Thursday, September 15, 2011

Great Burger Challenge Round 3.5: Kennett

Even though it's on the list for the Great Burger Challenge of 2011, we couldn't technically count this visit towards the official scoring since we were missing two team members. That doesn't stop me from trying on Kennett's very popular burger for size though. We'll be back at a later date to weigh in with the whole crew present, but for this night it was dinner with friends who live close to this gem of South Philly.

The space inside is sparse and looks like your average local - albeit much cleaner and with a gorgeous bar that is supposedly from the turn of the century. It was a quiet night, but I can imagine with all the tile work that it will be ear ringing in the winter with everyone packed inside. Kennett has a healthy selection of craft beers, and the bartender was happy to give us samples of whatever we wanted to try. Bell's Two-Hearted ale was on draught, so I stopped reading the beer list there. A couple of martini's and a manhatten were well sized (not those little mini IKEA glasses for $11 you get elsewhere) and mixed by a pro. Their drinks menu is a throw back to prohibition days with the list broken up into sections of "Bootleggers" and "Reformers". There are definitely some unusual ingredients on the cocktail menu (sweet potato shrub, theila jasmine liquor, luxardo maraschino??) that faintly remind me of the now defunct Apothecary.

We started with a couple salads and a pizza to share amongst the four of us. A tomato, feta & red onion salad was fresh and clean. The tomatoes tasting like they were fresh off the vine and the feta in nice big hunks. A summer veggie salad with more tomatoes, peaches, candy stripe beats, onion with a sherry vinaigrette was also good. These are the kind of dishes you long for in the dead of winter with only root vegetables to get you by. Mmmm....summer.
tomato, feta & red onion salad
summer veggie salad with crispy chicken
A huge plank of a cheese board was killer. A creamy, earthy blue, camambert style "smythe" and lancaster county bouche cheddar were all great. Nice little accompaniments of sliced apple, cornichons, olives, pecans and whole grain mustard were paired perfectly with the cheese selections. The honey toast points for spreading were a nice touch as well. Always a good sign for a restaurant. You've got to know how to handle your cheese.
cheese plate
The pizzas are one of the signature features of the menu. House made dough (nearly as good as Stella & Zavino, I might add) and local toppings baked in a wood fired oven all add up to a spot-on pie. I would come back just for the pizza. We got one with mushrooms, salami, and fresh mozzarella. You can always tell when they use real mozzarella vs. the pre-shredded stuff. Nothing against the latter - we're usually first in line at Lorenzo's at the end of the night - but the fresh stuff is just SO much better. Great crunch on the dough, which held up to the toppings, and just the right amount of chewiness. Super.

wood oven pizza with fresh mozzarella, shrooms & salami
The burger was the real star of the show for me though. Kennett is making their ground beef mix with bone marrow. Seriously. Bone marrow. That's such a ridiculous idea, I can't believe someone didn't think of it before. If you've never had marrow, it's one of the richest, tastiest, and most decadent things you'll ever eat. Just a little spread on a piece of toasted baguette, and you'll forever be spoiled. You'll feel sorry for vegetarians. Mixing it into the burger was a stroke of genius. It makes a good burger great. The patty, cooked on a flat top, achieving just the right texture and consistency. See that caramalization sear on the burger? That's good stuff. These guys know what they're doing. Topped off with some pickled red onion (god bless the pickling movement) and crisp lettuce, I'd have to put this one in the upper echelon of burgers in the city. The sides were good, but a bit of a let down with such a serious burger. Cucumber salad and potato salad were both ok, but not memorable - I forgot they were even on the plate till I looked at the pictures.
Kennett burger with pickled red onion, cucumber & potato salads
Kennett's vibe - like so many others in the city - is locally sourced ingredients wherever possible. If that seems like the trendiest thing possible, it's because it is. But it's a great bandwagon to be on. Remember when Chilean Sea Bass was on every menu in the city? I'll eat organic if I can get it (and afford it), but eating local is way more important to me. As menus change with the seasons, you see yourself getting more in touch with the natural rhythms of food. It's not normal to be eating tomatoes and peaches in Philadelphia in February. You better learn how to appreciate parsnips and turnips if you'll be spending your winters 'round here. Kennett is helping to spread the notion of eating what is fresh and hasn't been shipped from California or South America. They are also making really good food that is worth checking out. If you live anywhere nearby, they are located on on Second street just a couple blocks south of Washington Ave, you owe it to yourself and the ones you love to make a little trek over there. You'll be returning often.

Food Baby Rating - It's a boy!

848 South 2nd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147

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