August Burger Club Meeting at Bierstube

Burger club meeting this August was off the hook! Bierstube (206 Market St) really has a good thing going, good drinks, great food and a really nice atmosphere. The group gathered around the bar while people were coming in and then we sat in pretty much one long table in the corner of the restaurant. Apparently Bierstube had another party going on downstairs. I haven’t seen what the downstairs looks like but it’s pretty cool that an old city restaurant has that kind of space! We all got comfy in our seats and enjoyed some German beer while we waited for our food to come. Since they have four burgers on their menu I wasn’t going to just settle for ONE taste. My friend Madhuri and I exchanged halves of the shortrib burger (LaFrieda short rib blend with caramelized onions, exotic mushrooms, gruyere cheese served with a LeBus country white bun and Belgian frietjes and dip) and the german burger (Topped with sauerkraut, fried knackwurst, muenster cheese, served on a pretzel roll with a small side of Belgian frietjes and sauce) with the kraut on the side.

The shortrib burger was good. It was a little dry but the onions and mushrooms were really nice. The patty was small but all the flavors were there. This burger is quite the name-dropper when it comes to the burger world. Between the LaFrieda meat and LeBus bun – it seems to be almost playing into what burger snobs want to eat instead of being original and sticking to the German theme of the restaurant. Obviously you can’t really go wrong with these “names” but I could have done without. When I visited last February they only had 2 burgers, the Dragon and the German. I thought both burgers were distinct yet played into the theme of the restaurant very well. Since I came last they added these two other burgers to their menu (Shortrib and Hamburg). Somehow I think it would have been better if they just did those two original burgers REALLY well instead of trying to overextend themselves.

The German burger – now that’s something to write home about. The best part of the German burger is definitely that it’s on a pretzel roll. I could eat anything on a pretzel roll – try me. The dense texture topped with oil and salt is just the perfect combination of flavors. The burger itself has a lot of flavor and the fried knackwurst adds a fantastic spicy kick and richness. I did decide to get the burger without sauerkraut because I just don’t like it, but if I did it would probably be the perfect topping.

All-in-all I think everyone had a really good time at Bierstube. It’s not your average old city place – which is a really good thing. I generally try to stay away from old city since there are so many tourists and college kids but Bierstube is somewhat immune to that, they cater to a more refined crowd (like the burger club). Thanks to the Bierstube staff for being so welcoming and accommodating and for the sweet discount! We really appreciate the hospitality! Can’t wait for next month’s burger club meeting! Stay tuned to find out where it’s going to be!

burger news 8/24/2012

Good burger day, friends! In less than a week we’re going to be enjoying an amazing burger at our monthly meeting. You’re going to say “Stephanie, queen of all that is burgery, thank you for bringing me to Bierstube for such an amazing burger! I had no idea the burgers at this place were so good. I will follow you anywhere”. I’ll nod my head in that way that acknowledges your comment but dismisses your praise because I’m too humble to accept it. The stars will align and you’ll experience a moment of clarity in which you realize that despite all the troubles in the world, you’re happy.

This week I was tremendously excited to try the burger/calzone/amazingness at Barra (239 Chestnut St). I gathered up some of my gal pals and went over for dinner on Wednesday. I was soooooo displeased to hear that they only serve the burger during lunch! GAH! You’re a tricky one, Barra. I’ll try that burger if it’s the last thing I do.

Quynh posted this article about the Montreal burger week. It’s pretty brilliant. They developed this super interactive site where people go out into the city and try rate all the burgers participating in the event. The votes will help determine the top 5 burgers, “Burger Week has enlisted 5 celebrity judges to help determine Montreal’s best burger. The judges need your help to narrow down the top 5 burgers, from which they will choose and crown as Burger Week winner for 2012. The judges event will be live streamed through YouTube on September 8th. Oh! We forgot to mention the party! The winning restaurant will have a party thrown in their honor, and you’re all invited! Stay tuned for details!”

Oh man, wouldn’t that just be the coolest thing to do in philly? Maybe one day. We would really have to pool our resources and talent to pull something like that off. Think about it, people.

