Philly Burger Round Up: Week 2 – Good Dog Bar and Restaurant

 For the second installment of my Philly Burger Round Up, I decided to visit the location of one of my first burger experiences in Philadelphia, Good Dog Bar and Restaurant. Good Dog Bar is a casual gastropub located on 15th Street in Center City that has been around for over 10 years. It has a decent selection of craft beers, creative cocktails, but most importantly, decidedly delicious food. This place is no frills in the best possible way, and the food is what matters in the end. The menu is made up of mostly modern comfort foods like burgers, Buffalo Shrimp, truffled cheesesteak empanadas, and one of my personal favorites, duck pot pie.   IMG_1726-0I went with a classic, the Good Dog ($12.50) burger, which consists of 1/2 lb. of beef—ground in house—stuffed with Roquefort cheese, and topped with caramelized onions. It’s served on a brioche bun. I ordered my burger medium rare, and it was cooked nicely—the temperature was spot on! The blue cheese inside the burger not only kept it moist, but also oozed out when I cut my burger in half. The onions weren’t too sweet, but gave the sandwich a nice change in texture. They were soft, but still chewy. The bun was a bit dense, but absorbed a lot of the burger juice. The sandwich didn’t need any ketchup since the burger was so juicy.

IMG_1728The burger came with a large side of mixed regular potato and sweet potato fries, which accompanies all of Good Dog’s sandwiches, as well as their signatures fry sauce—a homemade garlic aioli—for dipping. Aioli is similar to mayonnaise, but made with garlic and does not always have vinegar, and it is not as thick as mayo. The fries were fresh-cut and crisp, and the aioli helped cut through the heaviness of the burger and fries.

Overall, the Good Dog burger was delicious, and was everything a bar burger should be; it was comforting, juicy, meaty, no frills with great gourmet touches. It was a stick to your ribs kind of burger, and unique enough that it earns high marks. Always a classic, and all it needs is a good beer to help wash it down. Good Dog Bar has plenty of drinks and other tasty dishes to help complete your meal!

Grade: A-

Philly Burger Round Up – Week 1: Shake Shack

Shake Shack – Center City
2000 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103FullSizeRender-17

Shake Shack is a burger chain that’s modeled on a traditional drive-in. All of its locations have tasty burgers, hot dogs, frozen custards, milkshakes, and Shack brand beer. I came here the other day with some friends and left very full after a great meal.

FullSizeRender-19The Shack Stack ($9.49)* is my go to pick when I visit Shake Shack. There’s just something about the combination of mushrooms, cheese and meat that calls out to me. Specifically, the Shack Stack consists of a cheeseburger patty, topped with a ‘shroom burger, lettuce, tomato and shack sauce. They toast the inside of their hamburger buns, which are buttery potato buns of course. The buns are nice and sought in the outside, and ready to absorb juice on the inside with a great mouthfeel as you bite in. In addition, Shake Shack uses their own customized Angus beef blend from famous butcher, Pat LaFrieda, though the specific cuts and meat-to-fat ratio is a closely guarded secret. This fat is important because they cook their burgers on a wide griddle; as soon as it hits the flat top, the patties are mashed thin, and the fat not only greases the griddle, but helps the outside of the meat caramelize and develop a delicious crust. Plus, they use a cold patty, which makes sure that the burger juices stay inside as the fat starts to rapidly melt from the heat of the griddle. They let the crust develop before flipping too—so much flavor! The ‘shroom burger is their version of a veggie burger; it has a whole Portobello mushroom, which is filled with muenster and cheddar cheeses, breaded and fried until crispy.

Speaking of flavor, this sandwich is delicious! As you take your first bite of the burger you go through the fluffy bun and your teeth sink into the seared meat and break open the mushroom patty. You get a little bit of crunch from the lettuce, the ‘shroom patty starts to ooze cheese, the burger juices begin to run down your hands, you get the creaminess of the shack sauce and the buttery goodness of the bun. Thank god the tomato is there to provide a burse of freshness and cut through the decadence, lol. This burger should be saved for special occasions every day. In fact, this burger is its own special occasion! Just bring a lot of napkins to your table. 

