Good Dog: The Burger That Loves Ya Back

Burger Breakdown

Good Dog - Map It!
$11.00
Melted Roquefort inside, caramelized onions outside, and dripping disdain everywhere.
A mount of fresh-cut french fries and sweet potato fries sit in judgment of you.
5.5/10

A few weeks ago, our reader (yes, we have one) John asked why we had yet to review one of the most popular burgers in the city, the Good Dog burger. "The burger at Good Dog is my personal favorite," he wrote. "It's topped with caramelized onions and stuffed with Roquefort cheese. Stuffed. Roquefort." Shortly after, he descended into a gibbering madness, as befalls many who sit in quiet contemplation of stinky blue cheese. But it was a good question, and one deserving of an answer.

Good Dog, along with Monk's and Nodding Head, is one of the few places in Center City that has a douche saturation level below 50%, making it one of the only places in the area I frequent. It also has the distinction of being the only "cool" bar in the area for people who don't think being "cool" is "cool," and for people who like putting "cool" in quotation marks. So it's filled with assholes, but the breed of assholes I belong to, so it's cool.

I've been to Good Dog dozens of times, and both it and its burger hold a special place in my heart. When Sweet V and I first started dating, back in the pre-Burgerdelphia days, we found ourselves having dinner at Good Dog one New Year's eve. I remember the night well, as it was the slowest I've ever seen it: the normally shoulder-to-shoulder bar was empty, and only one other booth had customers. As the Pixies played over the radio, I took a bite into the Good Dog burger, melted Roquefort gushing everywhere, and noticed she was looking at me with full attention. As I gazed into her beautiful blue eyes and wondered what she was thinking, her lips cracked into an innocent smile, and she said, "Your burger jizzed all over you."

That's when I knew she was the one.

The Burger: As mentioned, the Good Dog burger has its 8 oz. sirloin body hollowed out and filled with Roquefort, topped with caramelized onions and a brioche bun. When you bite into it, it will be very happy to see you.

Good Dog Burger

Kyle: What's there to say about the Good Dog burger? For years it's been heralded as one of the finest burgers you can eat, and has remained a staple in Philadelphia top burger lists. If you haven't had it yet, you are in all likelihood a vegetarian or dead.

Good Dog presents a glistening ovoid wad of meat, crowned with golden caramelized onions and buttered brioche bun, which is toasted to a nice, golden brown. Served alongside the sandwich are Good Dog's signature golden yukon and sweet potato fries, which are also, um, golden. But a different kind of golden. The adjective region of my brain still hurts from Brewer's Plate.

Good Dog specializes in a kind of low-brow cuisine, where people in shitty punk T-shirts cook thoughtful and interesting entrees very well, and the burger is top among its dishes. The ground sirloin is exceptionally tender, although it always seems overcooked because the most rare part, the center, has been replaced with liquified Roquefort. This is the same reason you can't get the burger well done, as the bar doesn't want to be held accountable for any incidental face melting. Despite being closer to medium well, the beef was lean and succulent. Equally good was the brioche, soft and warm and sweet with a buttery flavor and texture. Slippery caramelized onions sweeten the deal further, and their hand-cut mix of sweet potato fries and regular french fries, served with a superb homemade aioli, round out an awesome meal.

All that is great, but the star of the show here is the Roquefort. It's a strong, tart, almost sour cheese, and it really dominates the palette. Personally, I think it makes the burger, but if you don't like blue cheeses then you have something in common with Laurence, and this should terrify you. Your only options are to avoid this burger entirely, or do what Laurence did and attempt to eat around a liquid. Which is weird.

Good Dog makes an amazing burger, one of the best in Philly. The burger gets an 8. See? Rating: 8/10. What follows is not being factored into that rating: if it was, it would get a 1.

I realize it's cool to be a dick to people: my career is predicated on this truth. That said, it's never cool to be a dick to me. Evidentally the fauxrock waitresses at Good Dog didn't get the memo. After giving us a hard time for requesting a table for three people, the woman who sat us proceeded to stop by every two minutes to make sure we weren't lying about the size of our party. Perhaps she can't be held accountable, since she appeared to have some sort of serious respiratory problem or mild tourettes. She was unable to say anything without a heavy sign and involuntary eyeroll.

Another slightly less brusque waitress took our orders with only a moderate amount of annoyance, which was like a refreshing spring rain after dealing with Nell. All was going well, until two hours in we hit an invisible wall where they decide your business is no longer welcome. We were asked if we'd like another drink in the same way you ask kids "Do I sound like I'm joking?" while she handed us the check. Then, as we said goodbye to a friend we ran into, the waitress called Laurence weird.