This weekend there is an awesome burger event, The Wilmington Burger Battle on Saturday 8/25 (TOMORROW!). You may be wondering if there will be tickets at the door, reps from the event say “only if we don’t sell out in advance”. They are directing people to the Facebook page for last minute news. Burgers will be presented by the following restaurants: BBC Tavern and Grill, Chelsea Tavern, Eppy’s Bar-b-que, Ernest & Scott Taproom, Harry’s Savoy Grill, James Street Tavern, Kid Shelleen’s, Kildare’s Irish Pub, Matilda’s / Mad Macs, Orillas Tapas Bar & Restaurant, Piccolina Toscana, Pizza by Elizabeths, Redfire Grill Steakhouse, Sullivan’s Steakhouse, Ulysses American Gastropub, Union City Grille. This is not an event to miss, folks. We’ll have people from the club there who will be reporting on the goings-on. You’re really going to be kicking yourself if you don’t go and then read their report, trust me.

There’s a lot to look forward to here, people. I hope you attend one of the aforementioned events, including our burger club meeting! Hit me up if you need details! See ya!

burger news 8/17/2012

Hope everyone had an awesome week of burgers! This week we announced that our August burger club meeting will be at Bierstube (206 Market St). If you haven’t been to this place yet you’re in for quite the treat. When I visited back in February I believe they only had two burgers on their menu (the German and the Dragon) but since then they’ve added two more (Hamburg and Shortrib Burger Platter). I tried both the Dragon and the German burgers and they were so good! The toppings were truly original and fit the German theme quite well. In addition to their awesome burger menu, Bierstube has an exceptional beer menu. They have this beer called kasteel rouge, have you heard of it? It might not be your cup of brew as it’s made with cherry juice and tastes like framboise but I love love love it – can’t wait for mine.

Next weekend (Aug 25) is the Wilmington Burger Battle! We’re pretty excited to hear that some burger club members will be in attendance! You should go too! It’s going to be amazing, 20 chefs flippin their best burgers with the hope that they will be crowned king in one of three categories: Best Burger, Best Alternative Burger, and People’s Choice Burger. Event proceeds will support the Emmanuel Dining Room, which helps alleviate the immediate needs of Delaware’s hungry. This is an awesome event for a great cause. Get a ticket, tell ‘em burger club sent ya.

Photo by Drink Philly (drinkphilly.com)

In other news, Alyssa H. posted this article on the burger club facebook page about Barra’s (239 Chestnut St) burgers. Apparently they take a burger and wrap it in pizza dough for a pizza/calzone/burger awesomeness. If it’s anything like the cheeseburger pizza from their sister restaurant Birra (1700 East Passyunk), then it’s going to be good stuff. I have been known to order the cheeseburger pizza bowl from Birra once or twice and I’m HERE TO SAY that it’s amazing. You think you can finish it on your own, but you can’t. Try, go ahead. Soooo good. I honestly can’t wait to try the Barra burger – maybe a burger club meeting in the future? Who could know?

Last week I had the privilege of experiencing the switchback burger from the Appalachian brewing company (50 West 3rd Avenue Collegeville, PA). Let’s start by talking about what goes on at the ABC – they’re a brewery so you’re pretty much obligated to get a flight. I deem it un-American to go to a small brewery and NOT get the flight, you really have to see what they’ve got. So you may have gotten a sampler at another brewery. 4 4-oz tastings? Ok, maybe you get 5 3-oz tastings. At the ABC you get a whopping 8 servings of 4-oz glasses. For $10 that’s alllll you need. I almost wasn’t able to finish the whole thing – and I think that’s really saying something. After you sip sip sip on some of the beers if you ordered a burger you’re in for quite an experience. Oh man. The switchback burger (apparently the winner of the PA preferred best burger grill off) was amazing. The ham had a surprisingly strong presence and the rest of the toppings paired nicely with it. I must say that the burger was cooked extremely well. All-in-all the ABC experience is worth the 45 minute ride out of the city. I would 100% recommend it, if you ever want to go please make sure you give me a call.

Sameer tried the burger at The Dandelion (124 South 18th Street) recently and sent in this review, “I had a burger at the Stephen Starr restaurant The Dandelion. Like any Starr restaurant, it was really fun and super expensive. The interior is modeled after a British pub (apparently) and my friends and I had a great window-side seat on the 2nd floor at night. It felt very intimate and I loved that. I had a burger and two beers and totaled about 30 dollars, which I should’ve expected. But, the burger was really good. It’s their only burger on the dinner menu, and had a smallish patty (maybe 6 ounces? but it was incredible and super tender without being too soft) with crunchy pickles, Vermont aged cheddar and apple smoked bacon. Their fries (called chips) were awesome too, thick-cut and really well prepared. It’s worth trying if you’re willing to throw down a hefty sum.”

