What is the burger club?

Recently I was asked how Burger Club fits into urban life. A huge smile came to my face and I simply responded, “We ARE urban life,” and I’d like to take a moment to really flesh that out – for everyone. I was raised in the suburbs, went to college in the suburbs, and after I graduated I decided that I wanted to live in the city. I’m not alone in this, I think that a lot of young people take this route after college. I wanted to be “where the action is” and no one can argue that the city has a lot of action. To be a true urbanite, one must fully delve into what makes living in the city different from living anywhere else. It’s important to experience all facets of city life, like going to concerts and performances, talking to neighbors, seeing the sights, knowing the streets and MOST IMPORTANTLY eating the food! That’s where we come in.

The Burger Club meets the last Wednesday of every month at a different place in Philly famous for burgers. Sometimes we go to big name Center City meccas. Other times we squeeze ourselves into tiny back street bistros. The one thing that never changes is that we always have a good time. We exemplify what it means to “eat, drink and be merry”. Often times the same people come every month. Sometimes we meet new friends. Members are not expected to come to every meeting, and returning after a hiatus offers a feeling as if no time has passed at all.

The best thing about Burger Club is there’s an easy topic of conversation that everyone can appreciate – burgers. There’s not too much awkward silence between new acquaintances because they’re talking about what kind of cheese they like best on a burger and if the one they’re eating is cooked to the right temperature. There are no rules or dues, every member is simply expected to come to a meeting if so desired and enjoy themselves. We exist to have fun and we have fun through eating burgers.

Join the Club – Don’t be this guy

I always felt a little silly telling people I’m part of the “burger club,” but once I explain what we do the conversation usually ends up with “how do I join?”. The Burger Club is great for people new to the city because everyone’s welcoming and eager to meet others who share their interest of burgers. The Club is also great for people who have lived in the city for a long time who like to meet up with old friends and enjoy a good meal and maybe explore parts of the city they haven’t given much thought to. I don’t know how much closer to a definition to “urban living” you can get.

Philly’s Burger Palooza 2012 @ Yards Brewery

Story by: Joelen Pastva
Photos by: Madhuri Kaul

For a little bit of context, let’s travel back in time a couple of weeks to Wednesday night, Thanksgiving Eve. If you were unlucky, you were stuck in the traffic snarl of people trying to get out of Philadelphia after work. Or if you were lucky you’d already secured a table at the bar for drinks with old friends and family on what is always the busiest bar night of the year.

We considered ourselves among the really lucky as our train soared past the standstill I-95 traffic on our way to the Yards Brewery for its first annual Burger Palooza. As the word “palooza” would imply, this was to be a night of excessive burger consumption to rival the turkey feast planned for the next day. Four area food trucks – Street Food Philly and Spot from the Drexel area, Chewy’s from University City, and The Moo Truck from Bucks County – were on hand to serve up three rounds of gourmet burgers, which could optionally be accompanied with fries from Say Cheese Philadelphia or cupcakes from Cupcake Carnival. Once burgers from the first round were up, chefs launched right into round two, and so forth. And of course, since this event was held at Yards, admission also included two drink tickets, which could be redeemed for either beer or delicious house-made root beer.

We arrived early and managed to grab some of the first burgers from round one. I’d heard a lot about Spot, what with their in-house butchering (wow!), so was eager to see what they had to offer. The “drunken spot” was infused with Yards Brawler and topped with gouda, fried onions, mustard, and Spot sauce. I was impressed with how well the burger was cooked (all palooza patties were apparently ¼ pound in weight), and the meat seemed to really take on a good flavor from the Brawler. I did find the bun to be a bit too bready, which somewhat overwhelmed the rest of the burger. For round two, they served the Cochise burger, made with a bison blend, horseradish mayo, swiss, and crispy sage. The toppings were phenomenal, but again the bun softened their punch. Overall, with such creative toppings and fresh, expertly cooked meat, I definitely plan to visit the Spot truck again in the near future.

Chewy’s put out a really fun burger for round one, which featured spicy tomato sauce, Cajun fried onions, mozzarella cheese, and basil, easily knocking the socks off of most meatball subs I’ve ever had. Street Food Philly, which uses local dry-aged beef, served a “Porky von Egg” for the first round, topped with ham and hollandaise sauce. Maybe it’s because this was already burger #3 in less than 30 minutes, but we found this to burger to be underwhelming and greasy.

Our favorite truck of the evening was Moo. They kept things simple, but this is partly due to truck owner Evan Asoudegan’s decision to get all of his ingredients locally, so he only cooks what’s available. Round one was the Moo burger, with your standard lettuce, onion, pickle, and cheese toppings on a grass-fed patty. Despite its simplicity, the Moo burger is what every burger should strive to be. The beef was delicately seasoned, had just the right about of chew, and was perfectly in harmony with its bun and toppings. Round two was basically the same burger, but with the addition of bacon, and I will say without a doubt that this was the best bacon I have ever eaten in my life. Go get this burger right now! This burger tied for the top of the night, along with the Lone Ranger from Chewy’s, which had applewood smoked beef topped with George Washington porter mushrooms that were outta this world.

After all this burger merriment, we simply could not make it to round three and had to hit the road for our own Thanksgiving travel. Fortunately the traffic had cleared, and we were now fortified with bellies full of fantastic burgers. Maybe there’s room for a new Thanksgiving ritual, even if it does have the word palooza in it.