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Burgers and Fries

While Philadelphia can’t field a decent lobster roll, the city has no shortage of good burgers. Don’t just take my word for it. I learned from Scott that Style.com’s list of “The 20 Hamburgers You Must Eat Before You Die” includes not one but two burgers from my fair city. The only other burg to snag two entries in this elite list was New York. Scott has already sampled the burger from Rouge. I look forward to his review of Barclay Prime as well. I haven’t been to either restaurant, but that doesn’t stop me from having an opinion, baseless as it may be, and blogging about it.

What am I looking for in a burger? Not perfection, certainly. Where burgers are concerned, I’m a polyglut; I enjoy plain and fancy alike. My first gourmet burger was years ago at a chain called H.A. Winstons with locations formerly in downtown Philadelphia (I think at 15th and Locust where Fado is now) and on Lancaster Avenue in Bryn Mawr. That introduced me to the concept of the burger with toppings a trifle more exotic than American cheese. Since then I’ve lost count of all the burgers I’ve eaten, but a few stand out.

In downtown Philly, my vote goes to Copa II, which consistently serves some of the best burgers I’ve ever had. My favorite is the Mediterranean (olive tapénade and goat cheese). My other two favorites are both near Wilmington. The Charcoal Pit on Concord Pike (Route 202) offers just the basics, but the basics flawlessly executed. One thing they do exceptionally well is cook your burger exactly to order. If you want rare, rare is what you get. My single favorite burger comes from Cromwell’s Tavern in Greenville. It’s a blackened bleu cheeseburger made with Black Angus beef.

What’s a burger without fries? There’s a thread on Chowhound’s Pennsylvania message board about “great fries in Philly.” Here again, Copa II gets the nod from me for their Spanish fries. But the best fries I’ve ever had anywhere came from Le Bar Lyonnais, the little bistro downstairs at Le Bec Fin. Le Bec is too rich for my blood, but downstairs is informal and surprisingly affordable.

New York City has a lot of little coffee shops, such as Viand on the upper east side or Tom’s Restaurant (made famous by Seinfeld). The burgers in these little places are invariably terrific. I will have to try this Rouge burger myself some time...

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