National Mechanics: starring Nicholas Cage as Kyle

Burger Breakdown

National Mechanics - Map It!
$9.00
Monterey jack, bacon, lettuce tomato, grilled onion, and hope.
Included are huge, fat steak fries, and if you catch the early crowd, $3 off your burger.
7.0/10

Full disclosure: I've known National Mechanics' owner Paul Brown for six years, and their bartender Evan has been my closest friend for half of my life. We will not allow this to influence our objectivity in this review.

National Mechanics is the greatest bar in the universe. Inhabiting the former bank/church/Revival/Coyote Ugly on 3rd Street, National Mechanics has consumed the hearts of its former inhabitants and gained the power of the Federal Reserve, Vatican, '80s goth club and Old City sluts. Walking in will get you wine, a plenary indulgence and a BJ, and that's just from the church DNA. From science lectures to the most popular quizzo night in the city to having your ass handed to you in Super Street Fighter IV by yours truly every Sunday the bar offers something for everyone. The only downside is that, in offering something for everyone, it has to placate to the neolithic inhabitants of Old City on Friday and Saturday night, so you need to be a little discriminating when deciding to go. And by "a little discriminating," I mean its okay to hate people who are different.

photo of the burger at National Mechanics

The Burger: Focusing on traditional bar fare done right, the National burger is a no-frills event, coming with LTO and your choice of cheese. Head there during happy hour to get 33% off, which sounds a lot more impressive than $3.

banner at national mechanics.Kyle: We put off reviewing National Mechanics for two reason. Firstly, their claim to burger fame is their veggie burger, and we just weren't ready to commit that kind of sacrilege in a church just yet. The other reason is that I'm already there every week, that I've eaten the entire menu several times over, that I know everyone there and that I wasn't sure how to write an unbiased review.

All of that is still true. Fortunately, the last time someone cared about bias on the internet was never. That being said: the National burger at National Mechanics is the best burger in Philadelphia.

If you were to poll my colon, that would certainly be true. Along with the burgers at The Belgian Cafe, the National burger is the one that has most frequently clogged my lower intestine.

When it arrived from the kitchen, the fatty, glistening burger came out a perfect medium and had a molasses-and-clove infused bite, perfectly hitting the combination of sweet and bitter. It's almost steak-like in flavor, unsurprisingly. The meat itself is also of superior quality, with a thick, chewy consistency and deep flavor that lights up the sides of your tongue like a game of Operation. It's a basic pub burger, but it's the e-pit-o-me of pub burger. It makes low brow high quality.

The worst thing at National Mechanics is the weekend crowd. But the worst thing at National Mechanics that you can put in your mouth is the bacon. Thin and crispy, it's flavorful but brittle, and nothing you can't pick up prepackaged at Acme. That being said, National Mechanics has the best bacon in Philadelphia, because every time I write "National Mechanics has the best," Google gives the bar a boost and the bar gives me a shot of apple cinnamon-infused whiskey. I like whiskey.

A ton of toppings are available, and everything was fresh and flavorful. The lettuce and tomatos were crisp and firm, respectively, and the grilled onions were very soft and slightly sweet. Holding it all together was a thick, gooey slice of Monterey jack. Strong and stretchy and pungent, it had all the saltiness you'd hope for without being too over-the-top.

photo of burger and fries at national mechanics.One thing you don't see enough of these days are steak fries. It might be the Monk's effect, but most places in Philadelphia offer exceedingly thin, shoestring fries that, if done poorly, become grease sponges and melt unpleasantly at the touch. Sticking with the pub part of gastropub, National Mechanics' steak fries are thick, hearty and taste like pure starch punching a hypoglycemia sufferer in the face. By themselves, the fries are the perfect bar food: heavy, salty, slightly greasy and able to absorb vast quantities of alcohol in a single bound. I've ordered them solo countless times for this very purpose.

Did I mention that National Mechanics is the best bar in Philadelphia? Because real talk: National Mechanics is the best bar in Philadelphia. It's not the best place for beer, although it has an excellent rotating selection. It's not the best place for food, although everything they have is great and very affordable. It's just the best place to be. Rating: 7/10.

photo of the burger at national mechanics

Laurence: There's nothing bad I can say about national mechanics. In light of this, I conclude this article. Rating 7/10.

. . .

Okay, I can always find something bad to say. National Mechanics has the best Veggie Burger in the city. It's a fact, and sometimes when I am feeling the pain of gluttony brought about by our quest, I will seek out the veggie burger and choose to eat it. I know that you must feel like a child who has just learned that priests masturbate.

While not necessarily a light meal, the veggie burger is certainly lighter than a half pound of beef working you to sleep. For this reason, it is also a lunchtime favorite. Considering the frequency with which I eat at National Mechanics and the fact that we have literally a year's worth of burgers lined up, it's not surprising that I order the meatless wonder often.

You may be wondering what's going on about now because it would seem I've done nothing except complement the food at this temple of booze. And now I come to the punch. How can I take the meat burger seriously at the restaurant that prides itself on a veggie burger? So it was with skeptical taste-buds that I ordered the burger.*

A few minutes later I was greeted with the goods. The smell was amazing. Perhaps the most striking feature of this burger is the spice combination. The first taste was a welcoming zing of black pepper and Worcestershire sauce, that just made the flavors of the beef jump out. While both tastes were very pronounced they work well with each other and with the meat.

Photo of the burger at national mechanics.Meanwhile, we're just getting spoiled with good bread. The bun is the same high calibre, delightful brioche we find in so many other establishments. It's not a knock against National Mechanics to say that the bun is nothing new, rather it speaks to the high quality of food here in Philadelphia.

Recently I was traveling far away from the east coast and was struck by what other places consider good food. A meal that would be considered subpar by Liberty Bell standards was considered par excellence. And I won't even start talking about the burgers. So I guess I finally have one good thing to say about Philadelphia.

The aspect of this meal which really makes it a big winner rather than just a good burger at a great bar, is the happy hour prices. For here, dear reader, you can attain the holy grail. Yes, a burger and a beer for $10. And you won't be disappointed. Between the company, the food, and the drink list National Mechanics is a winner. Rating 7/10.

*This is not for the first time I've eaten this burger but I going for a little something called drama. So step down.

Verdict: 

Yes go. Every day. The food is good and the price is right. Plus you may run into us there. Actually maybe you shouldn't come.

7.0
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