June Burger Club Meeting at Shake Shack

In June we had our Burger Club meeting at Shake Shack (2000 Sansom St). Shake Shack is kinda like the In-N-out burger of the east coast; they have fast food burgers that actually have a very good quality meat. I have mentioned before that Pat LaFrieda is a pretty big deal in Philly – those that love burgers love the name. Pat supplies the meat to many of Philly’s famous burger spots (Pub & Kitchen, Sketch, Supper, Butcher & Singer and Frankford Hall) including the Shake Shack! Suffice it to say that Shake Shack was a pretty big deal when they expanded to our city from New York a year ago – can’t believe it almost took a whole year for the Club to have a meeting there!

We were greeted with the usual long but speedy line that seems to be a constant at the Shake Shack. Their wall-sized menu is a nice way for everyone to figure out what they want before they get to the register – which I’m sure is why the queue goes so fast.

The last time I was at SS I got the “ShackBurger” which is their traditional burger with LT and their “ShackSauce”. To be honest I wasn’t so impressed by it last time and I think that’s why it has kept me away for a whole year. It was just nothing special. THIS TIME though, I ordered a double Hamburger with cheese. Funny how the simple things are the best. I loved it! The cheese was super melty delicious and hot! The double patty really allowed me to appreciate the meat – I vow to never order a single again at the SS. As compared to places like Five Guys and Bobby’s Burger Palace I would say the Shake Shack burger definitely stacks up. I would put it at the top of the “fast food” list for sure – especially if you’re looking for a cool tasty milkshake, that’s what they’re named for after-all.

I would like to make a special point of saying that the manager Lauren was AWESOME. Sometimes restaurants have a hard time when the Club comes to their spot (even with MONTHS of notice). Lauren greeted our crowd with some reserved tables and a lot of hospitality. Coming around to our tables after we finished to see how we enjoyed ourselves was truly a nice touch. I always appreciate it when a place makes us feel welcomed because every once in a while we go to a restaurant that makes it clear that we’re not wanted. So THANKS! We had an awesome time and can’t wait to come again!

PSA: How to NOT ruin your holiday BBQ

At the burger club we’re mostly about trying other people’s burgers – though we’re no stranger to firing up the grill ourselves. It’s that time of year where I like to make a post about DIY burgers. Last year I focused on burger toppings, this year I’d like to take a moment to talk about proper grilling techniques.

Our friends over at JES Restaurant Equipment passed along this handy infographic about how to be a grilling HERO at your next backyard BBQ. Follow these tips the next time you’re grilling for a crowd!

There you have it! Be sure to pass along your grilling experiences to us and we’ll write about it on the blog!

Event notice: 2nd Annual Wilmington Burger Battle

Check out our post about the Wilmington Burger Battle last year!!

WHAT: 2nd Annual Wilmington Burger Battle, presented by the Kenny Family Foundation
WHEN: Saturday, August 24, 2013, 12-4pm
WHERE: Twin Lakes Brewing Co., 4210 Kennett Pike, Greenville, Delaware 19807
TICKETS: http://wilmingtonburgerbattle.brownpapertickets.com/
FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.wilmingtonburgerbattle.com or ucgcharities@gmail.com

Wilmington Burger Battle Returns for Round Two
Second Annual August Food Tasting Event Benefits Ministry of Caring’s Emmanuel Dining Room

The Second Annual Wilmington Burger Battle, presented by the Kenny Family Foundation, will take place on Saturday, August 24, 2013, 12–4pm at Twin Lakes Brewing Company, 4210 Kennett Pike, Greenville, Delaware. Restaurants in the greater Wilmington area—to date that list includes 2 FatGuys, BBC Tavern and Grill, Catherine Rooney’s (Newark), Ernest & Scott Taproom, Home Grown Café, Restaurant 55, Redfire Grill Steakhouse and last year’s People’s Choice Burger winner, Union City Grille—will throw down again at this outdoor, rain-or-shine charity event. Event proceeds will support the Ministry of Caring’s Emmanuel Dining Room. Admission prices include food, beer tastings, soft drinks, and music; tickets to this limited-capacity tasting event are now available at http://wilmingtonburgerbattle.brownpapertickets.com/.

