No One Ever Lands on Parc Place

Burger Breakdown

Parc - Map It!
$16.00
Grilled onions, raclette cheese, red blood cells.
Salty, crispy shoestring fries that hate America are included.
5.5/10

In 2007, the U.S. government relaxed laws prohibiting the sale and manufacture of absinthe, allowing importers and distillers to bring it to the states. The newly liberated spirit was reintroduced into the American market around the same time as the re-emergence of classic cocktail bars and high-end mixology shops. Naturally, some of these bars have all the subtlety and class you've come to expect from Philadelphia, but places like Southwark, Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. and the dearly departed Apothecary have made inroads into steering drinkers away from the more rapey liquors and toward the good stuff, which has a nice bonus of keeping the kids away because it actually tastes like alcohol. Absinthe became a welcome and popular addition to the booze snob's repertoire.

Never one to see a bandwagon he didn't want to jump on, Stephen Starr opened the French-themed Parc in 2008. While the restaurant offers a variety of both French and American fare, and boasts an admirable cocktail menu (any place that can make a good Sazerac can't be all bad), the sickly green of the logo points squarely at the green fairy for inspiration. Parc wants to be The Absinthe Drinker but ends up looking more like a Smashing Pumpkins video; from the dim lighting to the mosaic floor, everything takes on an impressionist haze, but in the end it's all artificial and simply there to distract you from Billy Corgan's freakish head. [WARNING: CANNOT UNSEE.] I like the aesthetic, but gazing at the tiles and lighting, I couldn't help but think the restaurant looked like a French sewer.

But, you know, a really nice sewer.

The Burger: Parc's cheeseburger, which is French for "cheeseburger," has grilled onions and raclette cheese, with lettuce and tomato on the side along with french fries. You thought I was going to make a French joke about the fries, didn't you? Amateur.

Cheeseburger at Parc

Kyle: Our food at Parc came out in record time. I hadn't made it halfway through my first cocktail when our burgers arrived, and it didn't take us long to find out why. My medium came out rare; Laurence's medium well came out worse. Biting into the beef was like biting a blood capsule, and the red red kroovy literally poured out as my teeth sank in. It's the Gushers equivalent of a burger, except filled with death instead of high fructose corn syrup. Within two bites, the entirety of my bun's lower half was a soggy, disintegrating mess, and my french fries were swimming in a pond of cow blood.

It was awesome.

Our food was not cooked to order, and this is something we have to acknowledge. I should also acknowledge that almost every time I've been somewhere and had an undercooked burger, I've loved it. There are a number of factors that could be responsible for this: it could be a coincidence that the beef at these restaurants happens to be better; it could be that better chefs err on the side of undercooking; and as has been intimated before, I may simply like the taste of blood. No matter the reason, the meat at Parc was excellent. Besides being filled with more blood than Johnny Depp, the most noticeable thing about the burger is its size. It is enormous, and while chowing down, it is one of the only times I considered not finishing my meal. I pushed onward for two reasons: I am not a failure, and the beef was delicious. Fluffy and chewy, juicy and salty, it was of undeniably quality and was in no way sullied by the fact that it only made a 10-second pit stop at the grill between the cow and my plate.

SazeracThere wasn't much to the meal aside from the blood bag, but what was there was good. The shoestring fries were above average, crispy and heavily salted. The grilled onions were extremely sweet, with a satisfying crunch and burst of flavor in each bite, and the other vegetables were sufficient. But the real standout here is the raclette cheese. I don't know what raclette cheese is, but I'm going to assume "raclette" is French for orgasm. Dripping over every corner, it was thick and creamy and salty and other adjectives that lend themselves well to double entendre. Not only was it best cheese I've ever had on a burger, it's among the best I've ever sampled in my life. The only real downside to the meal was the bun, which was bland and dry, except where saturated with blood.

