Philadelphia: Fried Eggs and Cheeseburgers at Bridget Foy's
200 South Street, Philadelphia PA 19147 (map); 215-922-1813; bridgetfoys.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: Instead of 8 ounces of simplicity, go with 8 ounces topped with a fried egg
Want Fries With That? Only if you'd like a side of salt
Price: Standard Burger, $11; Head House Market Burger, $14 (both come with fries)
Getting your drink on in Philadelphia is pretty much the easiest thing in the world. I don't actually think it's possible to walk more than half a block before running into a bar. That's all fine and dandy for the lushes out there looking for a break in the day, but what should you do when you want to sneak a drink in while with the family? When you need to appease kids with "food" whilst you drink away? Well, that's a bit more of a challenge.
Problem solved. At the corner of 2nd and South Street is the charming little restaurant Bridget Foy's. Opened in 1978 by owner John Foy (Bridget's father), Bridget Foy's is a little bit of everything. Is it a brunch place? Sure, it's a place you could bring your family on Sunday, but implying that's all it is might be selling it short. Is it a bar? Kinda sorta—they take their list of beers seriously, but definitely not at the expense of their menu. Whatever you want to call it, it's an establishment that's hung around for 30-some odd years while others have come and gone. They must be pretty good at what they do.
To suggest that the menu at Bridget Foy's is extensive is probably an understatement. Yes, there's the standard brunch fair, but there's also some choices you wouldn't expect to find at most cafés—things like Korean barbecue duck tacos, Cadillac Meatloaf (bacon + mac and cheese + gravy anyone?), and even bánh mì. As tempting as all those dishes sound, you'd be silly if you passed over the options in the burger subcategory.
The Standard Burger is their classic no-frills cheeseburger. A simplistic construction starting with a sweet brioche, 8 ounces of freshly ground sirloin gets smothered with a thick layer of melted Wisconsin cheddar, then topped with shaved lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and a pickle (although my pickle was...conveniently missing).
Their interpretation of medium-rare was a bit overcooked for my tastes, but the burger was still decent. The brioche, which many consider overplayed and overrated, was a delicate compromise between porosity and bread content. With a very faint sweetness, it's the sort of bun that would play well by itself without meat. The patty was adequate even after being abused by heat. Fairly juicy and very moderate in flavor, it neither stood out nor detracted from the final product. Bridget Foy's rendition of a simple cheeseburger is one that respects simplicity and tradition, and it does it moderately well. It's not a game changer, but it's definitely a solid burger.
The Head House Market burger on the other hand—that one's a stunner. Built on a similar formula of brioche and beef, the HHM burger is topped with an herb mayo blend, Gruyère, grilled mushrooms, and a fried egg done sunny side up. Beginning with the mayo, with an ever so light hint of flavor from the herbs, it exhibits a certain "freshness" that's markedly absent in almost every burger I've eaten in the past. Continuing to the matrix comprised of the Gruyère and mushrooms, there's a textural contrast to the coarseness of the beef. Once you puncture that egg yolk...well, you just have a delicious mess of protein and cholesterol oozing everywhere. Messing up your Sunday best is well worth it if it means eating something so fantastically decadent and delicious.
Of course, what is a burger without fries? Trick question—it's still a burger. Even then, there are few things that go together as well as fried potatoes and meat + bun. Except in this case. I'm sure Bridget Foy's is capable of pounding out some seriously awesome spuds. Their fries definitely fulfill both criteria of crispy outer with fluffy inner, but mine suffered from the fatal flaw of over-salting. What could've been a great complement to the meal ended up being a fist-sized pile of sadness.
As for my overall impression of Bridget Foy's, it's a place that's worth seeking for a number of reasons: for a drink, for brunch, or just to hang around outside on a nice day. But if you're looking for a good burger? You could do much worse than their cheeseburger, or better yet, one with a fried egg on top.
About the author: Nicholas is just your average food blogger who pretends to be a graduate student in his free time (just one more month!). This past week he came to the epiphany that if you watch "Super Size Me" backwards, it's about a dude who is a Big Mac puking machine getting progressively healthier over the course of a month. You can read other brilliant observations in his blog My Inner Fatty.