Philadelphia: Almost Perfect Cheeseburger from Dutch Eating Place in Reading Terminal Market
Dutch Eating Place
Reading Terminal Market, 1200 Arch Street, Philadelphia PA 19107 (map); 215-922-0425, readingterminalmarket.org
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: Freshly ground diner-sized burgers on outstanding fresh white buns
Want Fries with That? The hand cut fries are just ok; try the homemade chicken corn soup or hot apple dumpling instead
Price: Cheeseburger, $3.75; with fries and fresh squeezed lemonade, $6.95
Notes: Open Wednesday thru Saturday, check website for hours—earlier is better.
In my latest quest for delicious, non-fancy-pants burgers in Philadelphia, Dutch Eating Place came up again and again. I've definitely eaten half a dozen breakfasts at this always-packed, rarely-open, everything-made-from-scratch Pennsylvania Dutch breakfast and lunch counter in Reading Terminal Market, but never thought about their burgers until now.
Unfortunately, they just barely miss that perfect zone between hand-crafted-fresh-ground-ness and classic-American-cheese-and-iceberg-ness that, for me, describes the perfect hamburger.
The Dutch Eating Place serves their burgers on a homemade white bun that might be the best hamburger delivery device I've ever had. It's an awesome hybrid of artisan roll and fluffy Wonder Bread bun that a lot of places seem to go for and fail. Lightly butter-toasted on the griddle, the bun is the perfect size for their burgers, doesn't fall apart, and provides an optimum ratio of meat to bread. The burger is garnished with fresh tomato and iceberg. So far so good.
The big draw with these burgers is that the patties are made from beef ground fresh in the market at the L Halteman Family stand, my go-to spot for lebanon bologna, slab bacon, and handmade natural casing frankfurters. The patty had that intense outer crust and beef flavor that's definitely been missing from the last few burgers I've had, enhanced by the big pile of fried onions dripping with melted American cheese.
Sadly, the meat was overcooked. It wasn't totally dried out, and I understand that most lunch counters cook their burgers through, but just maybe a minute or two less on the grill and this sucker would have been perfect. However, although I love rare beef, I'd rather eat this again than one of the many underseasoned, barely seared, medium-rare burgers I've paid three times as much for several times in the last few weeks.
The shoestring hand-cut fries were also bit of a bummer, sort of sad and limp—maybe due to the fact that they were insanely busy when I was there. Next time I'll go for a cup of homemade corn chowder or save room for Shoo-Fly Pie. But overall? One of the best lunch-counter burgers you're going to find in Philadelphia.
Hawk Krall is a Philadelphia-based illustrator who has a serious thing for hot dogs. Dig his dog drawings? Many of the illustrations he has created for Hot Dog of the Week are available for sale: hawkkrall.net/prints.