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
As the days get shorter and the air a bit crisper up here in PA, the odds of foregoing preparing a home cooked dinner and ordering Chinese takeout instead have increased. This quick recipe came about the day after a recent takeout night and we resurrected it this evening for dinner with some friends. It is a dead simple recipe which produces a quirky take on familiar fare and, when combined with Sriracha Ketchup, makes for a darn good burger.
The taste? Take everything you love about bacon on a burger and then sugar that up about 200%. By itself, honey boneless spareribs may be the most addictive item on any Chinese menu (and easily account for 2/3 of my repenting on Yom Kippur) and as served here (chopped up and mingled with high quality beef) it follows along the lines of the trend led by so many “name chefs” adding different cuts of meats into their burgers (not just on them). The spicy ketchup cuts down the sweetness a bit and provides a tease of heat to take this burger to the next level.
Rough #’s here, but any combination of these ingredients will produce more than passable results.1 lb. ground beef (we used “all-natural” Hillacres Pride beef purchased at our local farmer’s market) 1/4 lb honey boneless spareribs from Pak Yue (which is a fun name to say but always sounds confrontational when they answer the phone)
2 tablespoons of Oyster Sauce
Dice the pork into very small slivers then combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix lightly but well and then form patties (we made slider sized burgers). As mentioned earlier on this blog, and ripped from the pages of John Torode’s book “Beef and other bovine matters,” when using the oyster sauce you can omit salt from the recipe. The oyster sauce provides you with the tang you are looking for and keeps the burgers incredibly moist.
Siracha-Ketchup3 parts ketchup 1 part Sriracha
As shown cooked on the gas grille and served on Martin’s Whole Wheat Potato Rolls.
To put it lightly, I am not a fan of Oprah and as such I had an immediate prejudice against this recipe when my lovely wife mentioned she was going to prepare some for me to grill for dinner the other night. Not sure of the complete back story on this…apparently Oprah ate this burger at Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago resort, begged for the recipe for herself and then shared it with her TV audience.
The best part of this burger might be the use of the mango chutney. Clearly not a common burger ingredient, it keeps the burger juicy (which is often an issue when cooking a turkey burger and relying on your mom’s advice about cooking turkey until it is done aka completely dried out) without imparting too much fruity flavor. The apples and scallions are nice touches, too.
Additional notes: Finally got the BBQ up to a high enough temp to land some grill marks on the burgers – a geeky thing that fills me with pride…Potato rolls are the bacon of the baked goods industry, they just make everything taste better…Pull back on the salt a bit, you aren’t going to draw out any beefy flavor by loading up the sodium so you might use this as an opportunity to back off…Bought the corn at Root’s Market the other day, which is a completely chaotic Amish/Farmer’s market nowhere near where you or I live (which is a shame)…For those that know me personally, the addition of a mini-van to our driveway and now my reviewing a recipe promoted by Oprah means that yes, I have officially given up. The old Marc was a lot of fun – remember the good times and pour one out for me.
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.
Post holiday weekend and we’ve got an impenetrable wall of leftovers in the fridge from Saturday’s Passover Seder and Sunday’s Easter dinner. Tons of great food prepared by family and friends and lots of late night snacking and experimenting opportunities.
This burger was pretty much inevitable after the first bite of haroset at the Seder. On the Seder Plate haroset represents the mortar which the slaves used to build the pyramids in Egypt. The almost too simple recipe of chopped apples, nuts and wine is available everywhere on the web (see here, here and here) and is ideally prepared by your mother/grandmother. The version we had was just on the happy side of “too sweet” and as used here was the perfect burger topping.
The burger itself was an 80/20 mix of ground chuck and was produced using “The Great Burger” recipe from John Torode’s new book “Beef and other bovine matters.” The secret to Torode’s recipe (and how these burgers are served at his Smiths of Smithfield restaurant in London) is his use of Chinese oyster sauce instead of salt. His theory that salt dries out the burger too much and that this side-effect outweighs the benefits of the taste it imparts is an interesting one and I have to say I kind of agree. We grilled the burgers and I purposely left one patty on to the point of overdoneness and it was still juicy. More side-by-side tests are necessary, but I’m willing to buy into the logic. The oyster sauce doesn’t overpower the burger either. In the end it was much more subtle then the sniff from the bottle might have suggested.
At this point I am not sick of matzo…that will come soon enough though. Sadly, as anyone who has eaten a Hillel sandwich knows, matzo is not the best sandwich delivery vehicle, but even as it crumbled to bits with the first bite it remained the only logical choice for this burger and the rare bites that did include burger, haroset and matzo were perfect.
Our pantry will be filled with matzo for months (do they sell it in anything but 5 lb. boxes?) so this dish will pop up again in our house very soon…just have to make more haroset but that is easy and is a great use for any leftover wine you might have laying about.
By the way, the perfect beverage for this burger is of course Passover Coke. The local Genuardi’s supply was waning considerably the other day…load up while you can!
Next up is an Easter burger with cabbage roll topping on a potato roll! Stay tuned.
Almost a year ago I gave up watching TV. With only minor exceptions I have avoided the giant glowing orb in our living room, having instead spent my time in other more high-brow pursuits (like writing a burger blog). But when I do break down and turn on the tube I tend to gravitate towards the lowest common denominator (i.e. Cheaters). These forays back into TV land never go well and I always end up redoubling my resolve, having decided that all programs must be this bad (especially since Joey Grecco replaced Tommy Grand as Cheaters host/staff psychologist, but I digress). After tonight, however, my mind has been changed.
Last week while watching an episode of Man Vs Food (yes, it’s come to this…) I caught a glimpse of a burger whose toppings I have never seen nor imagined. Toppings that conveniently exist in my refrigerator 365 days a year, but whose combination and placement on ground beef has never even been considered.
Host Adam Richman dropped by Duffy’s Cherry Cricket, winner of Best Burger Bar in Denver (2008), and among the 21 different toppings (and myriad of combinations) we catch a glimpse of what I am calling a “Game Changer” for burgers (at least in our house because I swear I have never seen cream cheese offered as a topping at any burger joint anywhere).
What stared back at me from the screen was a humongous burger topped with a thick slab of cream cheese and a handful of chopped jalapenos.
Oh yes, cream cheese and jalapenos on a burger! Where have you been my whole life?
Cream cheese, like burgatory.com’s reigning best friend bacon, has the innate ability to “make anything better” and in this application is the perfect foil providing a critical antidote to the overbearing hotness of the jalapenos.
We grilled our burgers inside and once we broke through the seared crust the cheese commingled with the loose meat, filling pockets of empty space with a blast of dairy to offset the beefiness of our 93/7 grind. As if that weren’t enough, the cheese hit the trifecta by matching the pillowiness of the Martin’s Potato Rolls.
Denver natives have known about this topping combo for some time and according to the Cherry Cricket’s website, the cream cheese/jalapeno combo is the # 1 burger topping by a whopping margin. 80% of respondents called it their favorite, easily distancing such mundane fare as smoked cheddar and bacon or swiss and mushrooms. I worked briefly in the Denver metro and have extreme remorse recollecting that the only burgers I ever ate in the Mile High City were from Red Robin. But I can’t dwell on the past, especially because this one is so easy to recreate.
I’d provide a recipe, but it is too simple to get technical. Just do what we did and open the fridge, pull out the slab o’ cream cheese buried in there, chop up your jalapenos and when the time is right, apply generously and consider the game changed.