Butcher & Singer 2: Judgment Day
One year ago, Laurence and I came up with the worst idea we've ever had: to find the best burger in Philadelphia. Twelve months and 12 pounds later, we decided to revisit the first restaurant we reviewed, Butcher & Singer, to see how the restaurant (and our tastes) held up.
Our return to Butcher & Singer was filled with the same mistakes as our first foray: the burger wasn't on the menu, we ate too many dinner rolls, drank too many overpriced cocktails (get the Butcher Manhattan, kids) and listened to some Scientologist chick on the radio. In fact, I seemed to recognize the people at the table next to us from last year, and I think our bartender was Lloyd. We may even have had the same charming waitress, or at any rate, I forgot her name like last time. Really doll, you were super.
Of all the burgers we've covered, Butcher & Singer's is the one I've debated the most. I showered it with glowing praise at the time, but with more than 50 burgers of experience since then, I began to doubt my initial assessment. My appreciation for all the nuances has grown tremendously; could the Kyle of the past really give a worthwhile assessment of anything, given no real frame of reference? I knew Past Kyle and he was a total dick.
The Burger: Butcher & Singer still brings a massive 10 oz. filet mignon patty on a house-baked bun, with English cheddar and fried onions for $16. You can get it for $9.95 at lunch, and we considered taking half-days at work in order to do so. If taking off work for four hours to save six bucks seems like a net loss to you, then you've never worked as a writer.
Kyle: As an educated reader, you knew after discussing all the similarities in the introduction that something must be different. Well, dear reader, you're proudly reading at a fifth grade level: this is not the same sandwich we ate a year ago.
The differences are slight, but noticeable, the most significant change being the absence of Russian dressing. This is both a blessing and a curse: without the sharp tang, the flavors of the excellent meat really pop, but at the same time the Russian dressing was a wonderful and (here comes that awful word) unique addition which gave the burger its distinct character. Were I to have this burger without any expectations, the lack of dressing wouldn't matter, but I'd been looking forward to it and the absence was noticeable.
Another change is the bun: it sucks. It sucks the moisture out of the beef, it sucks the saliva out of your mouth and it sucks the life out of this sentence. It was dry, approaching stale, and without any real flavor. Butcher & Singer's burger is usually a lunchtime-only proposition, so it's likely the buns were left over from that afternoon, but four hours shouldn't turn the bread into a mazza.
A final difference in the meal are the french fries, and these were a massive improvement. The dry, slightly overcooked shoestrings last year have been replaced with thicker, saltier fries that retained more moisture but were still crisp. Like our last meal at this Starr joint, you receive an obscene amount of starch on your plate; unlike last year, I actually ate them all.
Everything else is nearly the same. The English cheddar was heavily salted and drizzled all over the supple and buttery onions. The beef itself remains top tier. Retaining perfectly the filet mignon flavor, it is one of the best piles of meat in the city. Expertly ground and incredibly lean, the mild, tender filet taste has incredible savoriness and leaves your tongue moister than teenagers at a Twilight premier, but with more blood.
Was my unqualified praise in our first article justified? No, but Butcher & Singer's burger is still one of the best burgers in Philly. I do think that the version of the burger last year, with the dressing and better bun, was superior, but that's not why I'm taking a point away from the score. I'm doing it to spite Past Kyle for being a pompous know-it-all asshole. What a fucker. Rating: 8/10.
Laurence: There are two things in the world I really like. They are burgers and being right. I also like sex. There are three things in the world I really like...
A year ago when we sat down in Butcher & Singer and timidly asked for a burger I felt I had a good range of knowledge in the burger field. Our quest had not started on the day we started Burgerdelphia but rather, we had been searching for the best burger in Philadelphia for years and only just then had decided to go pro.
The thing is, the game changes when you hit the professional league. No longer is it good enough to find a decent burger at a place I like. The mission is more targeted than that. We're critiquing each flavor and ingredient and we have to pay attention and assess each one.
Under normal circumstances it would have been pretty easy to conclude that Butcher & Singer had one of, if not the best burger in the city. But at the time of our first article I was looking toward the future and in that future I could see how a better burger could be made. A year later I stand by my rating of Butcher & Singer. It's a top notch burger and is one of the only restaurants I've found that gives a full and detailed description about what to expect to see as a result of your preferred temperature. It's a lot of detail to give to a burger and we appreciate it.
You'd think though that given all that attention, they'd be able to remember who ordered medium and who ordered medium well. You'd think wrong. In an all-too-common scenario my burger went to Kyle and his to me. I made out better in the deal as Kyle's glum face made clear. How hard is this problem to solve? It seems as though the fancier the restaurant, the more likely this is to happen because servers are ashamed to ruin the dining experience by asking. But it should be pretty obvious the dining experience is worse if you get the wrong food. Can't we cut the crap?
That gripe aside most of my thoughts from a year ago are still accurate, leaving me with the smug feeling of a job well done and a burger packed belly. Rating: 8/10.
Butcher & Singer still offers one of the best burgers, and only tolerable Starr experiences, in Philadelphia.