Burger Club Meeting at Catahoula

Thanks to the luxurious rides provided by Uber this month’s burger club meeting was like a regular meeting drizzled in chocolate. The cars were as beautiful as they were comfortable and the drivers couldn’t have been more nice. Both my drivers were so flippin courteous. My first driver was telling me about how he was a regular taxi driver and how much nicer it is to work for Uber. Interacting with someone who enjoys their job and feels respected by their employer is something so rare that it must be celebrated. It’s the difference between the Starbucks barista that’s tossing the cups in the air and doing a spin before they catch it while singing along to the music and the one who is dragging their feet schlepping the coffee in your face. It always makes me feel better to do business with people who seem to enjoy their job. I digress.. the cars were so fancy and nice I felt like a million bucks.

So we were dropped off at Catahoula (775 South Front St), which I’ve probably driven by a million times and never noticed. It’s in a nice little area surrounded by a bunch of houses you know you could never afford. I wonder if the fancy-pants that live there were sitting at the tables next to us – I should have brought business cards.

The restaurant is small but nice, with many TVs and more staff members than what might be need on any given night (which I appreciate). A few people got drinks at the bar and we were soon escorted to a bunch of tables on the patio. Gaps between row homes in Philly generally tend to be a jungle of over-grown weeds that erupt from a bed of broken glass and trash. Other times a place like Catahoula will make it into an awesome patio for their restaurant. I prefer the latter. There was lots of space on the patio but with all the tables and big chairs there wasn’t much room to walk around.

I ordered “My Burger” grilled angus burger, lettuce, bbq aioli, fried green tomatoes, smoked bacon, creamy goat cheese (menu can be seen here). This burger was HUGE! They had to hold it together with a big skewer. I thought the meat was delicious and cooked perfectly. When we go to a restaurant for Burger Club it’s hard to get all the different temperatured meat cooked the right way for everyone, but they did a great job. The toppings were creative and original. I don’t know why I had never thought of having goat cheese on a burger but WOW is it good. Somewhere between the warm burger and the cool creamy goat cheese there is an perfect harmony that I’ve never experienced before. I would almost rather cut out everything else and just have goat cheese.. maybe keep the bacon. The aioli was unnoticeable in the chaos of everything, could have completely gone without. The fried green tomato was a nice touch but even that was lost in the shuffle; other than making me nostalgic for the movie, I didn’t need it. The fried green tomato might have been a cool thing to have on the side – is that weird? Overall, the meat had a nice taste to it and the experience was amazing.

 

The best thing about our time at Catahoula, IMO, was being able to meet the chef. Chef Dave is such a funny and jovial guy. He was telling me about how happy he was we were there and how much fun he had making all our burgers, singing and dancing in the kitchen. He also said that he wished that we could have tried burgers made on the smoker. Record scratch. What? Burgers? On a.. Smoker? Yes! Apparently the meat is placed right on the wood (or very close to it) and is only flipped once. The taste is supposedly incredible. I’ve never had a smoked burger but per Chef Dave’s suggestion I’m going back to Catahoula to try it – and you should too (I’m sure Adam, pictured below, will).

All in all I think our experience at Catahoula was very nice. Great little place with awesome food. I can’t wait to go back and try more of their Creole inspired menu. Till next time!

Burger News 6/22/2012

If you’ve been following the blog along at home (which I’m sure you are) you’ll know that the Shake Shack (2000 Sansom Street) has been on my mind. Last week I was TORMENTED by the fact that I still hadn’t visited the new establishment. This week everything changed. It wasn’t what I was expecting – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Let’s start from the beginning – what a cool interior. We were greeted by a nice girl who asked us if we had any questions – nice touch. I liked the customer service A LOT. The guy who took my order seemed a bit nervous and new but he was so darn polite. I placed my order (shack burger, cheese fries and a half Rittenhouse concrete) and my food was ready pretty quickly. I thought the fries were great (especially with cheese sauce) and the concrete was very nice but the burger? Maybe it’s my own fault for not specifying the temperature I wanted it cooked, but then again I wasn’t asked (later I found out that unless otherwise specified it will be cooked medium). The burger was good but not what I was expecting from a lafrieda patty. When you’re eating a quarter pounder cooked medium the quality of meat doesn’t seem to matter much. Everything was super fresh and good but it’s not a pub-grub type burger, it’s definitely a “fast food” burger – if you know what I mean. The whole experience is really fun and the milkshakes and concretes are really good. The milkshakes are the reason I’d go back to the Shake Shack, to be honest.
Now see what the discussion about the shake shack on the burger club’s facebook page looked like:


I think that’s a pretty good summary. It’s safe to say that I need to go back. I’ll try the hot dog next time!

