Choking the Bishop's Collar

Burger Breakdown

The Bishop's Collar - Map It!
When you can have anything you want, you don't want anything. How very zen.
Store bought and burnt, the only thing you'll pay for these fries is a little piece of your happiness.

In repentance for the excesses of December, we decided to start the new year off with the thought of keeping costs down. I'm sure we're not the only ones with this idea. So where do you turn when you want a decent burger on the cheap?

The Bishop's Collar, the popular Fairmount corner bar with packed outdoor seating in the warmer months always makes me wonder if anyone has a job in that neighborhood. Inside, the bar area is an open space, with thirsty folks clamoring for a drink but in a generally civil manner. Toward the rear a few tables are clustered against the walls. It's a fairly nondescript location with little decoration to set it apart from most other neighborhood bars. The food, the service and the drink list is no frills. And with a burger notorious for being a good deal, we figured it was the perfect place to grab our meal and a lager and escape for $10.

The Burger: Really no frills... the menu reads “Beef Burger.” The key to this burger is the fact that it comes with any toppings. Yes, any combination of toppings that they have, you can ask for on your burger without affecting the price. It would seem a solid win.

Burger at The Bishop's Collar

Laurence: Before I get into anything else, I have to start with the fact that the price of this burger has increased a solid 50%. Now standing at $9, heading to Bishop's Collar has lost the great appeal of being a deal. That's a big strike.

A few weeks back I mentioned that the bar has been constantly rising in the Philadelphia burger scene. I don't think they got the message here at Bishop's Collar. If anything, this meal was significantly worse than I remember it.

I have a friend who lives in Japan and speaks English well but is by no means a native speaker. Being somewhat proper, he won't speak a bad word about anyone. If you press him to comment on a rival businessman's talent, he will begin to compliment some menial skill that his rival has. For example:

“What do you think of Tekashi?”

"He used to deliver Chinese food in Tokyo. Best delivery man. Food always come fast. So hot, like right from kitchen.”

I was always amused by this.

I digress though. I was discussing the burger at Bishop's Collar.

The burger at Bishop's Collar comes with a phenomenal pickle. It's wonderfully crispy and delights the taste buds with a combination of salty brine and sour. The crispness of the pickle is truly remarkable. It is near cucumber-firm and astoundingly fresh.

It provides a nice contrast from the meal, which alternates in flavors between burned and the occasional flavor of one of your topping choices. But really this is a tangent and we should get back to the matter at hand, which is the pickle.

The pickle has a certain bite that is really quite unusual for a pickle of any sort but really stands out in Philadelphia, which is not a town known for it's vegetables. The spices seem to bounce between black pepper with maybe a hint of hot red pepper. This is complemented by a garlic after-tone that takes over toward the rear of the palette. It's a juicy pickle but not too juicy and stands up well to the dry, cardboard-like taste and texture provided by the bacon and bun.

The texture of the pickle is also worth noting. A cool vegetable smoothness, with a firm thick skin and your standard cucumber bumps, it does delight the tongue with nuance and flavor-filled nooks. The quarter-cut also provides a delicate but balanced helping of the seeds and seed pod without really getting lost. This taste and texture is so delicate I was afraid it would get lost to that of the meat, but Bishop's Collar's newly upgraded price is really justified here as well. The meat, while slightly moist, really only has a flavor of char which is quickly overwhelmed by the more important pickle.

I can't really recommend this pickle more highly but I must admit the $9 price tag is a tad high and you might just as well head over to the nearby Whole Foods which sells pickles, all local and fresh, in bulk jars at a significantly discounted price. Rating: 4/10.

Burger at The Bishop's Collar

Kyle: Next to a beef patty made from ground baby Jesus meat, getting a burger, fries and a beer for $10 is the closest we have to a holy grail around these parts. Back in 2006 Laurence found the grail at The Bishop's Collar, and while it wasn't the best food in the world, it was Hamilton with the tip included, which at the time was all the money we could scrape together in a week. We were doing poverty back before the recession made it cool.

Four years and hundreds of dollars in excessive eating later, we returned to the Bishop's Collar to see if it still had a good package under the robes. The bar got off to a superb start, featuring the heavenly Southern Tier Imperial Choklat on tap. With it's rich dark chocolate taste, heavy body and 11% ABV, the stout was absolutely necessary to dull the upcoming pain. Like most religious authority figures we trusted in our childhood, Bishop's Collar proceeded to fuck us.

Years ago, their burger was $6. Their site has it listed as $7. Your bill has it listed as $9, meaning unless we split an Iron City Light, the grail was out of reach. The price certainly is not unreasonable; we've spent more on a burger, and this one comes with unlimited toppings. Thing is, unlimited works both ways: unlimited toppings, like unlimited sex, sounds awesome, until you realize each topping is like another night in the confessional with Father O'Rapey. The toppings at Bishop's Collar are a trap, because each additional one makes the meal worse. My brie was tough and plastic-like with the barest brie flavor, lacking any savory aspects. And it was still better than the onions, which were a bit slimy and tasted like nothing so much as Schuylkill water. And then there was the bacon.

I love bacon. Like, really love bacon, in the finding-yourself-inadvertantly-defending-beastiality fashion. When people use the "pizza is like sex, even when it's bad it's good" argument, I usually respond that they've never had pizza or sex from me. But for bacon, I've always thought it was true, and never in my life did I find a slice I didn't like until we went to Bishop's Collar. This pig is burnt beyond all recognition, to the point that in the dim bar lighting, I though they accientally put a fried chicken strip on my sandwich. Placing my bun on top, the paper-thin bacon cracked, shedding fractured pork crumbles across my plate. Each bite was met with a pronounced crack, and like Cain upon being exiled from Eden, each morsel turned to ash in my mouth. There was no flavor at all saved for the burnt taste of having your innocence destroyed. Bishop's Collar has proven that bacon can be bad, and if bacon can be bad, then God is not all good. It's the most practical testing of Epicurus' dilemma I've ever seen. Way to disprove the existence of God, bishop.

None of this topping-bashing means to imply that the burger itself is good by comparison. It's not. In further defiance of the natural order, they somehow managed to make my burger a pink medium while blackening the outside and completely drying the thing out. The beef tasted unseasoned and was shriveled and tough, with more gristle than I've had in all the burgers this year combined. The only instance in the entire meal where something came together was when the sound of the beef crunching matched the bacon. Not helping matters was the tasteless, dry, bleached Shop Rite kaiser roll, which would have sucked all the moisture from my mouth if the patty hadn't already done so. In looking for something positive to say, I should note that the lettuce and tomato were fresh. The best parts of the meal where the ones the cook had the least control over.

Even if you could get a beer, this burger and their overly salted, burnt shoestring fries for $10, I wouldn't recommend it. There's nothing good about it. The only reason to order the burger at Bishop's Collar is if you are having a serious conflict of faith because we need more atheists. Rating: 3/10.


The pickle's pretty good.

Your rating: None Average: 6 (1 vote)