La vie en Rouge

Burger Breakdown

Rouge - Map It!
Caramelized onions and gruyere. Lettuce, tomato and a pickle on the side.
Included. Basket of crispy, thin-cut fries.

Can eating a burger ever be sexy? I'd have said no but that was before I visited Rouge. We felt it was necessary to visit the upscale bistro/lounge on Rittenhouse square because a few years back some other rinky-dink source voted the burger at Rouge to be Philadelphia's best burger. But like good Americans we weren't about to believe anything written by some college-educated commie-journalists. No sir, we had to see for ourselves.

Rouge is dim and candlelit with fabric-draped walls and orchids adorning the white marble bar. It's a sleek affair and for some reason reminds me of Monica Bellucci's dress in The Matrix Reloaded. In short it may be the sexiest venue ever to cook 12 oz. of cheese covered beef.

The Burger: The rouge burger is the the hard drinking stepfather of the burger at 500° (owned by the same husband and wife team). That is to say, it's big, serious, and will put you in you place if you don't give it enough respect. It's a single patty weighing in an uncomfortable 3/4 pound, then covered in gruyère cheese, caramelized onions, lettuce and tomato, and placed lovingly on a butter browned challah roll. Fries are included but we'd be surprised if you have room.

Photo of the Rouge Burger

Laurence: As a well documented pessimist, I thought I'd try to break rank and start with the positive. This burger is huge and amazing. The bread alone may be worth the price of admission. The meat is tender, juicy and lightly but noticeably seasoned. A burger should never leave the plate clean when you cut it. The Rouge burger created a saturated fat river when I sliced it in half. I nearly cried. Joy!

You may be wondering where the pessimism comes in. Usually it's after the honeymoon but in this case it was about a third of the way through the meal. Kyle will probably attack me for saying so but this burger is actually too big. I came hungry and still could hardly finish my meal. Now that's not in itself a huge problem (I'd rather have too much food than too little), but when I'm eating a burger I'm looking for the blend of flavors and with this much meat, there isn't much blend. The ingredients are damn fine but I think the ratio needs to be re-examined. Plus eating a burger that large doesn't really lend itself to an evening of continued romance. More like a night of unfastening the belt and falling asleep on the sofa. Score: 6/10.

Burger and Fries at Rouge

Kyle: With the amazingly fresh and buttery challah roll soaked in blood and grease, crushed flat under the girth of the meat, I had my first moment of hesitation since Burgerdelphia's birth. It wasn't the quality that scared me; with over a decade of being considered one of the best burgers in Philadelphia, Rouge's pedigree is unquestionable. What gave me pause was the sheer scope of the burger; it is obscenely large in the way that Jerry Springer guests are obscene and large. And the last time I ate one of those was a bad decision.

Much like the burgers at 500º, what you get at Rouge is a spartan experience: just beef and basic toppings. The problem is this spartan experience costs you $11 more. Unsurprisingly, the overall quality at Rouge surpasses what you'll find at its sister storefront, and all of the burger components here are just slightly better—the ingredients at both restaurants are sourced from the same places, but there's a level of care at Rouge that surpasses what you'll find at the fast food equivalent.  It seems unfair that we went to the newer restaurant first, as what Rouge offers is certainly a higher-quality product, but we've already had this recipe before and its hard to sell people on the same product twice. Unless you're Nickelback.

Make no mistake, Rouge's burger is excellent and certainly worth the price, if you make enough money that you don't need to create a Web site in an attempt to turn your expensive burger habit into a tax write-off. But before you go, consider this: you can go to 500º, get two burgers of nearly identical quality and flavor, as well as truffle fries (which, truth be told, I thought were absolutely superior to Rogue's), and still have $1.50 to put toward your gastric bypass fund. Or toward my gastric bypass fund. Which reminds me, please visit my new site, Score: 7/10.


If your wallet needs to lose some weight but you don't, check out the burger. But since you live in Philly and neither of those statements are true, pass on this one for 500º.

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