I’ve had A LOT of burgers recently. It’s my burgerly duty, afterall. I’ll save my review for another time but I’ll just say I went to the Boilermaker (216 S 11th St) and had the cheeseburger – meh. It was alright, nothing special. The “betty’s burger” at Smokin Betty’s (116 South 11th Street) on the other hand.. AWESOME. I would literally bite the hand that feeds me that burger, not because I’m ungrateful, but because it has the power put me in a manic burger crazy state where everything is so good that I can’t be held responsible for my actions. That burger is SERIOUS business. We’re going to have to have a Club meeting there ASAP.

Our friends Christina and Sameer tried burgers this week, too. Christina went to Sketch burger– 413 E Girard Ave (a burger club favorite) and Sameer visited Local 44 – 4333 Spruce Street (another Club hot spot). First up is Christina’s review,

“After missing the December meeting of Burger Club, I just KNEW I had to get to Sketch ASAP. So, when fellow Burger Clubber Sameer texted me about it last week, I carpe diem-ed the heck out of that bike ride over to Fishtown, even though I wasn’t hungry at all 🙂

I ordered the Cyclops burger and we shared the green chili cheese fries. I picked at the fries because I really wanted to save room for the burger, but they were really good. I LOVE cheese fries, and I thought the quality of the cheese on these guys was quite good—my standard-bearer of all things, Local 44, tends to have oddly textured cheese sauce, so these were a welcome change! The peppers really stood out and God I’m just a sucker for all things fried/spicy/cheesed!

But the burger, because that’s why we’re here. I ordered in medium-rare, a step rarer than I usually do. It. Was. A. Mess. It was the best mess I have ever had in my entire life. There was cheese and egg and meat juice and fat dripping all over the place. I inhaled the damn thing (remember, I wasn’t hungry), and immediately wanted to Rip Van Winkle my way through the next month. I borrowed some of Sameer’s chipotle mayo, which complemented the smokiness of the bacon. I really appreciated that they asked how I wanted my egg cooked (which I assumed just meant runny/not runny…do people put scrambled eggs on burgers??) The texture and flavor of the meat was spot-on, I thought. I’m really beginning to appreciate my meat on the rarer side. Maybe there was a little too much cheese. It was all sort of a blur, it went so fast. So much protein. So many noms”

Well you can’t argue with that. Sketch has so consistantly delivered amazing burgers and fries. The burger club can’t say enough good things about it. Next up is Sameer’s review of the black bean burger from Local 44. If you know anything about me and my history with black bean burgers you’ll know that I LOVE them! It stinks to hear that Sameer didn’t have a good experience,

“Everybody talks about Local 44 as a pub-and-grub Mecca of sorts, because it is for the West Philly foodie scene. I’d been once before for drinks and thought it was cool, if not a tad overrated. I went with a friend on Monday since I didn’t want to go to City Tap House and pay an extra 2 dollars for anything on that menu. Trying to be health conscious that night (since I’d come off a cyclops burger at Sketch with Christina and barely avoided cardiac arrest on that deliciousness) I decided at the last minute to try the black bean burger with pepper jack cheese.

I love bean burgers but, after years of avoiding them in order to build a meat-eating palate leagues away from my Hindu upbringing, forgot how dry they get compared to real burgers. It was very good, but I didn’t get much ketchup on it and it ended up being pretty dry. The fries more than made up for it though – not too soft and definitely not too dry, they stopped me from totally shoveling my beers down to quench my thirst (which beer doesn’t really do anyway). The burn was a little tough, but I really liked it despite that and suspected that I’d love to eat it with just butter. The lettuce and onion topics were typical, nothing to write home about but kept me feeling fuller.

The lesson? I’ll eat real burgers more often :)”

Dang. I HATE to hear that! Black bean burgers, or as I like to call them “Triple B’s” can be SOOOOO GOOD. I’ll make you a good burger, Sameer. Let me know when you are available.