In addition to his burger at the Dandilion, Sameer wanted to add to his previous review of Local 44 (4333 Spruce St.), “Also, since I last reviewed the Local 44 bean burger, I’ve gone back and had that and the regular burger multiple times. I enjoyed them all immensely, so I definitely had a better experience than the first time. Only thing is that I think their burgers are a bit tough to eat since the patty seems to always fall off the bun – strange dichotomy between the toughness of the bun and the soft delectable But, it was awesome. Also, they never seem to have a ketchup bottle where you don’t need a knife to get the damn stuff out, but that’s not really their fault.”

Well, we’ve reached the end of this week’s post. I hope you are all going to go out and try a burger this week! If you do, be sure to send your review in to burgerclubphl@gmail.com. Also, be sure to get your tickets for the Wilmington burger battle, it’s going to be awesome!

A look under the hood of our favorite Philly Food Trucks

“Grease Truck”, “Roach Coach”, “Barf Buggy” – If you think these terms characterize the food trucks of today, go finish your episode of “Matlock” and call me on your rotary phone and we’ll talk about it. The world is changing and so is the way great chefs showcase their art. We are no longer confined to the antiquated idea that great food can only be prepared by a culinary school graduate in a fancy restaurant. Great food can be found everywhere – and it is everywhere. Lately I’ve been so enamored by food trucks and all that they do that I decided to delve into their world to uncover secrets, tricks and struggles they go through.

Of course to narrow my focus I reached out to operators of food trucks that serve burgers. I talked to the owners/operators of Spot Gourmet Burgers, The Moo Truck, and UgotMunchies as well as Chris of the Executive Auto Salon (they MAKE many of the food trucks we know and love).

First I talked to Evan Asoudegan, the owner of the Moo Truck that operates in Newtown, PA. They have hand crafted burgers, fresh cut fries, home spun shakes, and crisp greens. Evan’s story really caught my eye because he’s only 19 years old! Most guys his age seem to be most concerned with which fraternity to join while Evan owns and operates his own business, “After a while I found that I did not really love working for other people so I used the money I had saved up to start my Food Truck … I wanted to go out and do something awesome! Become an entrepreneur”. He doesn’t believe that his age affects his business in a negative way; in fact he thinks that some of his old-timer regulars really appreciate his youthful ambition with a lot of “when I was your age…” stories.

Next I spoke with Josh Kim of the SPOT Gourmet Burgers. I had the privilege of experiencing SPOT’s Roquefort burger which has roquefort cheese, a balsamic reduction, sautéed onions and bacon. Wow. This burger is pretty close to heaven. I watched Josh work at the food truck pop-up in Brewerytown a few weeks ago. This guy is a machine. How he was able to churn out so many burgers from his tiny 4×8 cart will never cease to amaze me. He gave me a peek of the recipe for making a food truck. You want to know how to start one? Just follow these steps that are complicated enough to make even the most seasoned restaurateur’s head spin:

1) Get a tax id
2 ) Apply for business privilege
3) Get ServSafe certified
4) Submit truck/cart plans, commissary info, along with menu and operation procedure to department of health for plan review (30days)
5 ) Submit ServSafe certification to DOH and apply for city of Philadelphia ServSafe cert (60days)
6) After review is approved, get initial inspection
7) Submit inspection report to Licenses & Inspection for food retail license and vending license
all in all it takes 3 months and about $600 in permits and licenses

It all seems pretty easy, right? He also told me some interesting rules about where trucks can operate

– the city has restricted areas where vendors are not permitted (center city and university city have special rules but with a roamer’s permit trucks can move around a bit)
– small 4×8 trailers are permitted on sidewalks at least 15′ wide

I love learning about the senseless rules the city comes up with, how interesting – 15’ wide – who thought of that? Probably some guy who has a 14’ sidewalk.

Josh was very careful not to mention any bitterness or competition with other food truck owners. He said “I love the camaraderie I share with my fellow truckers. We all have seen good days, and suffered the bad days. We all know each other’s challenges, and revel in each other’s success. We feed one another when we’re hungry, or just to show off our lasted dish. Sure we’re competitive, but for the most part we like to see each other succeed. At least that’s how I feel”. I always thought that food trucks were particularly competitive and territorial, but perhaps that notion is more aligned with the old-school grease trucks. Josh closed with a general statement about how he and other food trucks seek to change the dining experience, “Food has become less of an art and more a money making enterprise… The truckers I know put their craft before anything else” and that’s why food trucks are the future.

