Friday, September 2, 2011

Burger Challenge Round 2: Village Whiskey

Round 2 – Fight!  To get a hostess to pay attention to you.  Fight! To get a table.  Fight! For elbow room in the ridiculously small bar area while you wait for your table and overpriced whiskey.  A night at Village Whiskey can sometimes feel more like Mike Tyson’s Punch Out with you being Little Mac and Iron Chef Garces playing Don Flamenco.  They don’t take reservations, and your entire party has to be present to be seated (don’t even think about having a random straggler). There are only a dozen or so tables available inside, so if you come on a rainy night like we did, be prepared to wait.

Deviled eggs....yumm

Lucky for us, a college friend just happens to be a server at Village Whiskey (thanks Troy!) and we did get some comped snacks while we waited, and waited, for the table. A plate of very good deviled eggs kept us going while we sipped on excellently made Old Fashioneds. 

On a side note here, I have to say I am a huge fan of the resurgence of the deviled egg on menus around the city. I remember watching my mom make them for family parties and thinking to myself how revolting they looked and smelled. Now that I’m all grown up and sophisticated, I have realized the utter delight that a great deviled egg can be. Rich and a bit decadent, hitting different parts of the palette depending on the filling mix, they should always be served cold, a bit salty, a creamy yokey middle, and never limp or watery. These were perfectly done, classic devils. No fusion or experiments here – just a tried and true classic. 

And that’s really what Village Whiskey is all about too; tried and true classics that everyone can identify with. Unlike Garces’ other concept restaurants with tapas in every possible form and progressive, edgy interiors, VW leans toward the old school in every way. Prohibition style cocktails, mixed by bartenders who know the value of good ice and what bitters can do for a drink alongside an impressively large (albeit impressively pricey) list of bourbons. Servers dressed in classic whites with long aprons and black skinny ties. A menu of full size plates that are all America with burgers, bbq pork, turkey and chicken sandwiches.  

Chicken sandwich w/ long hots, shrooms & provolone

The chicken sandwich, on a good crusty roll with long hot peppers, mushrooms & sharp provolone was very good, and for $10 a decent value for dinner. It'd be nice if they included more than just a few veggie chips as a side, but I guess they're trying to steer you towards the $5 duck fat, $7 duck fat + cheddar sauce or $12 shortrib & cheddar fries. Cooking in duck fat is a bit trendy these days, but it is also usually pretty tasty. I like duck in all forms (see also: peking duck, duck rolls, duck hunt, duct tape), so frying taters in the fat seems like a good idea to me. But it's not. At least not in this example. Cut thick like steak fries you get at a Jersey diner, these guys were so crunchy that they were closer to potato chips. And you didn't get any of that duck taste you're hoping for. I was really disappointed. Next time I'm in (with an expense account) I might go for the shortrib & cheddar fries, along side the Whiskey King burger with fois gras on top. But for $26 the King was not on the docket for this night. And this being the burger challenge, we had to go for the straight-up, honest Village Burger that gets all the glory.

Duck fat fries w/ cheddar sauce
And onto that burger. The signature dish on the menu, the Village Whiskey burger has been on “best of” lists since they opened their doors. A mammoth half pound patty, cooked on a flat top, and served lovingly on a sesame roll with tomato, boston bibb lettuce, and thousand island dressing.  Choose your own additional toppings of cheese, caramelized onions, mushrooms, avocado, long hots, bacon, fried egg or even horseradish crab salad. The burger comes in at a pretty good deal for only $11, but just adding cheese tacks on another $3.50, with the other fixins running from $1.50 to $5.50. It’s an effort to squeeze  the thing down to an edible size, but soooo damn good when you do. Mine was cooked perfectly, a nice sear and caramalize on the meat, and medium in the middle. The cheese was still warm and melty, the lettuce cool and soft, and the tomato was thick and ripe. VW also makes their own pickles, and you get to sample one with each burger. The roll was fresh -  firm enough to hold up to the task of containing this bad boy but soft enough to not get in the way. I give this burger high ranks on taste, presentation and toppings. It's also an affordable price at a place where you feel like a high roller for just getting a seat. Well played, Jose. 

The Village Burger

Food Baby Rating: It's a Boy! 

Village Whiskey
118 South 20th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Sunday-Monday 11:30am-11pm
Tuesday-Thursday 11:30am-12am
Friday-Saturday 11:30-1am

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