Getting Literal at Pub and Kitchen

Editor's note:
This review refers to a burger that no longer exists and has been replaced with a new review: Pub and Kitchen 2: Electric Boogaloo.

There aren't many places is Philadelphia to get good food late at night. Around 11 the city starts to look barren from a culinary point of view. In this landscape, a restaurant like Pub and Kitchen stands out. Pub and Kitchen has a very old-Philadelphia vibe, with subdued lighting and wood furnishings nearly everywhere. The beer list, like the food menu, is small but well done, with both favorites and strong outliers, all good and all worth trying.

The Burger: No frills here. The burger is a decent sized patty served with homemade bacon and English cheddar on a fluffy golden brown roll with lettuce, tomato and house-pickled onion.

Photo of the burger at Pub and Kitchen

Laurence: This was the best burger I've eaten in a long time, not really because it was actually the best but because it was the end note to one of the longest, hardest days I've had in recent memory. When you're broken down after hours of stress, physically exhausted and your body is starting to eat itself because you haven't been providing it the necessary fuel, there is nothing more debilitating than not being able to find somewhere to have a burger and a beer. If you've had one of those days, you know what I'm talking about.

My meal at Pub and Kitchen was about as gratifying as sex and a lot cheaper. Even in my disheveled state I was able to be somewhat objective about the burger. The main adjective here is fresh. It's not a monster of a meal, but every ingredient is fresh and of high quality. The bun was buttered and grilled, with nice even char lines running across it. It was a little lighter than some of the others we've come across but flavorful, and not overly sweet like the high-fructose infused buns you get at Acme.

The bacon was the aspect I was most excited for as it was homemade. What does homemade bacon taste like? It tastes like something you want to eat right now. The strips were lean and on the thin side but flavor-packed and cooked a bit crispy, which is fine for me as I don't particularly trust pig, but unlike some that doesn't stop me from eating it.

The English cheddar was melted practically into the contours of the burger, which was cooked to order. We've found that many places ask for your temperature choice, then throw it away somewhere between the table and the kitchen, but Pub and Kitchen honored this most holy of contracts.

The lettuce and tomato were bright and crisp, actually adding flavor to the meal rather than just acting as filler vegetable matter. The one real divergence from the usual vegetable front was the onion. It's pickled in-house, leaving it sweet and bright purple. It's only slightly grilled before being added to the burger. It worked well with the meal, because even though the point of grilling is really just to heat it up, the onion didn't have the acidic bite standard onions provide.

If you want this to be the best burger on Earth you'll first need to have a shitty day where you don't eat anything until almost midnight, but if you go under normal circumstances you're still in for a treat. Rating 8/10.

Photo of the burger at Pub and Kitchen

Kyle: With it's picnic tables, benches and unfinished wood accents, Pub and Kitchen provides the rustic, impoverished experience that wealthy graduate students like to pretend they understand. It helps them to truly relate to the plight of their favorite poor ethnic/religious/political minority from American history without having to actually, you know, relate with them. Besides, it's not like the settlers were eating much worse.

The burger at Pub and Kitchen is similar in its austerity, offering only lettuce, tomato, English cheddar, pickled onions and homemade bacon, just like those intrepid pioneers in that book about early American settlers written by that privileged (but obscure!) British novelist who died without ever leaving Leeds and who just happens to be the focus of your thesis. And like those brave pioneers, the bacon and onions are cured and pickled right in the kitchen, making the whole burger authentically American. Except with ingredients historic Americans wouldn't have had access to. Like English cheddar.

Honestly, if they had burgers like this in the American frontier days, England would have put up more of a fight to keep us. The beef on the burger is of top notch and prepared perfectly, slightly charred and crunchy on the outside but extremely soft and chewy on the inside. The paper-thin bacon is potent, with a strong pork flavor and enough salt to dry out the Atlantic. What really stands out, though, are the onions. Pickled using ancient Enochian chants and probably a lot of apple cider vinegar, they may be the sweetest and most tender onions I've ever had, and so savory that I'm salivating at the memory. Their shoestring fries are decent, nothing amazing but are provided en masse. (Insert your favorite Jonathan Swift potato famine joke here. I'm already bored with this angle.)

I like Pub and Kitchen. I like their burger. I would like to go back to sample the rest of their excellent-sounding menu. But more than anything, I like grad students. The world needs more experts in Kipling's relationship with India as seen through a Trotskyian filter. I'm sure that'll cure cancer. Rating: 7/10.