Heather Hook, Executive Director of the Kenny Family Foundation said, ‘We are really proud and excited to be part of the Wilmington Burger Battle supporting the Ministry of Caring. The Ministry of Caring has done so much for the people of Wilmington and we continue to support all of their efforts any way we can.” The Kenny Family Foundation is the Wilmington Burger Battle’s first-ever naming sponsor.

Event co-founder Matthew Curtis, Chef/Owner of Union City Grille, who took home a trophy in 2012, said, “I am counting the days until I can gather with many of my restaurant industry colleagues for some good-natured competition. It’s a great way to end the summer…a family-friendly outdoor event that reminds all those returning from summer travel of the culinary gems they have here at home.”

Over 400 people attended the 2012 event to place their votes for People’s Choice Burger, and the event raised over $4000 to fight hunger. Three Delaware sports legends gave their palates a workout, serving as “Delebrity” judges to taste 18 burgers! They ultimately declared Kildare’s Irish Pub’s burger their favorite.

The Twin Lakes farm in Greenville has again agreed to serve as the venue and event proceeds will continue to support the Ministry of Caring’s Emmanuel Dining Room, which helps alleviate the immediate needs of Delaware’s hungry with over 180,000 nutritious meals served at no cost and with no questions asked.

Battle co-founder JulieAnne Cross noted, “It’s hard to top a success like last year, but we are going to try. We have at least one restaurant coming from over an hour away to join the Battle!” She adds, “We would be thrilled to double our 2012 donation to the Ministry of Caring, so that the Emmanuel Dining Room’s impact on Delaware’s hungry can be even larger.”

In addition to the Kenny Family Foundation, the Wilmington Burger Battle is also sponsored by Out & About Magazine, and free + abel.
Restaurants are encouraged to contact ucgcharities@gmail.com for more information. For information about the event, visit www.wilmingtonburgerbattle.com.

Event notice: 2nd Annual Wilmington Burger Battle

Check out our post about the Wilmington Burger Battle last year!!

WHAT: 2nd Annual Wilmington Burger Battle, presented by the Kenny Family Foundation
WHEN: Saturday, August 24, 2013, 12-4pm
WHERE: Twin Lakes Brewing Co., 4210 Kennett Pike, Greenville, Delaware 19807
TICKETS: http://wilmingtonburgerbattle.brownpapertickets.com/
FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.wilmingtonburgerbattle.com or ucgcharities@gmail.com

Wilmington Burger Battle Returns for Round Two
Second Annual August Food Tasting Event Benefits Ministry of Caring’s Emmanuel Dining Room

The Second Annual Wilmington Burger Battle, presented by the Kenny Family Foundation, will take place on Saturday, August 24, 2013, 12–4pm at Twin Lakes Brewing Company, 4210 Kennett Pike, Greenville, Delaware. Restaurants in the greater Wilmington area—to date that list includes 2 FatGuys, BBC Tavern and Grill, Catherine Rooney’s (Newark), Ernest & Scott Taproom, Home Grown Café, Restaurant 55, Redfire Grill Steakhouse and last year’s People’s Choice Burger winner, Union City Grille—will throw down again at this outdoor, rain-or-shine charity event. Event proceeds will support the Ministry of Caring’s Emmanuel Dining Room. Admission prices include food, beer tastings, soft drinks, and music; tickets to this limited-capacity tasting event are now available at http://wilmingtonburgerbattle.brownpapertickets.com/.

Heather Hook, Executive Director of the Kenny Family Foundation said, ‘We are really proud and excited to be part of the Wilmington Burger Battle supporting the Ministry of Caring. The Ministry of Caring has done so much for the people of Wilmington and we continue to support all of their efforts any way we can.” The Kenny Family Foundation is the Wilmington Burger Battle’s first-ever naming sponsor.

Event co-founder Matthew Curtis, Chef/Owner of Union City Grille, who took home a trophy in 2012, said, “I am counting the days until I can gather with many of my restaurant industry colleagues for some good-natured competition. It’s a great way to end the summer…a family-friendly outdoor event that reminds all those returning from summer travel of the culinary gems they have here at home.”

