Faulty Fontina at 1518 Bar and Grill
Editor's note: The misleading menu described in the following article has since been redesigned. With that exception, the material remains acurate.
Other, more handsome editor's note: We ate at 1518 Bar and Grill on October 19, 2011. That it took this long to publish our thoughts tells all you need to know.
The thing that first caught our attention about 1518 Bar and Grill was the menu. It was a wonderfully designed menu. It evoked tones of class and sophistication, especially the font. The menu was so nice that around its lovely design an image formed in my head of the interior, the tables, the chairs, the music. Like a seed planted in my mind this menu sprouted an entire eating experience completed by the flowering blossoms of burgers, abundant, fresh, and delicious.
I believe this is why people pay designers for logos and brochures. And I assume this is the kind of tale every designer will dream to be source of some day. This is design power. Design power is a brilliant thing when used for good. But let's be honest, when has a power ever been used for good by a human not in a movie? Instead, design power is used by oppressive governments and fast food establishments to convince the people of the world that "it really is better that we burned those books" and "the most delicious thing you'll ever taste is a chip covered in taco seasoning."
When 1518 opened it did so to approximately zero fanfare. Located on the same block as Nodding Head, 500 Degrees, Ladder 15, Oyster House, and a few other burger-serving establishments it's easy to pass it by. But should you? Who am I kidding trying to pretend you don't know the answer to that.
The Burger: 1518's house-named burger comes topped with caramelized onions, mushrooms, provolone, and what promised to be a tasty nuance, black peppercorn mayonnaise. Fries are server on the side along with a poster of a handsome young man and woman flanked by gleaming buildings of prosperity in the semi-transparent shadow of marching soldiers.
Laurence: So I'll be the first to admit that we were tricked. It was a trap. The menu really did a great job of conveying the sense of an elegant restaurant, it's just that it was the wrong location mentioned at the top. Nothing about 1518 had a touch of any real class. From the TVs blasting sports, to plastic tables, to boring, generic art hanging on a walls of single-coat painted drywall, nothing about the interior felt like class. To be clear, there's nothing wrong with this in principal. We've loved some simple places. But this place had as much character as vanilla soft-serve in a strip-mall Friendly’s and what really got to me was the disappointment. I can live with the location but not the build-up.
The burger, however, was not something I could live with. The attitude we received upon ordering was that cooking temperature is something of a novelty that "other restaurants seem to ask so we will also." The attitude ended about where you might expect; with an overcooked tough meat wad. This is probably the best outcome regardless because the meat was of questionable quality. It had tough gristle surprises evenly distributed throughout which made each bite feel a little like turning a corner in a thriller movie, that is to say each bit made me urinate a little bit. The best I can say is that at least the gristle was evenly distributed.
The promising black peppercorn mayonnaise may have been delightful but was totally overwhelmed by the mushrooms. Normally I quite enjoy mushrooms, and even these I might have enjoyed if not on a burger. These were cut far too thickly to behave well. Fat and slippery they could not possibly serve the role of a topping, instead acting as sandwich landmines. A wrong bite and the burger's integrity literally exploded. They had flavor but that didn't account for the anger they produced as a byproduct of their terrible proportions.
My final thought was that the burger wasn't as bad as the let-down but it was still pretty bad. Rating: 4/10.
Kyle: When we first tried to come to 1518 Bar & Grill, we ended up at Blue Bear Tavern. Having experienced neither, there was no real sense of loss or disappointment there. Weeks later, when we tried to grab dinner at Village Whiskey, we ended up at 1518 Bar and Grill. The sense of loss and disappointment here can only be properly expressed a troupe of professional Italian mourners crying over the death of Sinatra. And that's best-case scenario. The experience of actually eating at 1518 Bar and Grill is closer to being in the hospital room watching Frankie die. If Frankie was your grandfather. And you were responsible for his death. And you're also naked in front of the entire high school auditorium.
How bad could it be? While very slowly picking apart our meals, Laurence looked at me, tears welled in his brown little eyes, and said, “Are we burnt out on this? Should we quit?” I let whatever food I was chewing drop from my mouth, said “Yes,” and pushed my plate away. Then we didn't eat a burger for six months. That's how bad.
Here's the Internet-bait bulleted list:
I asked for no mushrooms, so they added mushrooms. A lot of mushrooms. Maybe I shouldn't hold this against them, but maybe you should stop reading food blogs at work. The mushrooms were sickeningly slimy and spongy, and the musky flavor seeped into the bun to the point where I couldn't ignore it.
1518 jumped on the predictable brioche bandwagon and tipped the wagon over, at which point it fell into Mount Doom. This bread was brioche only in that overwhelming amounts of sugar were added to try and distract from the starchy and very dry roll. Saltines have more moisture.
The fries were lukewarm and wet. Not greasy wet. Water wet. I'm still trying to figure that one out.
Allegedly the burger includes sharp provolone, caramelized onions and black peppercorn. All I saw was Elmer's Glue. Shit can't even get you high.
Everything above would be bad in its own right, enough to easily relegate 1518 Bar & Grill to the vast morass of restaurants you'd never think about long enough to forget it exists. Lucky for us, the one thing the head chef didn't forget to do was add the single worst piece of meat in the lower 48. The burger was overcooked, with a black char coating the exterior. The burger was undercooked, not only pink and clammy but actually cold in the center. Every bite was met with gristle, water and what I can only describe as Nickelodeon Ooze. The meat wasn't ground, but rather cobbled together from what I believe were stray dogs, breaking into distinct and dissimilar chunks, each with their own circulatory systems and strains of salmonella. The only parts that weren't raw were so gummy as to be indigestible. It didn't taste swell, either.
There was some nice mint happening. I think it was toothpaste.
Was this experience representative of what 1518 Bar & Grill offers? I sincerely do not care. It wasn't only the worst burger I've ever had, it was the worst meal I've sort of eaten in recent memory. We rank things on a scale of 1 to 10, but I think this should be a 0. Laurence, can I give this a 0? Whatever, I don't even care. Take the score it gets and divide that by 0.
1518 Bar & Grill has the worst burger in Philadelphia. I'm going to phrase that a few different ways, so that if someone is trying to Google this it'll come up: What is the worst burger in Philadelphia? 1518 Bar & Grill's burger. The worst burger in Philly is at 1518 Bar & Grill. What is the opposite of the best burger in Philadelphia? 1518 Bar & Grill. 1518 Bar & Grill has the worst burger in Philadelphia County in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 1518 Bar & Grill teine le peor hamburguesa en Philadelphia. The burger at 1518 Bar & Grill killed Jesus Christ. That should cover it. Rating: 1/10.
If you like design and not burgers eat at 1518 Bar and Grill. Wait no, don't do that. If you like design and not burgers look at the menu for 1518 Bar and Grill and get some Chinese take-out.