10Arts Cheeseburger from 10 Arts Bistro
Backed with the combined firepower of Top Chef judge Eric Ripert and contestant Jennifer Carroll, 10 Arts Bistro came out swinging with a miniaturized version of their signature cheeseburger. Built around a sirloin patty sandwiched inside of a brioche, the 10Arts cheeseburger is topped with lettuce, tomatoes, onion ketchup, mustard, and cheddar pickles. Neither overly stylish nor innovative, it has all the components of a very conventional burger. A classy burger, if you will.
10 Avenue of the Arts, Philadelphia PA 19102 (map; 215-523-8273
Geo Burger from Alfa American Tavern
Alfa American Tavern usually serves up a generic mushroom bacon cheddar cheeseburger on their menu, but clearly they brought their "A" game for the Brawl. Instead of playing it safe they put out their Geo Burger, a mini burger built on a brioche that's topped with baby arugula, smoked goat cheese, bacon sausage, and duck. That's right...that would be three different kinds of meats packed in the span of two bites. In case you're wondering, yes, you can definitely taste the duck.
1709 Walnut Street, Philadelphia PA 19103 (map; 215-751-0201
Barbuzzo Burger from Barbuzzo
Barbuzzo isn't a restaurant that's really known for their burgers—in fact, they don't even have one on their menu. That didn't stop them from delivering a unique little burger comprised of a brioche (yes another one) with Yards brawler mustard aioli, hog jam, and caciocavallo. The combination of a rather distinct cheese with the subtle highlight of a beer-based aioli spread resulted in a burger that's a little bit Mediterranean and a little bit Philadelphia. They definitely didn't let their lack of experience in the area hold them back from producing a fantastic burger.
110 South 13th Street, Philadelphia PA 19107 (map; 215-546-9300
Butcher Burger from Butcher & Singer
Yes, I've eaten it before. Guess what? Absolutely nothing has changed my opinion of Butcher & Singer's Butcher Burger. Those fried onions, that cheddar, and that sauce—it's all still there. When you plop that much decadence in toppings on top of a behemoth of juicy beef, there just isn't that much to complain about. The fumes that escape upon biting into this megadeath of heart attacks is just as intoxicating as the burger itself. You've been warned; enjoy at your own risk.
1500 Walnut Street, Philadelphia PA 19102 (map; 215-732-4444
Good Dog Burger from Good Dog Bar
Another Philly crowd favorite is undoubtedly the Good Dog Burger. Good Dog's formula for success is relatively simple. Take a brioche, some caramelized onions, and shove a giant ball of Roquefort cheese into a pocket made from 8 ounces of beef. Cook to medium-rare...profit. Don't be deceived by the simplicity of the construction—to get the cheese to melt while cooking the meat to a proper temperature is nothing short of an engineering marvel. It's a monstrosity that is for sure over the top. And it is sinfully delectable.
224 South 15th Street, Philadelphia PA 19102 (map; 215-985-9600
Burger 15 from Ladder 15
Ladder 15 definitely wasn't kidding around when they decided they wanted to make a burger. Their signature creation is the Burger 15: a prime sirloin and braised short rib patty accented by red wine mushrooms, grilled red onions, bone marrow, and—just to push it over the top—truffle sauce. It's hearty; it's decadent; it's a heart stopper in more ways than one. When cooked to medium-rare, it's a slop-fest that will leave your sleeves covered in liquid beef, but you probably won't care. It smells...so...heavenly.
1528 Sansom Street, Philadelphia PA 19102 (map); 215-964-9755
London Burger from London Grill
London Grill tossed their hat in the ring with their very own London Burger. A breath of fresh air, the London Burger is built on an English muffin (finally something not a brioche), and is more or less a giant meatball patty that's covered with Boursin on one side then blanketed with sweet caramelized onions on the other. Brushing burger purists aside, this is definitely not your dad's average backyard creation. The texture of the English muffin is a nice escape from the standard bun, but what sets this burger apart is the creaminess of the Boursin, which acts more like a spread and less like a cheese. It's different, but good different.