Over 400 people attended the 2012 event to place their votes for People’s Choice Burger, and the event raised over $4000 to fight hunger. Three Delaware sports legends gave their palates a workout, serving as “Delebrity” judges to taste 18 burgers! They ultimately declared Kildare’s Irish Pub’s burger their favorite.

The Twin Lakes farm in Greenville has again agreed to serve as the venue and event proceeds will continue to support the Ministry of Caring’s Emmanuel Dining Room, which helps alleviate the immediate needs of Delaware’s hungry with over 180,000 nutritious meals served at no cost and with no questions asked.

Battle co-founder JulieAnne Cross noted, “It’s hard to top a success like last year, but we are going to try. We have at least one restaurant coming from over an hour away to join the Battle!” She adds, “We would be thrilled to double our 2012 donation to the Ministry of Caring, so that the Emmanuel Dining Room’s impact on Delaware’s hungry can be even larger.”

In addition to the Kenny Family Foundation, the Wilmington Burger Battle is also sponsored by Out & About Magazine, and free + abel.
Restaurants are encouraged to contact ucgcharities@gmail.com for more information. For information about the event, visit www.wilmingtonburgerbattle.com.

Two year anniversary meeting at 10 Arts Bistro

Last month’s burger club meeting at 10 Arts Bistro (10 S. Broad St.) was very special because it was our two year anniversary meeting! We decided to go back to where we had our very first meeting. So much has happened in the past two years. We had an amazing article written about us in the Daily News. Jim and I did a live burger tasting on WXPN with Dan Reed. The club joined forces with the ladies of Two Eat Philly and often have them on our blog as contributors. We made tshirts, buttons and even a calendar! If you asked me two years ago what would become of this club I would have never been able to imagine any of these things in a million years.

The most important aspect of the club that has developed over the years are all the people who come to the meetings. Some only come every once in a while, others come every month. No matter the number of meetings attended – you, the members, are what make this club possible. It’s always fun to see who’s going to show up every month. I love seeing both new and old faces! So long as you keep coming, I’ll keep setting up the meetings – deal?

Now on to the details of our meeting last month. If you’ve never been – the inside of 10 Arts is just plain stunning. Their main foyer area is HUGE with a nice bar, it’s really quite a grand place. They set up a large portion of their dining room for us, with lit candles and custom-made menus.  I always love it when a restaurant makes us a custom menu with our logo on it. I think Smokin Betty’s was the first to do it . We gathered at the bar and around 7pm decided to make our way to the tables. We were quickly greeted by our server who took our drink orders. The service was pretty great throughout the entire meal, we didn’t wait long for anything.

The burgers paraded to our tables shortly after we ordered. This burger wasn’t much different from the one we sampled two years ago. The only thing that was different from the burger of yesteryear was the “house made” ketchup. Members at both tables debated throughout the entire meal if the ketchup was actually made in house or Heinz. I’m no ketchup expert so I’ll leave that debate on the table. Since the burgers we’re no different than before, the reactions weren’t very different either.

My burger, said to be cooked medium was an even brown throughout. It was a pretty salty, dry patty that was sat upon a giant dry bun. The burger was topped with only a little cheese and a giant lettuce concoction with pickle slices. It’s one of those burgers that I always call a “skyscraper” burger that is too tall to fit into your mouth for a good clean bite – so you get one bite of bun and lettuce then another with burger and a little bun – not a cohesive sandwich. The whole thing just wasn’t anything to write home about. My guess is that burgers really aren’t their specialty. This is the Ritz after all – you don’t pay a boat-load for a room at this place to order a burger off their menu. I’m sure their steak or some other fancy meal would be much better. Not to say that we didn’t have a good time though! The atmosphere is unbeatable, the service is fantastic, the drinks are unique and delicious. Even the French fries were seasoned to perfection (a little spicy – delicious!).