FullSizeRender-18The ShackMeister Dog ($4.00) also made an appearance in my stomach on my most recent Shake Shack visit. Shake Shack actually started out as a hot dog cart in New York City’s Madison Square Park in 2000. This hot dog comes topped with a cheese sauce made from Shack cheddar and American cheeses, and crispy ShackMeister Ale marinated shallots. The dog was split and griddles so it had a nice snap, and also meaty chew. The shallots have a subtle onion flavor that doesn’t overpower the dog, and the cheesesauce is velvety and coats your tongue as you take a bite. This hot dog is rich and satisfying—not your ordinary cookout dog—and could be a meal on its own. Mustard isn’t necessary, but gives it a nice tang and a sharp bite that helps elevate the aromatic flavor of the fried shallots.

IMG_1537To round out the meal, I munched on some of my friend’s Fries ($2.95). Shake Shack fries are made from Yukon potatoes and are crinkle cut. They’re seasoned with salt, crispy and delicious. These fries make Nathans’ fries look stupid. The only thing that makes these fries better would be some cheese sauce for an extra $1. The restaurant has ketchup and mustard dispensers in the back with little cups for dipping. If you ask nicely though, they might give you a mini-cup of the Shack Sauce to dip your fries into instead!IMG_1536

Grade: A-
The Shack Stack burger would’ve gotten an A, if not for the price. The burger itself is actually kind of small for the hefty price tag, so it loses a few points. It’s definitely still worth it for the taste, and quality of the ingredients. Overall, delicious and always worth another trip!

* Prices listed are for the Philadelphia – Center City location.

Intimate Mexican Food = 3 Day Fried Chicken

Xochitl

408 South 2nd Street, Philadelphia PA 19147

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Xochitl is a Mexican restaurant located in the Society Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia. It’s situated on a super pretty brick street, and this picturesque street is an ideal location for this intimate spot. The restaurant has a fabulous bar, with a daily happy hour (including $6 margaritas) at the bar. There is a sunken dining room with lots of wooden tables and warm colors. The service is great, and the staff is very friendly. I’ve also heard great things about the Molcajete Dinner for 2, which is available Sunday-Thursday, and includes make your own tacos of various proteins.
Guacamole with house made tortilla chips
Guacamole with house made tortilla chips

We started the meal with some customized Guacamole ($9). Each table in the dining room is set with a guacamole form and pencil in order to complete a checklist of ingredients and mix-ins. We chose to have ours made with cilantro. chipotle, cotija cheese, plum tomato, and roasted garlic. The guacamole comes to the table in a heaping bowl with a sprinkling of cotija cheese resembling snow on top. The guacamole has a nice briny taste, along with a pop of citrus, offsets the saltiness. It’s very creamy, but still has the house made chunky consistency. There’s an aftertaste of spicy heat without too much of a bite. Instead there’s a building heat from the more mild chipotle pepper, and freshness from the cilantro. The fresh plum tomato gives a nice chewy change from the creaminess of the avocado on alternating bites, and the house made tortilla chips gave a great crunch. Great way to start off the meal!

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Ahi Tuna Ceviche
My friend ordered the Ahi Tuna Ceviche ($12) as her main meal. The ahi tuna itself was super fresh, sliced very thin, and came dressed in a citrus and guajillo chili marinade. The tuna is garnished with some micro cilantro and cucumber. The dish had a subtle heat from the guajillo chilies and a punch of flavor from the marinade, which was refreshing and helped cut through the richness of the avocado and cheese. The dish only came with three yucca chips, but there were plenty of leftover chips from the guacamole to scoop up the rest of the tuna.
Pollo Frito
Pollo Frito
I opted for a far less healthy, but super delicious entree choice – the Pollo Frito ($23). I ordered the half a chicken portion that was cut into four individual pieces with a sweet and spicy chili sauce drizzle. The three day preparation, including brining, steaming and frying, gave the chicken a nice crispy skin, but kept the meat especially moist. The chili drizzle did not detract from the crispness of the skin, and actually highlighted the juiciness of the meat. The dish is usually accompanied with corn bread and chipotle creamed spinach. The spinach is somewhat liquidy from the cream without being watery. In addition, the spinach has a pleasant heat and is a great rendition of a classic dish. This time I decided to substitute esquites, or Mexican street corn, in place of the spinach. The esquites complemented the cornbread nicely, and the corn was not overcooked. It maintained a small bit of crunch, and an overall richness from the cream, and a subtle background like flavor. of lime. There was no overt heat in the corn, which was a bit of a relief from the spiciness of the meal. The corn had an amazingly addictive quality to it though, and made me come back more and more. The dusting of cotija on top was a nice garnish. The cornbread had chunks of fresh corn throughout, and generous pad of melted butter. It came out as an individual loaf–freshly baked and hot from the oven.
Xochitl has a great vibe–perfect for an intimate dinner or a group night out. Next time I’m there, maybe I’ll check out the dinner for two, and I’m definitely I’m going to try the Chocolate Tres Leches Cake–as long as I have enough room left in my stomach!

