(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.
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
Hours of work but an incredible payoff. Light and airy, these eggy buns are hearty enough to stand up to the juices of your burger and most importantly they are delicious. I’m loathe to give Martha too much credit (for fear that she will become even more omnipresent in our home life), but this recipe is really straightforward and within reach of pretty much any level baker.
Hat tip to (and recipe via) Serious Eats click.
Recipe made (12) 4″ round rolls, only (11) of which made it to the cooling rack. The scene around the first roll out of the oven was akin to one of those Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom shots of a pack of lions eviscerating a wildebeest. It wasn’t pretty but damn it tasted good.
Can you feel it? The epicenter of the burger world seems to be shifting lately. NY and LA, the old guard as it were, are making way for the new – as in New Mexico. Late last year, the New Mexico Board of Tourism launched an interactive map to help visitors find the finest purveyors of the state’s indigenous Green Chile Cheeseburger; and the reigning intercontinental heavyweight champs of the burger blog world, A Hamburger Today, recently launched a series featuring burgers from The Land of Enchantment.
Ever since George Motz introduced the world to The Bobcat Bite in Hamburger America (youtube video) I’ve been craving an authentic Green Chile Cheeseburger. Sure, I’ve tried canned chiles to create my own at-home version, but something is missing. Unfortunately, several factors are working against me as family/job responsibilities coupled with the fact that I live in Philadelphia make a quick visit to New Mexico an impossibility. I needed to get closer to the burger so I figured I’d go the vicarious route and talk to a native.
New Mexico’s most famous living resident might very well be Marc Maron (I’m just going to assume we’ve all forgotten about Bill Richardson, right?). Host of one of the most popular podcast’s in the Apple iTunes Store, WTF, Maron seemed like the perfect guy to ask what makes a Green Chile Cheeseburger so special. A few days ago we finally connected and talked about burgers and being a foodie, and along the way he was kind enough to recommend a few of his favorite burger joints.
Burgatory: So what can you tell me about green chiles?
Maron: Green chiles, well that is what New Mexico is known for. You can get it in a can, Ortega’s or whatever, but it’s not the same as fresh roasted, Northern New Mexico green chile…at chile time…you can get it along side the road, they harvest it then roll it around in these giant roasters so the peels fall off then bag it. My stepmom Rosie, she’ll freeze a ton of it…it’s a very specific flavor and it really only happens there. It’s pretty great…
Burgatory: Are they spicy?
Maron: It can go any way…you can get it really spicy or you can get mild but there’s still that underlying flavor that is pretty unique.
Burgatory: When you think green chile cheeseburgers, which place comes to mind?
Maron: I grew up eating at the Frontier Restaurant and I go there every time I am back. They make a great green chile stew and they also make a pretty great green chile cheeseburger. It’s not your chichi, two inches thick, Kobe beef ‘bit of business’, it’s a flat patty like you get at a diner, maybe a 1/2 inch thick, all of them are consistent, they’re all made fresh but it’s not a gourmet burger, but they put a wad of green chiles on the top and then they use shredded cheddar cheese. So it definitely has a unique flavor to it, nothing tastes like Frontier. But if you’re going there expecting some sort of rare to medium-rare, drippy, bloody burger so you can be a snob about it, that isn’t going to happen. If you want a dirty, green chile cheeseburger, that’s the place to go.
Burgatory: So is Frontier your favorite burger joint? I know you split your time between the east coast and the west coast…
Maron: Well there are different kinds of burgers…you’ve got your fast food type of burger, or diner type of burger or you’ve got your fancy burger.
I try not to get too involved with it, but I definitely love In-N-Out Burger out here (in California). Again not a great burger in terms of grade of beef or thickness or that kind of stuff, but for a dirty fast food burger – the best.
Burgatory: Do you consider yourself a “foodie”?
Maron: I like to cook and generally I’m not out there pushing the envelope with cooking, I just have a knack for it and I’d rather cook than eat out. I find cooking very meditative and it captures my focus and I do it to step down all of my anxieties. We have very little control over most things in life but if you get going with cooking at least you have control for a half-hour. I come from an eating disorder laden family and I think it’s my way of acting out against my chronically skinny mother.
Burgatory: I know you’re a fan of the Food Network and you even did your own web series “The Angry Chef,” (youtube video: Jonny Cakes – NSFW) was that your idea of what a Food Network show starring Marc Maron would look like?
Maron: Yeah, I would have liked to have done it there. I didn’t really pursue it much because I’m not much of a cook and they kind of take themselves pretty seriously over there…
Maron: Yeah, the lit cigar thing would probably bother them and maybe some of the language would bother them…I think the angle of the Angry Chef (youtube video: Minestrone – NSFW) was to cook your hostility and anger out of you…that while you are cooking you talk about what’s bothering you and get it out during the cooking. You can get pretty aggressive during cooking, which they sometimes do on the shows but they don’t really take a therapeutic angle, they take a cooking angle.
Burgatory: And there’s not a lot of talk about ex-wives?
Maron: Well I am sure that there are plenty of those guys that have plenty of that to talk about, but they don’t have the guts to be honest, all they can do is honestly cook and I even question that sometimes…you don’t ever see those guys prepping food, do you? No. Do they ever throw a bone or a thank you to the 6 or 7 culinary students that want to be chefs in the back diligently cutting Emeril’s onions? No.
Burgatory: Are there any parallels between cooking and comedy?
Maron: I used to talk about how I missed being a grill cook back in college because there is a sense of reward that is fairly quick with some cooking. When you flip an egg successfully, you know you did it, so there can be a relatively immediate gratification element that I think it shares with comedy if you are doing it right.
I can’t thank Marc enough for taking the time to talk. A lot of the conversation we had isn’t represented above and at some point I will probably put up the entire raw audio, but it is a tough listen because of the quality of the sound via Google Voice. Marc tours the country often and he has a slick website with all sorts of worthwhile info and merch. His coolest relationship might very well be with justcoffee.coop, a Madison, WI based coffee roaster that offers a WTF Blend coffee which is ridiculously good.
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.