Despite my well-established resentment for Starr, he's once again created a burger I enjoy, and Parc ranks high after Butcher & Singer. This leaves us with an interesting question: Is it possible to like the majority of someone's output while still hating the individual? As anyone who their formative years listening to Billy Corgan's whiny ass, the answer is obvious. At least Starr didn't bang Jessica Simpson. Rating: 8/10.

Cheeseburger at Parc

Laurence: I think it's safe to say that there's nothing subjective about the rating system here at Burgerdelphia. Each number is scientifically generated and we reviewers are mere vessels used to convey the message. If another reviewer were to rate the same burgers, surely he would come to the same conclusions. Longtime readers may then point out that Kyle and I disagree over ratings fairly often. To those readers I would pose the following zen koan: Why is your girlfriend/boyfriend cheating on you?

While you ponder the answer to that question I will discuss Parc and rate it's burger in purely objective terms.

A few months ago I'd eaten my first meal at Parc and was very happy with it. A warm fall night, a bottle of wine and excellent food is about all one can hope from a park-side restaurant pretending to be in Paris. The thought of returning for a burger was weighing on me. I kept thinking about the flavorful nuances with which it was sure to delight me.

At this point I'm sure you know where this story is heading. So let me get to the point. The burger was fantastic. I ate it then went home and was happy. Then I stopped fantasizing and actually went to Parc and ordered the burger.

This was a meal of firsts for me.

The first first: Until my burger arrived at Parc, in my 700 years of eating at Philadelphia restaurants, I had not once sent a meal back to the kitchen.

The second first: I had not ever left a single fry or bite of burger on my plate.

I ordered my sandwich medium-well. Yet when I took my first bite, my mouth was filled with a flavor I'm not used to. The flavor was blood. This thing was bordering on uncooked. The liquid that gushed onto the plate was not fatty drippings of burger grease (which is a good sign), it was the platelet-rich drippings of meat bordering on raw. The color of the inside of the patty was a deep, rich red. Thinking that I must have accidentally received Kyle's medium burger, I happily traded with him. The results were no better. They may have been worse.

So I kindly asked the waiter to return the meal for a second round of fire. I really did ask kindly. It wasn't his fault. It wasn't the cook's fault either. In fact, I don't really place any blame for simple mistakes. Sometimes things get mixed up. No big deal. Just bring me another burger. Please cook it this time. Thanks. I obviously don't have a future in politics.

While I waited and Kyle devoured his meal, I hungrily sipped on beer. I pondered the tastes of the bite I did have. What stood out most was the texture. It wasn't tender or rich, but rather had a strange resistance that I can best describe as rubbery. My assumption was that it was a property of being undercooked. This was not the case.

When the burger returned it was bordering into well done and I was happy for it. But the texture remained nearly unchanged. Each bite felt not so much like eating high-quality meat but did feel like eating a low-quality meat substitute. The flavors, while I'm sure existed, were all back-seated to this overwhelmingly unpleasant texture, which essentially ruined the meal. I was forced to refer to my notes for anything useful to describe the taste. According to text, the cheese was very nice, the tomato was fresh but otherwise uneventful and the onions were not very interesting. While I'm sure there were spices on the meat, I couldn't name one, aside for salt, and that's just a guess.

In the end, I simply had to put the burger down. I had lost my appetite. Well, I finished the fries. They were fine.

It was such an unpleasant experience and a huge letdown, like some other noticeable firsts, that I walked home crying.*

In the end, I still like Parc, and I'd still go back. I'd even still recommend it. But don't get the burger. That's an objective fact. Rating: 3/10.

* Shut up. Real men aren't ashamed to express their feelings about a burger. Don't judge, like you've never cried over a sandwich. Oh, you haven't? Well maybe you should ponder this zen koan: I hate you, what do you think of that?

Verdict: 

Use your judgment on this one. If you like Kyle, you should go. If you like Laurence, you shouldn't. But since you probably hate both of us, you should die in a fire.

5.5
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