Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Burger Challenge Round 10: Hickory Lane

Round 10 takes us to the new Hickory Lane in the suddenly bustling restaurant scene of the Fairmount/Art Museum neighborhood. Chef/owner Matt Zagorski is the mad scientist behind the burger that put Rouge on the map. One of the most awe inspiring creations between two buns - officially kicking off a ground beef renaissance in the city. He's broken out on his own now, bringing that incredible burger legacy with him, and an impressive accompanying menu to boot. 

Interestingly enough, we stopped in at Rouge on a Sunday afternoon a few weeks back for the Challenge, and they are clearly missing Chef's magic burger touch. A stale role fell to bits. A burger ordered medium rare was delivered well done. They might have started the burger trend in Philadelphia, but they've clearly lost their way. Kind of like watching the 2012 Phillies - probably best to give it up and re-tool for next season.
chilled melon soup with fresh mint
Hickory Lane is much more than a burger joint. In fact the burger is listed way down on the menu, almost like they don't want you to find it. There are plenty of other equally tasty items to choose from. On this particular 97° day, a chilled melon soup with fresh mint leaves was the perfect starter. 
steamed mussels 
A steaming plate of mussels was both beautifully presented and brightly flavored. Steamed in a bath of white wine, rosemary, fennel & garlic, the mussels are tender and luscious, with just a hint of the salty ocean waves. Slices of toasted baguette rest atop, waiting to be dunked into that exquisite broth. It's the next best thing to actually being on the coast of southern France. 

day boat sea scallops
Enormous scallops sit atop a bed of duck confit, red grapes (sounds odd, but strangely appealing), sliced apple, shallot confit and foi gras butter. This is more French than Pepe-Le-Pew in a beret drinking champagne. Incredibly soft scallops, scooped up with bits of the robustly smokey duck and richly flavored butter is a fork full of everything-that-is-bad-for-you-is-delicious. Trรจs bien.   

bacon braised brussels sprouts
The only disappointment of the night were the brussels spouts. The menu description reads that they are braised in bacon. Our serving seem to have been blanched and then tossed with some chopped rashers. Brussels sprouts really need that salt and texture of crunchy bacon. The rashers tasted more like christmas ham, and the sprouts were just soggy. Bummer. 

hickory burger
The burger. Gorgeous. Simple. Unnecessarily large. Beautiful rounded challah roll on top like a bowler hat.  A 10oz MPZ beef grind*, aged cheddar melting lovingly down the side, garlic aioli, tomato, crisp bibb lettuce, a pickle spear & pommes frites. The burger glistens with fat like Prop Joe on a hot summer day, the juices kept inside by a crazy hot sear in a cast iron pan. The custom blended patty was one of the best we've had. Far superior to anything at Rouge. The roll held up to the heft of the burger, and the toppings were there only to enhance, not make up for any lack of flavor. That aged cheddar offering a slightly smokey and sharp contrast to the wonderfully sweet and savory beef. One of the top five burgers in the city. No debate. 

*Mark Phillip Zagurski - a blend of brisket, filet tips, and marbled deckle (a cut that lies on top of the beef ribs, looking like a cross between flank & skirt steak). 

bathroom vanity lights...creepy
Fat and happy after our burgers, all four of us with a proper food baby working. To a man (and woman) we all declared that we wanted to revisit Hickory Lane for a proper meal. This is not just a burger joint. It's a cozy neighborhood BYO. But it's more than that too. There's a feeling of sophistication in the room. Urbane service. An American/French bistro kind of place with a menu that is refined but built on classic pairings. This could quickly turn into a destination restaurant. Brunch with the parents. A graduation lunch. Anniversary dinner. Just leave that burger on the menu.

Food Baby Rating: Triplets! 

Hickory Lane
2025 Fairmount Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19130

1 comment:

  1. Hey you should check out Sketch burger on Girard. Pretty banging if you ask me. You didn't ask? Very well then...