Our friends from Matthew Vlahos Public Relations were excellent to set up the whole event. They even were able to get us some sweet gifts to raffle off! I think the coolest thing we were able to give away was a signed copy of Rachael Ray’s burger cook book – HOW COOL! All in all we had a great time. I would like to thank everyone who made this meeting, and all meetings fun and enjoyable. See you next month!

Our two year anniversary party is almost here!

It is with great anticipation that I encourage everyone to attend our TWO YEAR ANNIVERSARY PARTY/burger club meeting next week (5/29) at 10 arts bistro (10 S Broad St)! At the meeting will be burgers, which you have come to expect and SO MUCH MORE! Our friends at Vlahos Public Relations have scored us a SIGNED copy of Rachael Ray’s burger cook book! Also there will be a gift card to 10 arts bistro and a few little burger club things to raffle off! This is going to be pretty neat! I really hope so many of the Club’s new and old friends stop by! In addition to all the coolness 10 arts is extending two specials to our group – a Burger and a cocktail for $25 or a Burger and a Yards Brawler for $20.

Oh, there also might be members of the press there too! Wear your best (at least clean) duds and get ready to chow down! The current burger is the 10 Arts Philabundance Cheeseburger, aged brisket, sharp cheddar, lettuce, pickles, tomato, onion, mustard and house-made ketchup

In addition to the AWESOME news about our big 2 year anniversary party I would like to pass along this interesting article about the man who rescued the three women who were kidnapped. Turns out one of his big rewards is free burgers for life! Just another reason for you all to stay alert – maybe your next good deed can be rewarded with burgers too!

April burger club meeting at Eulogy ..err.. I mean Bierstube!

Our group!

Our April burger club meeting was to be at Eulogy (136 Chestnut St) but due to an organizational misunderstanding we went to Eulogy’s sister restaurant – Bierstube (206 Market St). We went to Bierstube August of 2012 and had a fine time. This visit was a little different due to the Chef’s special addition of an Elk burger! I was able to try a bite of this burger and I’m HERE TO TELL YOU that it’s awesome. The flavor of the meat is unrivaled by any other burger in the city – in my opinion. The meat is just plain flavorful, I can’t think of another way to describe it. It’s not gamey or tough, just delicious! One burger club member (Megan) had this to say “I liked the meat in particular. It was very tender. I’m glad I tried the elk. Normally, I can’t hunt an elk myself so I am glad someone did it for me”. Truth. If you’re looking for something different (and a little daring) I would definitely tell you to hurry yourself over to Bierstube.

Also on their menu is the dragon burger (which is what I ordered) – drachen, a spicy meat blend stuffed with blue cheese, breathes fire from this burger on a kaiser roll. This burger packs a punch, the spicy sausage-blended meat patty is simply delicious. It’s not too spicy if you’re worried – just right. The blue cheese, which is actually stuffed INTO the burger, cools things out for a delightful overall taste. The bun holds things together well but isn’t much to write home about. I learned only after my meal that any burger can be requested on the pretzel roll (that the German burger comes on). In the future I would request to have that. I love pretzel rolls so much – I wish I could just buy a dozen of them and use them for every sandwich.

I was also lucky enough to have a bite of the aforementioned German burger. The German burger is topped w/fried knockwurst, sauerkraut and muenster cheese on a pretzel roll. For the love of all that is not sauerkraut-loving, put that stuff on the side! I think kraut is an acquired taste that I have not yet developed – maybe one day. Burger Club Member Megan said “I thought that the toppings were great with the exception of the sauerkraut on the German burger. Just because Gushers are American, doesn’t mean I put that on my fried chicken”. I wholeheartedly agree. This burger is pretty dang good and I would definitely bring an out-of-towner to sample it. Similar to the Elk burger, you’re just not going to find this anywhere else. It’s like two meals in one with a burger patty topped with a knockwurst. The muenster cheese is too subtle for this burger – it really gets lost in the shuffle. No matter though, the pretzel roll makes up for any slight problems with its salty delicious, egg washed hardiness. All burgers come with delicious thick-cut French fries that I just couldn’t get enough of.