Ok, folks – that’s all we’ve got today. Thanks for checking in. I can’t wait for next week’s meeting at Catahoula!! Let me know if you need any info about it. Also, don’t forget that we’re getting discounted rides home from Uber!

Burger News 6/15/2012

carly rae jepsen enjoying a burger

Hey I just met you
This is crazy
Here’s a burger
Eat it, maybe?

 

 

We’ve made it through another long week of living and loving burgers! The talk of the town is still certainly the Shake Shack. Everyone has been eating their burgers and enjoying the shakes. I still haven’t gone yet! What’s wrong with me! All the hub-bub does make one stop and consider why everyone’s getting so excited? It’s not like we’ve never had a burger joint before. What’s the BIG DEAL? I guess I’ll find out soon when I finally try it!

I digress… with some cool news! You heard it here first that the Burger Club is partnering with Uber. “What’s Uber?” you may ask! Uber is a moderately priced luxury car service – for real people. It’s not a fancy pants limo service that only bajillionares can afford, nor is it a run-of-the-mill taxi with a driver that is on his phone the whole time. By the way – have you ever wondered WHO these taxi drivers are always talking to??? Anyway – Uber. It’s an awesome new on-demand luxury car service. They just launched their Philly service! They’re offering burger club members a 30% discounted ride home from our June burger club meeting at Catahoula!!! THAT’S CRAZY! I for one am DEFINITELY going to take them up on this offer. How cool would that be? “Take a cab home??? pfffffft, let me summon my car service”. I could get used to that. So what you need to do is set up an Uber account by downloading the app to your phone. I’ll provide burger club members the super-secret promo code (for 30% a ride home from our meeting) at an undisclosed time and place (like our facebook page). It’s very important that you enter in this promo code BEFOREEEEE you request a ride!

Ok, on to the reviews. Burger Club members submitted reviews for Shake Shack, Frankford Hall and (surprisingly) an awesome burger at Dave & Busters.

First up is Sameer’s review of his time at Frankford hall for last month’s burger club meeting. Did I mention what an awesome time that was??? Here’s a reminder “got the “Atlantic ‘Lachs'” burger, which was a salmon patty with tartar sauce, arugula, pickled red onion and avocado. Overall, this burger was great. I maybe could’ve done with more arugula and no avocado, since I love the former and the latter made it messier, but it was still awesome. I wanted something lighter than beef, and got what could’ve been the best of the options. The crispness of the onions and arugula provided a good counterpoint to the fish and avocado being so soft and tender. With something dark and German on the side, this was awesome. I’d recommend to anybody who likes salmon. Fries with ketchup (with curry mixed in) were delicious, can’t really say too much about that other than it was awesome”. My my my, what a great place Frankford Hall is. Certainly one of my favorite venues in Philadelphia – with awesome food to boot!

Next is John M. who was lucky enough to have gone to the Shake Shack, ” I hit up Shake Shack yesterday. Got the Smoke Shack burger with the shack sauce on the side and cheese fries. Definitely worth the wait. I also ate a plain hot dog and got a black and white shake. All were great but the shake seemed a bit expensive for the size. Cheese fries were perfect. Smoke shack burger was amazing. Cherry pepper relish was a great complement to the smoked bacon”. Whenever someone mentions the Shake Shack they quickly say “worth the wait”. When has anything ever been “worth the wait”? Dangit, I want to go to shake shack right now.

Last but NEVER least is Devon who had a surprisingly good burger at Dave and Buster’s, ” So I went to Dave and Busters on Saturday night after a day of hard labor painting my new apt. We figured we’d grab some dinner and blow off some steam. We decided all to get burgers. I got the black and blue. A large burger seasoned with Cajun spices topped with crispy onion straws, fried onions, heaps of blue cheese and crispy bacon. I was skeptical at first, but this burger was delicious. It was so juicy that I went through several napkins. All the flavors and textures melted together so perfectly. I would have thought that both kinds of onions would be an onverload but they each added their own flavor and texture. Also, the bacon was so well cooked that it added fat and flavor to every bite. The spices on the burger were smoky and added subtle heat. Next to a good portion of sweet potato fries, this was definitely a burger worth ordering again. As a side note, my sweetheart got a double cheese burger that was amazingly flavorful, juicy, and simply delicious”. Record scratchhhhhh whattt? Did she say Dave and Busters? Is D&B the hidden gem of burgers? Who would have thought? Right there, all along…