2301 Fairmount Avenue, Philadelphia PA 19130 (map); 215-978-4545
Midatlantic Burger from Midatlantic Restaurant & Tap
Midatlantic had the choice of parading out their standard burger or their more daring Midatlantic Burger. They chose the riskier option and put forth their namesake burger, a creation which is an average beef patty topped with Summer sausage, horseradish cheddar, and pickles. While those things don't sound exactly gel with the idea of a burger, the end result is something that's remarkably palatable. The cold pickles and Summer sausage combine with the penetrating flavor of horseradish and cheddar cheese to make for a seasonal sandwich that is fantastically light and refreshing.
3711 Market Street, Philadelphia PA 19104 (map); 215-386-3711
Bacon BBQ Burger from North Third
Maybe North Third didn't think their regular burger would be good enough (it's a formulaic cheeseburger) or maybe they just wanted to try something different. They ended up serving miniature burgers built between toasted brioches and topped with a strip of bacon, dressing, and barbecue sauce. Nothing complex here, just bread, beef, bacon and sauce. Clearly they wanted to let the meat do the talking and not the toppings.
801 North 3rd Street, Philadelphia PA 19123 (map); 215-413-3666
Bacon Cheeseburger from Paesano's
Paesano's is mostly known for their sandwiches, and for good reason. They make phenomenal sandwiches. The logical progression was for them to take their game to the next step: burgers. Their contribution to the Brawl? They threw down hard with a burger topped with thick slabs of bacon, caramelized onions, and a tangy sauerkraut-like spread. No frills, no cheese. While the Paesano's burger wasn't the most photogenic of the competitors, theirs was distinctive. It was the only one that had a truly memorable char on the outside, and it had a certain smokiness that none of the other burgers possessed. Dear Paesano's management, if you're reading this—please add a burger to your permanent menu. Thanks.
1017 S 9th Street, Philadelphia PA 19147 (map); 215-440-0371
Plain Burger from Pub & Kitchen
Another one of Philly's heavy hitters when it comes to burgers is Pub & Kitchen, who've been churning out their famous Windsor Burger for years. For the Brawl, they went with miniature burgers consisting of tiny brioches, thick puck-sized patties, and a heaping mound of caramelized with nary a hint of cheese to be found. For them, this competition was about showing off their meat, and boy did they do that.
1946 Lombard Street, Philadelphia PA 19146 (map); 215-545-0350
Mini Pretzel Burger from PYT
If you're a true fan of AHT, surely you remember the cheesesteak pretzel roll burger from PYT, a monstrosity built with a pretzel bun, 5-ounce beef patty, chopped steak, cheese wiz, and mayo. PYT scaled that back for the competition, offering up a modest contribution in the form of a mini pretzel roll cheeseburger. Still present is the deliciously pliable pretzel bun and beefy patty, just without all the extras that make a meal into an experience.
1050 North Hancock Street, Philadelphia PA 19123 (map); 215-964-9009
Rouge Burger from Rouge
As the instigator of this entire contest, Rob Wasserman, owner of Rouge, had to be pretty confident to throw out the idea of a grand burger battle since he had his own horse in the race with the Rouge Burger. It's a simple one: Take a patty of meat, smother it with Gruyère, and cap that with some caramelized onions. The sweetness of the onions melts perfectly into the smooth texture of the Gruyère while letting the clean flavor of the beef sing through. While it's not a luxury burger with ingredients stacked to the sky, it stands tall when it comes to taste.
205 South 18th Street, Philadelphia PA 19103 (map); 215-732-6622
Charbroiled Sirloin Burger from Table 31
Why reinvent the wheel? That's the conclusion Table 31 reached when they sent their standard sirloin burger out in battle. Some might call it boring—it uses a brioche (cue complaints) and it only has cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and caramelized onions as toppings—but they would be wrong. Table 31's sirloin burger is an exemplary case of doing all the little things right. The patty is properly cooked, abundantly beefy, plenty juicy, and adequately sized. The bun is satisfactory and non-detracting. The toppings are purely complementary pieces, as they should be. Try and find something wrong with this burger. You can't.
1701 John F Kennedy Blvd, Philadelphia PA 19103 (map); 215-567-7111