The only major downside of our visit (despite the location mix-up) was the lack of staff in the restaurant. The one lone waitress was responsible for the entire restaurant (a packed house with our party). It took us maybe 45 minutes just to get our drinks! Despite being completely overwhelmed she really kept her composure and was a true professional. After the first taste of our liter mugs everything was just fine. Our burgers came out quickly after our drinks did and everything was cooked to perfection.

Overall we had a great time, despite some start-up problems. I haven’t had a bad meal from Bierstube yet and I don’t think I ever will. Definitely a rare spot in old city that isn’t filled with jerks. Would definitely recommend a trip here! If I haven’t been able to convince you to visit this establishment by now, you should probably go for the full liters of beer. Please see the picture below (with dollar for size reference) for a visual aid.

March 2013: Bainbridge St. Barrel House

The March edition of the Burger Club was hosted by Bainbridge Street Barrel House, a relatively new gastropub in Queen Village.  Our visit was timely, as Craig LaBan just released his own opinion of the place- unfortunately, a “hit or miss” review.  However, he did have one relevant point: “…the message was clear: The best bets here come on a bun.”  Lucky for us, burgers come on a bun.

Source

The new (or rather, rehabbed) space is definitely beer-centric, with a long bar and equally long beer list.  However, members of the Club were given plenty of tables to fit our small crowd- a comfortable and well-lit, spacious neighborhood restaurant.


We also had plenty of options: four specialty burgers, one pork burger, and one veggie burger (falafel).  While I usually make choices based on adventurous toppings, I was in the mood for a simple burger done right… probably an after-effect of the extreme uniqueness of last month’s burger at Ela.  Thankfully, BSBH offers the “purists’ burger,” a simple sandwich of the house ground beef (8 oz patty), a melted layer of cheddar cheese, and a smear of mayo on a brioche bun ($10).

The bun was a tad on the “bready” side, but it held up well to its fillings and had that shiny, seeded surface for which I will continue to express lots of love. The meat itself was certainly the star, a thick but loosely packed patty with lots of flavor from both seasonings and a little char from the grill.  My medium-rare request came out a little closer to medium (the house temperature of choice), but it was still juicy without being greasy.  The mayo helped counter the dryness of the brioche.  I also loved being able to swap out my fries for a side salad- a mix of romaine, red peppers, crunchy cukes and an avocado based dressing.

The eponymous “Barrel House Burger” is much more of a beast- they really load on the toppings here. This signature burger starts out with the same patty + bun (which is appreciated here to hold everything together!) but adds the following: Muenster cheese, bacon, grilled onions, a house-made IPA-infused mustard, and a super chunky Habanero/cucumber relish.  At $12, this is really on the lower end of the price-range for outrageous burgers in Philly.  They’re very generous with the bacon and cheese, but we found the cucumber relish to be a little.. weird. Cucumbers on a burger? I get that it’s a “relish” but… smaller pieces at least, please.

A bit of a step-down from the Barrel House, but still a whopping sandwich, is the Sally Smothers ($13).  I have no ideas regarding the origin of the name, but I can only imagine it has something to do with the fact that the patty here is smothered with sharp provolone, crispy fried pancetta, fried shallots, and the most precariously perched over-easy egg yolk I’ve ever seen.  Seriously, this thing was hanging onto the edge of oblivion.  One bite and this Yelp-er describes it well- “your plate looks like a crime scene.”



 Another notch down the “crazy scale” brings us to the Burger Meister ($13).  This guy simplifies life a little while still providing a few knock-out punches of flavor.  Crumbled blue cheese and a “raisin himbeer mostarda”– a fancy name for a mixture of caramelized raisins, a raspberry liqueur, and a mustard-flavored syrup– pair excellently, while a handful of spinach provides necessary freshness.

 

Spinach on the side.The not-really-a-burger category has one member- the Porkenstein ($15).  This is a SERIOUS sandwich, not for the fainthearted.  A 7 oz patty of ground pork starts us off, topped by a slab of pork belly and house cured ham.  Melted Monterey Jack cheese help separate the layers of pork, and the whole pile of pig is topped with a slightly radioactive-looking “secret sauce.”  I personally can not imagine consuming this, but I’m sure plenty of pork-lovers are rejoicing.  Our new Burger Club friend finished off the whole thing (and loved it!), so folks, it’s possible.