That last part was warranted.

Working in the service industry is tough. You deal with a lot of creeps and drunks and people who take photos of their food for the Internet. Good Dog is always crowded, and I'm sure it's stressful, and I don't expect anyone to rub my feet while I'm there. That said, I've never been treated worse in a Philadelphia bar or restaurant than I was at Good Dog. If I went back and had the same waitresses, I'd consider not tipping, something I've never done. But I won't be going back.

Good Dog Burger

Laurence: There are a number of ways to alter a burger to make it more interesting and tasty. Most of these fail. One of the reasons I am so fond of burgers in general is that they are fairly simple food. As Kyle described it in our inaugural issue, “meat on bread technology” is not something that requires a sophisticated chef or recipe. And because of this simplicity a burger can be a really good benchmark of a restaurant. If the fundamental structure of the meal is about the same from location to location, then the only way to make some burgers better than others is to work with better ingredients or the subtle blend of flavors in those ingredients. Take some of our favorite burgers from Philadelphia's top 10 burgers, all of which gain their strength from the quality of meat, a few key toppings and attention to detail.

When I heard that Good Dog had stuffed a burger with melted cheese I instantly thought: “gimmick.” I was however assured by many people, including Kyle, that it was fantastic and a definite contender. But I still couldn't help wondering what could really to be gained by stuffing the burger with cheese? Now that I have partaken of the Good Dog Burger I know the answer. Filling a burger fills me with hate and fills my mouth with evil. So basically hate and evil are gained from the recipe. This seems ironic considering the name of the establishment.

My first bite of the Good Dog Burger was similar to an old Calvin and Hobbes strip except far, far worse. Worse because doughnuts are usually cool so the blast of goo that you get when you bite down doesn't have the tactile feel of organs that you get with you bite something that gushes warm sludge. The first bite I took resulted in an eruption of strong cheese that turned the bun to bread pudding. It also felt like I had just bitten the pancreas of a live pig.

Another weird property of stuffing the patty was that it actually made strange fart-type noises as the cheese worked its way out of the meat through bite-mark shaped holes. It would have been a great 5th grade prank had I not been trying to enjoy my dinner.

There's also the a physics problem when dealing with a stuffed beef patty. Kyle has previously noted the danger of creating a monster burger in that it is more difficult to properly cook. How then can we expect a burger made of conflicting substrates to cook evenly? It should be obvious that the melting of the cheese will cause cooling that will hinder burger cooking and thus cause areas of improper cooking levels.

As is always the case, the predictions of sound physics hold true. Inspecting the wreckage on my plate I instantly noticed several areas nearest the cheese core that had hardly been exposed to necessary cooking temperatures while the outer edges were charred in several places. I was happy about the char, less so about the fleshy interior.

The volume of cheese also posed something of a problem. If your were to fill a burger with a similar quantity of cheddar you'd be looking at a block of cheese half the size of a fist. And cheddar is a far less potent flavor that roquefort. The quantity of cheese prevented me from really tasting anything else on the burger including the meat. I guess the good side was that it helped take the bad taste out of my mouth that the dining experience had otherwise left me with. Of course, it replaced the bad taste with another bad taste. This is the same philosophy older brothers have been using for millennia to stop their younger siblings from complaining. The method goes like this:

Younger sibling: “My head hurts.”

Older brother: “Want me to fix it?”

Younger sibling: “Yes.”

The older brother punches the younger sibling.

Younger sibling: “Ow!”

Older brother: “Does your head still hurt?”

The final answer may vary greatly but the point is the same. You attempt to distract the patient from one bad thing by creating something worse.

While the onions and bun were exceptional I was thoroughly unhappy with the rest of the burger, which is supposed to be the good part. In fact, I lost my appetite for the burger. That's hard to do and is close to the worst criticism I can give to a burger. I instead concentrated on my remaining fries which were nice but another mix and match job in that about 2/3 were sweet potato and the remaining were regular potatoes. The regular fries were just good enough that I kept feeling let down by the sweet potato fries on my plate until I just gave up and decided to have beer for desert.

I'm not sure why they say a dog is a man's best friend, clearly this dog bit me. Beer, however, always remains a friend and so it was with beer that I departed Good Dog, never to return. Rating: 3/10.

Verdict: 

Kyle thinks Roquefort is delicious. Laurence has no taste. They both agree that Good Dog has good food and bad employees.

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