Friday, October 19, 2012

Burger Challenge Round 11 - Standard Tap

The veteran.  The trusted friend. The old standard.  I've been getting burgers at Standard Tap since 2003, back when it was one of only a handful of decent bars in Northern Liberties. Before the Piazza. Before the angled parking on 2nd street. Before Fishtown was a thing. Standard Tap has been doing awesome burgers since before they were a thing. They just about created the market for the gastropub in Philadelphia, serving really good local beers on tap and a menu of substantially excellent food.

With the distraction of new Stephen Starr restaurants opening on Frankford Ave and the merry-go-round of places opening and closing in Bart Blatstein's Piazza at Schmidt's,it's almost easy to overlook the Tap. The little bastion of hipster heaven anchoring the corner of 2nd and Poplar is just pretentious enough to know they do the gastropub concept better than just about anyone, but accessible enough so that no matter how tight your jeans are you never feel out of place.  By this point most of the hipsters have moved north of Girard or south of Passyunk anyway.

But enough social commentary. Let's talk burgers. You can get either the Standard or the Double Standard. Kind of a misnomer, the Double is not two patties but rather a double thick single. Melted jack cheese, lettuce, sautéed onions and mushrooms are the  defacto toppings. A soft and slightly sweet brioche bun keeps it all together and a side of their insanely good shoestring fries fills out the plate.

The beef is delicious. Not quite in the caliber of a Kennett or Royal Tavern patty, but for not having artisanal ground beef trucked in from Manhattan or any marrow mixed in, it's a remarkably good piece of meat. Definitely seems leaner than some of the other contenders we've had. They are relying more on the flavor of the meat than on fat to boost the taste. This helps to keep the burger from becoming a sloppy mess and the bun from disintegrating into the interior of a bread bowl. The roll held up nicely and didn't distract from the experience, which is more than can be said for other challengers. The brioche is just a bit sweet with a lovely golden sheen, the ideal conveyance for said burger.

The toppings is where the Standard burger fell off a bit. The cheese was good but fairly forgettable with no distinct flavors cutting through. The sautéed onions & mushrooms were cooked perfect. You can tell they've been doing this a while. But the pieces of limp iceberg lettuce only served to flatten out the flavor. Why not go for some Boston bibb,or some crisp romaine? I know it's October and it's not exactly in season, but there must be some good lettuce out there. If there isn't, just leave it off.  And the limp lettuce acted like a skating rink for the mites on ice. The mushrooms & onions slipping and sliding all over the place. It make eating the burger an exercise in hand-eye coordination. And I don't want to think about exercise while eating a Double Standard.

Don't get me wrong -this is still a great burger. It is consistently good and always scratches that ground beef itch. You will leave feeling contented and that all is right with the world. And at only $12 for the Standard ($13.75 for the Double) you can afford to have a few extra beers. My father-in-law comes all the way from Newtown just for this burger. Ask him where he wants to go for his birthday, anywhere in the city - Standard Tap for a burger. Where do we take friends from out of the city? Standard Tap for local beers and a burger. I think that says something. These guys have been doing it right for a dozen years now, and they've learned some things along the way. The Standard Burger is that old friend. Always there for you to fall back on - and you never appreciate just how much he means to you. I'm happy to call that burger my friend, and I'm looking forward to many more good times together. <3 you...

Food BabyRating:  Twins!

Standard Tap
901 N. 2nd Street  (Corner of 2nd & Poplar)
Philadelphia, PA 19123
(215) 238-0630

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