Comfort Food with a Malaysian Twist

Malaysia Grill

224 W 104th Street (Between Broadway & Amsterdam Ave), NYC
Malaysia Grill – Google Maps
It might be easy to miss this place, since it almost resembles a hole in the wall, but you’ll want to try this hidden treasure on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The decor reminded me of an old-school ramen shop with lots of wood paneling, and several small tables. You might have to wait a few minutes from a table since the place is not that big, but it’s worth the wait. The food, and amazing aromas in the dining room, are what it’s really all about here.
Curry Mee Noodle Soup with chicken
Curry Mee Noodle Soup with chicken
We started with the Curry Mee Noodle Soup ($8.25), which we got with two bowls to split, and the Roti Canai ($3.50) appetizer.  Both dishes were delicious. The curry broth coated your tongue with a pleasant layer of fattiness, and had a great viscosity. It came with a combination of (homemade?) egg noodles, as well as delicate rice noodles. Both were cooked well—not an easy feat to accomplish. The broth also had subtle coconut and intense curry flavors that warmed you up—perfect for the tail end of Winter weather. This soup was definitely asking for a nice squeeze of lime juice though. In addition, the chicken was cooked nicely in the broth, and I’m planning on trying the shrimp version next time.
Roti Canai
Roti Canai – Malaysian pancake with curry chicken dipping sauce
The Roti Canai consisted of a Malaysian/Indian style pancake flatbread, which was thin and a perfect vehicle for scooping up the spicy chicken curry sauce that served as a dip. The pancake itself was crispy on the edges with a doughy consistency throughout so it didn’t fall apart from the, at times, heavy curry. It also came with some pickled vegetables as a garnish that didn’t seem very necessary on the plate. At only $3.50 for the dish, this is a major deal and a delicious way to start the meal.
Chow Kueh Teow noodles (#22)
Chow Kueh Teow noodles (#22)
The next dish to come to the table was the Chow Kueh Teow ($8.95)–flat rice noodles with shrimp, squid and vegetables–a Malaysian specialty. The plate arrived with a big portion of chow fun-esque noodles, but the noodles were more angular with a firmer texture, though not in a bad way. The delicate baby shrimp were cooked perfectly, and the squid was not overcooked and retained its meatiness, but seemed to be an odd choice in the dish. Scallops might have fit in better. The noodles lacked enough spice or tanginess to elevate the squid. Luckily there was some sambal (a very spicy Asian chili paste with a bright red color, sometimes made with the addition of garlic, lemongrass or lime) on the table to mix in.
Chicken Rendang
Chicken Rendang
The final dish to arrive was the Chicken Rendang ($9.95) that came (recommended) with coconut rice. The Chicken Rendang consisted of succulent pieces of boneless, dark meat chicken with an aftertaste of lemongrass mixed with heat, but a mild mouthfeel. The meat was melt-in-your mouth tender and the sauce was a beautiful dark red color that was offset by the bright pickled vegetable garnishes. In this dish, the pickled veggies were a welcome addition to act as a cooling agent as the heat built on your tongue. The gravy was reminiscent of an earthier tikka masala sauce, with strong notes of lemongrass. The ground onions gave it a very aromatic flavor, especially mixed with the lingering heat. The coconut rice was a solid side, especially as it complemented the coconut in the sauce, but it was nothing special in comparison. The dish also featured pieces of potato, with the skin on, and just on the edge of overcooked, as well as eggplant, which was super soft and tender. The eggplant lived up to its spongy reputation, and absorbed a lot of the spiciness. The eggplant and Rendang gravy could have made a delicious vegetarian dish all on its own. However, the plate could have stood to lose the blanched string bean and tomato garnish. Otherwise, this dish was awesome!
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Overall, the meal was fantastic in terms of taste, smell, aesthetics and value. You should make it a point to stop by this place anytime you get a hankering for some comforting Malaysian dishes.