The Story of Burger.org, or How To Fail at Business Without Really Trying
Burger.org is the name of a business destined to fail. It's too kitchy and too evocative of countless early '90s start-ups that also failed. It has the most unGoogleable name of any restaurant in the city. Its name is tellingly based on the domain for nonprofit companies. It can't register its name as a domain because it's not a nonprofit. And its name wasn't Burger.org until after it spent the majority of its advertising budget calling itself "O Burger," only to change it weeks before opening.
Being next to a bar which has an enormous sign saying "Best Burger in Philadelphia" isn't working out for them, either.
Burger.org looks like Bobby's Burger Palace minus the customers. It has the same McDonald's Playground color scheme as Bobby's or PYT, but instead of offering booze, which makes life more fun, they've made everything organic and healthy, which makes nothing more fun. Much like the aforementioned Bobby's, or a closer comparison in 500 Degrees, you can more or less build your own burger from a limited selection of toppings, sides and drinks. The restaurant is a combination of designs targeted at youth, with an organic premise targeted at adults, all in an outfit staffed by teenagers. Teenagers! I didn't know they made those anymore. Like I said, it's going to fail.
Did I mention it's on South Street? Across the street from Lorenzo's? 18 months, tops.
The Burger: Burger.org presents a build-your-own-burger setup, with the basic patty running $5.99 and all toppings extra. I opted for the organic burger on the organic wheat bun with cheddar, and Laurence picked the over-easy egg and cheddar. None of the toppings offered are bacon, because they want to make sure you're healthy while eating 5 oz. of cheese-coated beef and saturated french fries. Remember kids, "organic" means it's good for you.
Kyle: I was unhappy with my burger before I even saw it. Looking at the sandwich of the only other customer in the joint, it looked small and almost artificial, color-saturated like the McDonald's adverts that the restaurant so clearly is trying to lure people away from. It looks nice, in the way an Andrew Wyeth painting is nice: stark, boring, and in no way representative of reality.
Every burger at Burger.org comes with your choice of sauce. But they don't come with my choice of sauce, apparently, because my heavily browned patty was missing the chipotle I requested. The beef was both overcooked to well-done and somehow still watery. What the burger lacked in preparation, it made up for by not having any flavor whatsoever. Burger.org's patty tastes like someone took ground beef, shaped it, and threw it on a grill without adding a thing. Your friend who dons the chef apron once a year for the Fourth makes this same burger, and insists its awesome. You know better.
Much like that burger-making friend who beams with pride when he hands you something that could pass for a charcoal brick, the toppings Burger.org gives you are equally bland. The cheddar was so mild I only knew it was on there from texture, and the organic lettuce and tomato tasted like more water. Fortunately, the pickles had some of the most prominent flavors on the sandwich, leading me to believe they came out of a jar. Likewise, the grilled onions were also tasty.
Oh, no, wait. They weren't. They forgot to add those too.
Even the fries, one of the hardest things to screw up, were screwed up. Heavily salted, peppered, and coated with liberal amounts of truffle oil, they were nevertheless soggy, mushy and greasy, turning the wax paper translucent. And they were still the best part of the meal.
The only true positive to the meal was the bun, a semisweet wheat that was soft, fresh and hearty, far above the average in the city and a nice change from the typical brioche we see every week.
Is everything at Burger.org fresh? Sure. Is it organic? I'll assume so. But as much as the hippies and undergrads out there will insist otherwise, organic doesn't mean good. Nature doesn't taste as good as science. It seems like the restaurant wants to offer an all-natural alternative to fast food burgers so health-conscious parents can satiate their kids. It's a healthier option over other fast-food burgers, it's still not healthy. Because, you know, you're eating a goddamn hamburger. If diet is your main concern while chomping on a burger, you've made some mistakes in your life.
If you want to get your "Eat All The Burgers" Achievement Points before its inevitable closure, by all means visit Burger.org and be underwhelmed. Beyond that, there's no reason to go. Rating: 4/10.
Laurence: Aside from the terrible name I like what Burger.org has going on. It is a bit like what Sketch Burger would be if it catered to the Rittenhouse crowd. I know that sounds like an insult but it is not meant to be. Mabe it is. Sometimes I don't even know anymore.
To put it in better light, Burger.org is what Bobby's Burger Palace would be if the food were better and were not decorated with sterile, colored plastic. Sure it may be just because it has a newly completed interior that the South Street burger-only restaurant seems clean and friendly, but at least for now it is quite pleasant. I further find I hard to argue with the “keep it local and sane” philosophy by which the food is being sourced.
As for the actual quality of the food I couldn't have been happier. Everything seemed fresh though lacking some care in the kitched (more on this soon). The ingredients also tasted genuinely wholesome, which is strikingly out of place on South Street. Now strangely fresh and wholesome doesn't necessarily translate into flavorful. So while I was very happy with the ingredients overall the burger did not offer the taste explosion and mouthwatering savory character that would be required for it to reach the burger apex of Philadelphia. Basically everything could have benefited from a wad of butter and maybe a bit more salt. The meat was extremely lean which is somewhat to be expected when dealing with grass fed beef. It seemed that no one had actually accounted for this, leaving a good patty that was unsatisfyingly spiced.
I topped my burger with an over easy egg, cheddar cheese, and the almost mandatory grilled onions.
The grilled onions added some of the most prominent flavor on the burger, while the egg added very little since it was overcooked and lacking the runny yolk one hopes for.
The bun I received was listed as the organic bun, which I attempted to skip instead going for a brioche. Sadly, as with many of the things we asked for, that part of my order was ignored. I wasn't totally unhappy with the wholesome wheat bun but it was drier than I hoped the brioche would have been and considering the burger itself was suffering a lack of moisture it wasn't the best combination.
Probably my favorite part of the meal was the milkshake I ordered before Kyle arrived. A good milkshake isn't always easy to find. This one was make with the bare essentials and was fatty, sweet and delicious. I have a keen ability to detect artificial flavorings and this didn't raise any of the usual flags. It also didn't last long at the table.
Overall I was happy with the food at Burger.org even though I wasn't thrilled with the flavors. The fact that I didn't leave feeling like a bloated whale won some points for the resturant even though it lost points elsewhere (like for flavor and careful preparation). I reluctantly have to agree with Kyle that I think the chances of the independently owned fast food joint staying open are slim. Personally I'd be willing to give the experience another go around simply because I think Burger.org has great potential and I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt on opening week. Whether anyone else will give an above average burger with below average flavor another chance remains to be determined. Given the city's history, I'd guess the answer is no. Rating 5/10.
If a burger joint tells you it can change and that it just made a mistake you probably shouldn't listen. And no I don't have a black eye I just fell while eating a burger.