May is National Burger Month (and Saturday, May 28 is National Burger Day), and in a city that’s home to both foie gras-butter stuffed prime patties at hallowed French restaurant Le Bec-Fin, and classically simple burgers at Franklin Square’s SquareBurger, not to mention Chef Jose Garces’ nationally known Whiskey King burger and the classic, famous Rouge burger, you won’t be hard-pressed to find the perfect celebratory fare.
After all, you’d better prime your burger taste buds for June’s Burger Brawl, a day-long competition pitting the city’s best burgers and chefs against each other.
Take it from Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant founding partner Kevin Finn, who says, “National Burger Month is one of our favorite times of year — after all, what is better than a burger and a beer on a beautiful spring day?” We couldn’t agree more.
For a primer on all things burger in Philadelphia, click here for our coverage. And in honor of May’s National Burger Month, check out our top picks for some of the most memorable hamburgers in town:
• Village Whiskey: Celebrity chef Jose Garces has put his talented spin on classic American eats at Village Whiskey. The eight-ounce angus burgers come with toppings like maple bourbon-glazed cipollini, Rogue bleu cheese, foie gras and applewood bacon. They’ve been featured everywhere from the South Beach Wine And Food Festival, to the Food Network. Diners who want to indulge even more can have their duck fat fries topped with shortribs and sly-fox cheddar.
• Butcher & Singer: At Stephen Starr’s Old Hollywood-themed steakhouse Butcher & Singer, the lunchtime burger (a hefty patty served with English cheddar and fried onions) is a standout.
• Pub & Kitchen: The Churchill Burger is neck and neck with Jose Garces’ Village Whiskey burger for Best of Philly 2011, so you know it has serious burger cred. It boasts a custom meat blend from the acclaimed La Frieda Meats of New York City that was tested and refined for more than two months before it was first introduced last fall. Try it alongside the truffled dijonnaise fries.
• Union Trust: The bar menu Rittenhouse Sliders at Union Trust, a towering Washington Square area steakhouse, are delicious, topped with gruyère and caramelized onions.
• Le Bec-Fin: Arguably one of the the fanciest burgers in town, Le Bec-Fin’s version is topped with red onion marmalade and whole grain mustard on delicious fresh brioche bread, served alongside pommes frites.
Below, we’ve got the details on Good Dog, Adsum, Squareburger and more.
• The Swann Cafe in the Four Seasons Hotel: This place piles its beef and turkey burgers high with smoked applewood bacon, avocado, arugula and cheddar cheese on a brioche roll — and serves it with a side of sophistication.
• Barclay Prime: Visit the pub at Stephen Starr’s swanky Barclay Prime for the dry-aged mini burgers made from New York strip, Kobe and ribeye, served on homemade rolls with a slather of Russian dressing and aged cheddar, plus a side of tater tots.
• 10 Arts: Get a taste of Chef Jennifer Carroll’s cooking with the 10Arts Cheeseburger. It’s made from Pineland Farms ground sirloin, topped with pickles, lettuce, tomato onion, ketchup and mustard. You can also order the mini version as part of 10 Arts’ Five Bite Lunch special.
Burgers With A Twist
• Smokin’ Betty’s: Though barbecue is its namesake specialty, Smokin’ Betty’s also happens to have an impressive lineup of burgers, including the Food Network-spotlighted Tur-duck-en (duck rillette surrounded by chicken and turkey, with cranberry orange relish topped with crispy sweet potato ribbons).
• PYT: Diners can wash down that Fat Boy Monster (two patties, cheddar, bacon, onion rings and special sauce on a potato roll) or Cheesesteak Pretzel Roll Burger (exactly what it sounds like) with a milkshake cocktail or Yuengling lager at the quirky PYT at the Piazza in Northern Liberties.
• Noble: While it’s only listed on the brunch and bar menus, guests at the farm-to-table restaurant Noble American Cookery can always order the Noble burger, complete with house-ground meat, a house-made bun, beets, local Lancaster cheddar and the choice of bacon or a fried egg on top.
• Oyster House: The Oh Burger is “Oh” so good (sorry, we had to). Think grass fed beef, blue cheese, fried oyster, grilled onions, served with hand cut fries.
• Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant: In honor of National Burger Month, Iron Hill has concocted 31 different burgers that will be offered up at all Iron Hill locations throughout May, one per day. The Napa Valley Burger has Cabernet onions, black pepper chevre, tomato and arugula; the Jammin’ Marley Burger has pineapple chutney, bacon, sharp cheddar and Jamaican BBQ sauce… we could go on.
Better For You Burgers
• Standard Tap: It set the bar high for local burgers when it opened more than 10 years ago, and Standard Tap continues to wow the beer-loving crowd with its seven-ounce, all-natural grilled patty topped with lettuce, tomato, sautéed mushrooms, grilled onions and the guest’s choice of cheese.
• Sketch Burger: Fishtown’s art-themed Sketch has the burger bases covered with sirloin, Kobe, turkey and vegan options, plus the signature smashed onion beef burger. Inventive toppings like horseradish cheddar and salsa verde make it a burger-lover’s dream.
• Great Burger: A choice of more than 20 free toppings (honey mustard, sweet peppers, potato chips) crown the trans-fat-free patties at Willow Grove’s strip mall eatery Great Burger; diners also get a choice of burger (veggie, turkey, beef) and sesame, whole wheat or white bun.
• MidAtlantic Restaurant & Taproom: You can top the Veggie Scrapple Burger, which comes with pepper jelly and toasted mustard with either cheese, bacon or both, if you want a little extra calorie kick.
• Half Moon Saloon: The choices at Kennett Square’s Half Moon Saloon astound. There’s the spiced vegetable and wild rice Harvest Moon; the organic grass-fed beef Half Moon; the all-natural buffalo Full Moon (97% fat free!) and a daily selection of wild game specials. Tasty toppings and more than 27 beers on tap make it a true burger and beer destination.
• 500°: The famous Rouge burger is the draw at the quick-service 500°, and it’s served with special sauce and bacon on fresh-baked rolls. Shakes and fries (plain, spicy and truffle) round out the offerings. Late-night weekend hours (3 a.m.) are an added bonus for late-night bar patrons.
• Bobby’s Burger Palace: The national chain (owned by Bobby Flay) has set up shop in University City. Burgers are slathered with geographically themed toppings (Philly: Cheese Whiz, onions and hot peppers; Miami: ham, Swiss, pickles). And diners can crunchify — add potato chips — to any burger at no additional charge. The sweet potato fries, beer-battered onion rings and vanilla caramel bourbon shakes add another level of Flay flair.
• Zac’s Hamburgers: A mini local empire built on simple, tasty burgers and hot dogs, this place draws a loyal clientele for its old-fashioned fare and distinctly Philly attitude. There are locations in Folsom, Crum Lynne, Aston and Media.
Burgers At The Bar
• Good Dog: The Roquefort-stuffed, onion-fringed burgers at Center City’s Good Dog tavern are so powerful that they’ve inspired a song by Inquirer critic Craig LaBan — this, in addition to out-the-door crowds.
• Royal Tavern: A sandwich with a swagger is the only way to describe the Royal Tavern burger, which is eight ounces of Angus dressed up in caramelized onion, pickled long hots, bacon, smoked Gouda and chile mayo on a brioche bun.
• Grace Tavern: Choose from five delectable burgers, including the traditional Grace Burger (lettuce, vine-ripe tomato, red onion and swiss cheese) and South Street Burger (sautéed onions & bleu cheese).
Burgers With A Side Of Scenery
• SquareBurger: Paper-wrapped classic burgers are the thing at SquareBurger, Stephen Starr’s seasonal stand in Franklin Square; they come on potato rolls with judicious toppings of ketchup, mustard, onions and pickles. Sides of crispy fries and Tastykake milkshakes, plus a pleasant park setting, sweeten the deal.
• Rouge: Overlooking Rittenhouse Square, Rouge is a longtime favorite for people-watching and burger-eating. Its zaftig challah roll-encased patty with caramelized onions and gruyere is a mainstay of best-of-Philly lists and also has landed national praise.
• Lacroix: Double-smoked local bacon, Cabot white cheddar and a maitake-horseradish spread bring a decidedly foodie slant to the burgers at the Rittenhouse Hotel’s Lacroix and sister restaurant Bar 210. A table overlooking Rittenhouse Square brings the glamour.