Great Hamburger Hunt
Glen Macnow has eaten 40 burgers in 40 days, and he’s done it for you.
Smashburger is yet another new entry in the fast-growing field of burger chains. It comes out of Denver, we’re told, and is planning to add to the half-dozen stores already open in the Delaware Valley. As chain burgers go, we’d rank it well below Five Guys and Shake Shack, but better than Elevation Burger and Bobby Flay’s Burger Palace. The prices are low, so you get what you pay for.
Go to Croydon, go to Croydon, the followers of the Great Burger Hunt kept telling me. There is a treasure there, they said. Worth the drive. So we did it – 26.2 miles from my home (same as a marathon, coincidentally), one hour and change to Dog and Bull, where the burger was . . . . well worth the drive!
Well, this is why we put 40 burgers into this year’s hunt. Because on burger No. 38 – just when we were having nightmares of ground beef overload, we stopped by this classic Center City steakhouse for a burger and Blue Moon at lunch. And you know what? Del Frisco’s Bar Burger so reinvigorated us that we want to start the whole thing all over again. Well, maybe not.
I once asked the head chef of a big-time steakhouse what happens when someone orders their steak well-done. ”I find the worst piece of meat I can and slap it on the grill,” he said. “When you overcook something, you no longer taste the meat anyway.” And that’s what we got at Lucky’s: Not a bad slab of beef, we’re sure, but a burger that was so overcooked, the meat lost its natural flavor.
Lots of burger choices here: Sirloin, lamb, bison, ostrich, veggie. For purposes of this contest, we stuck with sirloin for one and bison for the second. But we’ll be back for the others. Correction: Make that all the others except veggie.
We respect the Iron Hill for its craft beers and its respect to ground beef. In fact, during May, the 10 local Iron Hill locations roll out their “31 Burgers in 31 Ddays” campaign, offering a new design every day of the month. Hmmm. I think if I hadn’t just finished 40 in the past 40 days, this might appeal to me a little more.
This little pub, an apparent hangout of Graduate Hospital workers, is as laid-back a place as we found over our 40-day adventure. So laid back that none of the 20 or so folks there the night we stopped in were even bothering to watch Flyers-Rangers playoffs on the bar TV. But that’s a different story.
By far the most expensive burger we had during this venture, so we took the head honcho of WIP and made put him this lunch on his expense account. I know we’re paying a bit extra for excellent service (and it was) and a nice view of the fountain at Logan Circle. But 24 bucks?? Sheesh. At that price, the burger should be wrapped in gold leaf and come with its own personal trainer to help me work off the pounds I’ve gained in the past month.
What a bargain. The five-buck burger at this hipster hangout wins the prize for best value in this contest. It’s juicy, nicely charred on the outside, gristle free and went down beautifully with the “Carton of Milk” nitro stout from the extensive beer menu.
Jeff Lurie has his gold standard, I’ve got mine. And this is the standard by which all great burgers must forever be judged. It’s legendary, gaining acclaim from everyone from Oprah to legendary food critic Alan Richman, who listed it among “20 burgers you must eat before you die.” I don’t know about the other 19, but I could eat a Rouge Burger and then die happily.
We’ve drooled over the Pub and Kitchen burgers before and, quite frankly, expected that they could be a finalist in this contest. But not on this night.
We’ve been to Phil’s many times over the years, enjoying the ribs, cheesesteaks and other delights from that huge menu that looks like an Andy Reid play chart. And their burger placed high in the contest last time we did it nine years ago.
This iconic NYC chain joined the local burger scene in 2012 and the long lines (we hit the shop and 32th and Chestnut) speak to its stature, at least among the drunken Drexel coeds who packed the place on St. Patty’s night. The namesake shakes are wonderful – smooth and milky, without the ice crystals you get at other fast-food joints.
The gimmick at this upscale South Jersey mall restaurant is that they pair your burger with a specific wine. Okay, we’re usually good with a craft beer or frothy milkshake, but if the waitress suggests a Shiraz with my bacon burger, I’ll give it a try