James Beard award-winning Michael Solomonov (chef-owner of Zahav, Federal Donuts, and Percy Street Barbecue) was born in Israel, and he spends his days bringing the flavors of his childhood to the City of Brotherly Love—his Harissa and Za'atar-spiced fried chicken is pretty magical. But when it comes to burgers, Mike likes them simple: easy on the sauce, and topped with good tomatoes. "I do like cheeseburgers, and I've had people grind bacon into burgers, which is awesome but seems impure," he says. He's thrown his hat into the ring with a 100 percent brisket burger grilled over charcoal at Percy Street Barbecue, and he's playing around with a burger recipe for a new kosher Jewish restaurant he'll be opening on the Mainline. Don't expect any bacon or cheese on that burger, but knowing Mike, he'll find a way to make it innovative—and delicious.
When Mike's not testing our kosher hamburger recipes, he has no problem scarfing down a good bacon cheeseburger in his hometown. Here are five of his favorite burgers in Philadelphia.
1. Royal Tavern is a bar in South Philly where they do a great burger with smoked gouda, fried long hots, and bacon. It's really juicy, sort of Italian-style. I definitely chill out here: the menu is more substantial, and they have a great beer list.
937 East Passyunk Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19147 (map); 215-389-6694; royaltavern.com
2. 500° does phenomenal burgers, and serves them late-night as well. They're thin patties ... actually, sort of mid-range, not like the super-thin West Coast burgers. They're seasoned really well. I just get a plain cheeseburger here.
1504 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102 (map); 215-568-5000; 500degrees.com
3. I love the double burger at Morgan's Pier. It's two patties seared with cheese, and a little pickle relish, which is nice. The patties are delicious, and considerably thinner. I don't know what his grind is, but the balance of the meat is pretty sensational. The restaurant is outdoors and really beautiful. The fish tacos are amazing too.
221 North Columbus Boulevard, Philadelphia, PA 19123 (map); 215-279-7134; morganspier.com
4. Shake Shack just got to Philly. It's a good lunch break spot. They keep it real and unadulterated, approachable and not too expensive. I get the SmokeShack burger with bacon. I usually go light on the sauce; I'm not lovin' mayonnaise, I feel like it takes away from the fat and beef.
2000 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103 (map); 215-809-1742; shakeshack.com/location/philadelphia
5. There's a couple of Five Guys locations, but I like the one in the city. I get a little cheeseburger with bacon, tomato, and fresh jalapeno peppers, and I get the fries with no ketchup. I eat it standing up, which is the best way.
1527 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102 (map); 215-972-1375; fiveguys.com