As for the burger, it was perfectly char-grilled 1/2 lb patty, set on a slightly toasted bun, swathed in two pieces of white American cheese and topped with ketchup, mmmmm.
Oddly listed as “Certified Angus Brand Beef,” the burger was very flavorful and cooked perfectly medium. This is the second time I have seen the word “Brand” in the description of a burger on a menu recently so I will make the leap that these are produced off-site, under the auspices of some Angus Beef oversight committee – (note: turns out you can trace them back here-> click). This isn’t a bad thing, but might scare away some burger purists who prefer their patties formed by hand on-site. So quality control and predictability go up (in this case, the taste was perfect) but the subtleties of shape and personal attention are lost. I’d be curious if anyone has any thoughts about the idea of “brand” and burgers.
Taste is king though, and this burger was a winner. Served at lunch with a side of crispy steak fries for $6.99, it is on the bargain end of the scale for an pretty upscale tasting burger. I’ll be back for sure.
Addl. info: Check out this recipe from the Certified Angus Beef Brand website for something called Dan’s Hot Burger, with habanera peppers, pineapple and bourbon! Sounds deadly. (Note: this is not served at Monaghan’s – yet?)