Next I spoke with Alex Kipphut of UgotMunchies who had the same drive and ambition that Josh and Evan have, stating his truck when he was in college. His truck started as a college supply delivery website that stocked everything from snacks and drinks to toiletries. This idea morphed into hot food service specifically for the times when no other hot food was available – night time. His idea was to have hot food on the heart of Temple’s campus to serve all the party-goers and late-night crammers who are looking for meals when all the other stores and restaurants are closed – genius! The only snag in his plan was, “we were forced to close our serving window at midnight every night due to the antiquated Philadelphia regulations which force street vendors to close up shop promptly at midnight. This was the most detrimental to the direction we wanted our brand to go, especially being located on a college campus, and began to explore our options” which brought them to open a brick and mortar market on Broad street earlier this year.

Lastly I spoke with Chris Toriello from the Executive Auto Salon – pictured above. Doesn’t their parking lot look like a night market? The question I really wanted Chris to answer was “what were the trucks before?”. I had read on the butter cream website that their truck was at one time a mail truck. This made me wonder, what were all the trucks before they were serving pizza, burgers and cupcakes? In the end Chris says it’s best to start with a new truck and make it exactly what you want, “We really recommend to potential vendors that they start from scratch because buying a used mobile food truck is always a problem. The best truck to buy is a Chevrolet P30. The P30 has the best setup as far as engine and transmission, and has room underneath for installations as well”. While it probably makes the most sense to make a food truck from scratch I can’t help but dream of turning all the UPS trucks into something that serves up better treats than crap from Etsy or a court summons.

In the end the most apparent ingredient needed to run a successful food truck is honest hard work. Everyone from the owners and chefs to those who actually make the trucks – all have a deep love for what they do. It’s not an easy trade but I, for one, and surely thankful to everyone who make these trucks possible!

July Meeting: Backyard Barbecue!

After missing last month’s Burger Club meeting at Catahoula, we were looking forward to the July edition.  Instead of heading to another local restaurant, Steph decided we would get out there and make our own burgers!  In the weeks leading up to the event, there was lots of online chatter about how to best prepare your own patties, what the best side dishes and burger toppings would be, and the main event itself: the beef!

Our “Burger Master” (that’s Steph’s official title, right?) paired up with Philly Cow Share to source our beef locally.  If you haven’t heard of Philly Cow Share, you like beef (which you should, if you’re reading this), you have a huge, empty freezer, and you also like to buy grass-fed, local beef, you could save yourself a fair amount of money and hassle by purchasing a “CowShare.”  Essentially, the system is made to serve individuals and families, offering the meat of 1/8, 1/4, 1/2 and full cows (fully butchered and packaged, of course).  Their website even shows you how much space in your freezer it will take!

1/8 Cow Source

An excellent resource for a city of foodies, the opportunity to sample the meat has me interested in acquiring a chest freezer.  Steph purchased 11 pounds of beef and burger creation began.  The burgers were made by the early birds at the party, who together added a top-secret mix of spices and condiments to the fresh ground beef.   They told us it included Italian breadcrumbs, Worcestershire, and dried ranch seasoning (which contains the magical ingredient, MSG), but with multiple cooks in the kitchen, nobody can really know for sure (hence, the top secret status).  Regardless, the meat would have been more than good on its own- producing a soft, almost fluffy textured patty (not too tightly packed) with an intense flavor and just the right fat content (I need someone to measure that, stat).

Condiments abounded, with fresh garden tomatoes, huge heads of dark green romaine, red onion slices, numerous pickles, a homemade spicy BBQ sauce, avocado, and at least four types of cheese available for constructing the burger of your dreams.  The bun selection was also quite varied– whole wheat, large kaiser, potato, etc.

We took a slice or two of blue cheese, fresh tomato and romaine on a potato bun, and it made one heck of a burger.  I think this would get top ranks if we were voting this month!

Although it rained off and on throughout the afternoon, there was still a large crowd both inside and outside (under the wonderful large umbrella over the outdoor table).  The grilling was primarily done by the men (thanks Jim!), who even took specific cooking orders– our medium-rare was superb.  Lots of other food, including a million hotdogs, chips, dip, and a delicious berry cake rounded out the eats– but we were clearly all there for the burgers.  A great idea for a summer meeting– and many thanks to our gracious hosts!