Pub and Kitchen 2: Electric Boogaloo

Burger Breakdown

Pub and Kitchen - Map It!
$18.00
Onions. That's it. Just onions.
Included and bountiful like the golden Colorado mountains. Maybe you should add some of them to the burger so you can have some actual toppings.
6.5/10

On the last episode of Pub and Kitchen, we left our heroes Kyle and Laurence arguing over whether grad students "suck worser" or "suck more harder" than the normal population, while simultaneously praising the restaurant for having fantastic bacon and a logo made of things that make vegans cry. They gave the burger a 7.5 and the bar a hearty endorsement. Meanwhile, everyone in town bangs Laura Palmer, Agent Cooper has a dream where Laura tells him what goes into Pat LaFrieda's special burger blends, and the audience wonders how the hell Eraserhead got a TV show.

After having an incredibly successful first act with their well-loved burger, Pub and Kitchen decided to ditch the Windsor in favor of the more awesomely-named Churchill. Like in Twin Peaks, they got rid of everything that made the burger popular, and it its place offered a more splashy, big-name second act of questionable quality (while David Lynch left to create a more splashy, big-name movie of equally questionable quality). See what I did there?

You don't, do you? It's because the second season of Twin Peaks sucks. It's called "foreshadowing." God.

The Burger: The Churchill is a secret 8 oz. blend of LaFrieda dry-aged beef on top of a golden brioche roll, with golden sautéed onions on top. Despite the price tag, no actual gold is included.

Churchill at Pub and Kitchen

Kyle: Pat LaFrieda is not a butcher, he's a dealer, and in the world of illicit meat narcotics, he has some good shit. LaFrieda is known to be very selective about his clients, and when he does agree to work with someone, he promises unique blends in exchange for contractually-obligated secrecy. Getting some LaFrieda beef into your restaurant is enough to turn a business around, and he knows it, charging a premium to his partners, who pass the savings on to you. Except they're the opposite of savings.

While the LaFrieda burger at Continental didn't quite live up to my expectations, the beef in the Churchill was everything I had been led to expect from the New York master. P&K's beef is a blowout, and had all of the juiciness, the aroma, and the soft and airy texture so often ascribed to it. Despite being medium rare and very pink, it wasn't bloody, and retained just enough moisture to not be dry. Between the ethereal texture and sharp tanginess, the Churchill is a completely unique beef experience, and with each bite I fully appreciated how LaFrieda was able to secure his burger cartel.

It's by murdering his competition and turning them into ground beef. Learn to read subtext.

Beyond the beef, there was... well, nothing. Sitting on top of the burger was a pile of sautéed onions that were tender and tasty, but not exceptionally so. The bun was similarly, unremarkably okay. Meanwhile, the excellent cheese, bacon and pickles from Pub and Kitchen were, you know, not there. Like Kyle MacLachlan's career after Showgirls, the Churchill takes once-loved traits and forever loses them in Elizabeth Berkley's epileptic gyrating. If you pause here to question whether I'm implying the bacon and cheese can now be found sandwiched between Elizabeth Berkley's breasts, the answer is yes. It's in Lynch's next movie. She needs the work.

Pub and Kitchen's previous burger, the Windsor, was great because it had top-notch cheese, amazing bacon and flavorful house-made pickles. While the beef was good, it was the low point of the meal, and the Churchill simply inverts this equation. I understand that the point of this meal is to savor the unique aspects of LaFrieda's creation, but the reverence surrounding this confuses me as much as the treatment people give to kobe. Chefs and diners demand austerity in order to experience the flavor of the beef, but austerity is only good if you have crappy things. This meat is not crappy, and if you want to spend $18 on something that's full of crap, I can send you Burgerdelphia's PayPal information.

Make no mistakes about it: the beef is some good shit. The Churchill has some of the best I've ever had in a burger. The sandwich just doesn't have anything else to recommend, especially at this price. If Pub and Kitchen were to take the amazing toppings from their old burger and put them on this, you'd have a contender for the best burger in Philadelphia. As it stands, it's a wash. Rating: 7/10.

 

Churchill burger at Pub and Kitchen

Laurence: A little known fact: Ben Franklin's tomb is lined with dry-aged beef. Though a puritan by upbringing and a religious man to his death, one of Franklin's only fears was that upon his death and entry to heaven, the one thing missing from eternal bliss might be really, really good beef.

Dry-aged beef is richer than normal beef because the drying process causes it to give up much of its water weight. The result is more protein and fat per ounce than your standard meat. It might not be as juicy as it's fresh counterpart, but the best steaks I've had were all dry-aged.

All this brings us back to Pub and Kitchen. We make a point not to revisit a burger until we've eaten everything we can find in the city, and right now the list is full through 2011 (sorry Butcher and Singer, we'll see you again in 2012). But when we heard that Pub and Kitchen was retiring their Windsor burger for the Churchill, we decided it was worth breaking one of our own rules (not the rule about the tranny hookers; we don't break that one).

Since we were dealing with a new animal (the rare dry cow), I decided to ask for the chef's recommendation as to temperature. Medium rare is usually too bloody for my taste, but when I cut into my burger, not a drop of liquid fell to the plate, though it was pink inside. That's the magic of dry aged beef. The texture was wonderful, soft and rich and unlike any other burger I've had; imagine marinating a steak in butter for a week. The outside was seared and spiced.

While the meat was probably the best I've encountered on our quest, I found myself missing the moisture a bit. As a steak dry-aged is fantastic, but with all the additions to a burger, the moisture is a nice counterbalance. The Churchill doesn't have the problem of many additions. This burger focuses almost entirely on the meat, with caramelized onion as the only topping besides the bun. I found myself wanting bacon, desperately. The meal was essentially underwhelming and I wished I could ask to somehow merge the old with the new.

The ingredients are better but there are fewer of them, and with a significant price increase I couldn't help but thinking that maybe a good burger shouldn't be changed without a vote by congress (meaning essentially never). Rating: 6/10.

Verdict: 

While the meat is undeniably delicious, there's not enough going on here to justify the price. In our last review, we recommended going to Pub and Kitchen. Now we don't.

6.5
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