Our experience at Bainbridge St. Barrel House was pretty great.  We did have a long wait for our burgers, but we understand that there are space limitations in a kitchen, and chefs typically don’t need to make 25+ burgers all at once.  The staff was apologetic (head chef even tweeted a personal apology for the wait) and took good care of us while we waited.  Everyone seemed to enjoy their meal (burgers were super solid!) and of course we always love catching up with the Burger Club crew.  See you guys in a few weeks!

625 S. 6th St

February 2013: Ela

February’s meeting seemed to come up extra fast due to the short month- something we certainly weren’t going to complain about since we were looking forward to our first encounter with Ela.  A bit different than our typical Burger Club meeting spots (which tend to be large, bar-centric spots since these can fit a large group and usually have a solid burger), Ela is more upscale and gourmet.

Located in prime real estate right off of South Street in Queen Village, the restaurant is actually much larger than I imagined.  The regular menu has a concise list of appetizers and entrees, which doesn’t include the burger.  Actually, the burger is a special item on the bar menu, and is produced in a very limited quantity each night.  Nothing like making your burger a bit exclusive to drum up some attention.  However, Ela agreed to produce more burgers just for us.  Or, more than the typical ten, at least.

Unfortunately, the hostess and waiters didn’t seem thrilled to have us for the evening, and relegated us to either the back room (with only four tables) or the bar area.  Since they knew we would have 30+ attendees, it seemed a bit odd.  Even worse, once our group reached 29 (yes, 29), the hostess refused to allow any more burger-seekers.  She would “allow” us to eat from the regular menu in the dining room, but obviously that’s not what we wanted.  We were sad to see several small groups turned away (please come back next month!).

The waitresses were slow to take drink orders and even slower to ask our meat temperature preference. But, the wait for the kitchen was almost unbearable.  We typically meet at 7PM and are wrapping up by 8PM- it’s just a bunch of burgers (well, and good company!).  However, we waited until almost 8PM just to be served- by which time I think there was a good deal of hanger abounding.

Apologies for the pictures- I accidentally grabbed the macro lens.

On arrival the burger looked great- a decent sized patty, an adorable bun and some good melty cheese.  However, there were a LOT of grumbles about the “tots” served on the side- averaging about ten fried potato cubes.  Didn’t matter much to me- I’m there for the burger not the sides- but many in our group weren’t thrilled.  I actually can’t even comment on their tastiness as I donated all to my sad hungry husband.

Now, on to the burger critique.  A housemade black sesame bun was wonderful- soft on the inside but a crispy exterior, with a smooth, shiny (eggwash?) glaze.  It was really perfect in containing the meat, holding up well to the thick patty.  The accompaniments include a small pile of watercress, some melty sharp Cabot cheddar, a few sauteed shiitakes, and “sauce.”  Yup, just sauce.  According to Chef Jason Cichonski, it’s made with “like, 400,000 ingredients.”  We can tell you one thing- it has a very Asian profile.

The meat– I can only say I’m still stumped about both the color and the texture.  Half of our group was panicking because of the color– almost bright red, regardless of what the cooking temperature request.  The rawer the better, in my opinion, but some of us are scared of raw ground beef (for good reason), and weren’t up for eating a patty of beef tartare.  However, apparently the “sauce” is mixed into the house ground beef, providing this coloring that doesn’t disappear with more time on the grill.

After eating half the burger, I finally put my finger on the patty texture.  Hot dogs.  Chopped up hot dogs.  Sort of chewy.. with a slight rubberiness.  After proclaiming this to my table, I think I ruined their next few bites.  Sorry!  It didn’t necessarily detract from the overall experience, but it was just weird.  Should this burger be on everyone’s must eat list?  No.  Was it different from anything else we’ve had?  Definitely.  However, our overall experience with the staff at Ela, along with the sad limit of 29 burgers, has most of us hesitant to return to try the regular menu.  Looking forward to a more accommodating meeting next month at Bainbridge Barrel House (and hopefully some great specials– c’mon Steph!).