Well folks this concludes another day of chitting and chatting about burgers. Thanks for reading! I CAN’T WAIT for this month’s burger club meeting at Catahoula and for our fancy rides home provided by Uber. Keep posting on the facebook page, twitter feed and sending your burger reviews (burgerclubphl@gmail.com)!! Till next time!

burger news 6/8/2012

photo by Danya Henninger

This was a momentous week for the city of burgerly love – the Shake Shack (2000 Sansom St) finally opened! The grand anticipation of this burger joint is largely due to their long-standing reputation of their New York and DC locations (though on their website I learned they also have locations in Connecticut and Florida). They’re an upscale take-out restaurant with burgers (LaFrieda meat), hot dogs, beer (!) and probably most importantly they have a large array of custard assortments. The Rittenhouse Concrete is one of their popular choices of frozen treats. A “concrete” is defined as “dense frozen custard blended at high speed with mix-ins” and the Rittenhouse has “chocolate custard, La Colombe coffee beans, coffee marshmallow sauce and chocolate truffle cookie dough”. Holy smokes – that sounds like it will sit in your stomach like concrete.

Photo by: Karin M

They have a few different burgers, the ShackBurger, SmokeShack, ‘Shroom Burger (vegetarian), Shack Stack and Hamburger. Don’t read their menu unless you plan on going there very soon, it’s too painful to read about all their delicious options and without tasting anything. Madhuri was one of the lucky people to visit the SS this week, again, you should probably skip over this unless you want to feel REALLY jealous, “Went there yesterday. Had the shake burger, shake-cago hot dog and a chocolate+peanut butter milkshake. The burger was excellent and i was amazed to see that for a technically “fast-food” burger patty it actually had a pinky center! I don’t even get restaurant burgers cooked this well sometimes.” Dang. I am green with envy. Karin M went on to say “burger was awesome! I got the regular cheeseburger. I was hoping for medium rare but you only get 3 choices: Rare, Medium or Well done. I went with medium and when I bit into it, I was happy to see it was actually pink inside. Meat is just the right amount of salty, potato roll was nice and soft (but did get a little soggy) and the tomatoes and lettuce were really fresh which is always a nice touch. The double was too much for me in terms of bun to meat ratio so I ended up turning my double into a single, and I’ll stick to that from now on.”

Photo By: Joe Hand

Moooooving on – burger club members have been trying burgers left and right! Joe H. made an interesting choice for his burger cravings the week Shake Shack opens – he went to 500 degrees (1504 Sansom Street). 500 Degrees is probably the most comparable experience to the shake shack that we have in philly, that and square burger(200 North 6th Street). Perhaps Shake Shack would have been a better choice as he says “I expected more from 500 degrees. The burger to bun ratio was not great; and there was too much bun and the burger itself was not great taste wise. I ordered it medium and it was cooked well done. The only way I would go back is if I tried something completely different. I had swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato and raw onions on the burger. The toppings did not add any quality to the burger.” In rebuttal Lauren responded “I love 500 degrees! I tend to keep it really simple though. and the truffle fries, bar none!” ok ok ok, looks like maybe they were just having an off night? We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, Joe – you need to try their burger (a different one, perhaps?) again and get back to us!

Photo by: Julianne H

Next, Julianne (one of the two eat philly gals) had the burger from McCrossen’s (529 North 20th Street). Their burger is described as “grilled 8oz Dry Aged Creekstone Farms burger Add on’s: cheddar, blue cheese, provolone, American, bacon, caramelized onions, mushrooms, egg” to be honest I hadn’t even really heard of this place before receiving Julianne’s review. I was with Jim (burger club’s favorite CTO) when I did receive the review, “is that the place near 15th and Spruce?” no, that’s McGlinchey’s. “13th and Sansom?” McGillin’s. Dangit, where is this place?? It’s up in the art museum area – it turns out. Their website touts their ‘famous’ wings, looks like Julianne would have been better off with those, “I recently tried the burger at McCrossen’s Tavern, at $11 one of the cheaper burgers I’ve eaten recently. I ordered medium-rare but was served a blackened patty that was practically past well-done. The meat is 8 ounces of dry aged beef, but it was oversalted and overcooked leaving it impossible to appreciate the quality of the meat. A layer of cheddar (at $1 extra) was overpowered by a too-thick slice of potent purple onion. The worst part was the bun- the flour-powdered surface was far too tough, and the bottom bun was too thick. I highly recommend that you steer clear of this burger.” HEED HER WARNING! HEEEEEED IT!

Well burger friends, keep on burgering. As always, check in on the facebook page and on twitter. Also get excited about our June burger club meeting at Catahoula!

Frankford Hall: May Meeting Review

This month’s Burger Club meeting brought us to the other side of town, a fun little adventure to Fishtown and Frankford Hall.  If you missed the meeting, and haven’t been yet, Frankford is one of the coolest places to hang out in the city- let alone as a food or drink destination.

A large, airy indoor space complete with foosball and table tennis leads you to an enormous courtyard packed with picnic tables.  In the summer, you’ve got the occasional umbrella up to block the sun, and in the winter, you’ve got heater after heater to keep the space temperate.  To order food, just pop on over to the counter outside, place your order, and a waiter will bring your food over as soon as it’s ready.  Early on a Wednesday evening, we only waited a few minutes, but this place is typically jam packed, so this may not be the norm.

Frankford Hall is styled after the German bierhall, and according to others (shout out to Jill!), is pretty authentic.  The menu reflects lots of German influence, including soft pretzels (one regular size, one twice the size of my face), spatzle, a variety of brats and sausages, and even a liverwurst sandwich.  The burger menu makes its way outside of the German style, lending a short but solid list of options- salmon, veggie, lamb, and two beef burgers.

The choice that caught my eye was the Atlantic “Lachs” burger, which technically isn’t a burger at all, so ordering it almost got me kicked out of the club.  A seared salmon patty is full of bits of scallions and onion, and topped with crunchy, vinegary pickled red onion, spicy arugula, and a touch of tartar sauce ($11).  It’s also supposed to come with a few slices of avocado, but ours sadly came without.

The patty was a little bit dry and rather flavorless, and wasn’t saved by the toppings.  I will say that the onion was awesome (pickle anything and I’ll like it!) but overwhelmed the rest of the ingredients.  Definitely not worth almost losing burger privileges.

Each of the burgers comes on a small, soft, sesame studded Martin’s potato roll (earning a 3.2 rating- one wisely pointed out that it doesn’t quite go with lamb OR salmon), and typically comes served with fries.  However, I felt that the cucumber salad would be a good complement to the salmon, so substituted it in (for no extra charge!).  Definitely the highlight of my meal- I can’t decide if this says more about how little I like the burgers or how much I loved this salad.  Thinly sliced cukes are tossed with slivers of red onion, fresh dill, and a delicious sour cream sauce.  The combination is refreshing and really satisfying- and for some odd reason, reminded me of McDonald’s secret sauce.

The “big guy” on the burger menu is called the Kanzler, which essentially is the German equivalent of President.  A dry-aged beef patty (about 6 ounces?), grilled bacon (still pondering how you grill bacon), gruyere, and balsamic soaked caramelized onions are all piled onto the Martin’s bun.  All the components you might expect for a solid burger, but this isn’t worthy of it’s title.  Was it bad?  Definitely not.  But it wasn’t something we would order again.  The combination of the slightly oversalted meat and the salt content of each of the added toppings left us… thirsty.  The meat was high quality, but overcooked (a request for medium came out well done).  Seems these complaints were seen almost across the board, according to official Club reviews!

The side of fries was generous, a good sized portion to split.  Long enough to dip into the curry ketchup (apparently a very German thing) but it seems you either like this combination or you don’t.  We’re still on the fence– we like ketchup and we like curry, but for some reason the marriage of the two didn’t hit the spot the way American ketchup does.  If anyone’s a big fan– let us know!

We also got a look at the lamb burger, ordered by photographer extraordinaire himself, Kit Farman.  A ballsy order, as he’d never tried lamb before, but he enjoyed it.  The tzatziki, cucumber, and tomato jam seem like perfect lamb accompaniments.

We are echoing many others when we say that Frankford is worth lots of visits for the atmosphere alone.  Perfect on a bright sunny spring evening, come to enjoy the outdoors, but perhaps stay away from the burgers.
1210 Frankford Avenue