Run a Marathon Grill in the Snow

Burger Breakdown

Marathon Grill - Map It!
$11.00
Cheddar cheese, caramelized onion, bacon, BBQ sauce and incentive to leave the restaurant and run home.
Included in a small paper cup. Really? Why bother with the ceramic plate guys?
5.5/10

No one is sure where Marathon Grill got its name. Some believe that eating there will cause you to run the equivalent of a marathon as you travel back and forth from the restroom the following day. Others feel it is part of the ironic humor of Philadelphia hipsters in that no one capable of running a marathon has ever been spotted in a Marathon Grill. We can be fairly certain there are crazy refugee Nazi dentists working the grill. But in the end all we really know is that it has a stupid name and is a totally forgettable dining experience in a city full of otherwise memorable places. So what could draw us to such a restaurant? If you guessed $10 for a B&B special then you know where the cool kids hang out after school. In which case I would really like to know because they never invite me.

The Burger: If you go during a snow storm you get a beer and an 8 oz. burger of sirloin, short rib and chuck topped with vermont cheddar, caramelized onions and applewood smoked bacon. There's a slather of barbecue sauce on top and it's severed on a brioche bun. If it's tolerable outside you just get the burger for $11.

photo of the burger at marathon grill

Laurence: There are many chain restaurants in Philadelphia. I avoid most of them, but for a $10 burger and beer special I'll make an exception. We got the word that Marathon was running the special in the wake of last week's ice storm that brought the city of Philadelphia to it's knees and for once not to suck cock for crack.

I guess the Marathon managers crunched a few numbers and guessed that they should offer something to justify staying open on a night when no one wanted to go out to their restaurant. This begs the question of why they don't offer this special every day of the year. Regardless, if you want a decent priced burger at Marathon you'll have to wait until the next weather disaster.

We walked to the Marathon Grill at 13th and Chestnut only to find that they're a bunch of lying thieves and had closed despite the promise of a tasty sandwich. This left us to walk to the location at Sansom Street while our faces were torn apart by driving shards of ice. This was a strike against the venue but oddly we were so happy to be warm and have food that I think we let them slide on this bit of treachery. Other restaurants should be so lucky.

With a reduced staff and only a few patrons I was sure my medium-well burger would come out burned to hell. But occasionally hell does freeze over and it's a downright pleasant place when this happens. The meat was cooked just to order and was plenty juicy. With my first bite, saturated fat oozed onto the bun and my plate. The flavor of the blended meat was actually very good. It had some of the rich savory flavor of sirloin that I do so love, and the seared exterior had a nice though not special array of spices. This combined with the cheddar was a quite excellent combination, as the cheese had good flavor and a good bite, allowing the cheese to hold it's own as part of the meal.

The bun was a slightly less delicious version of a standard Philadelphia area brioche bun. This could be weather related but then again it could be related to the name of the restaurant. I'll never know because I don't think I'll return until they offer the special again.

Not every part of the meal was as good as the meat and the cheese. The bacon, while fine received the note of "mehh" in my notes meaning that it was meaningless to an existentially honest human, or that I found it unworthy of note. The barbecue sauce could have been left off entirely as it actually distracted me from the otherwise good flavors of the burger. On top of all of this was lettuce that can best be described as “the worst.” I looked at it and removed it to the floor from whence I believe it came. I could give the benefit of the doubt but really why bother, it was old and terrible.

The best part of the meal was eating in relative quiet while watching the snow fall. Snow almost makes Philadelphia seem not to be a shit hole. So I like snow, at least until the next day when Philadelphia looks like a dirty-snow covered shit hole.

The point is, the aspects of the meal I liked best (being quiet, snow, and a reduced price burger special) are the exception to the everyday experience at Marathon Grill, and in a city of gastropubs and microbreweries with excellent burgers this should be low on your list even if the burger is half decent. Also if you eat at Marathon Grill, no matter which of their locations, the next closest shitter will be 26.21875 miles away so plan accordingly. Rating 5/10.

 


photo of burger and fries at marathon grillKyle: Marathon Grill is the TGI Friday's of Philadelphia, which makes the TGI Friday's on the Parkway the Applebees of Philadelphia. The Applebees on 15th is still just the Applebees, because, well, there's nothing more insulting to call it.

As the resident city chain restaurant, I never had any desire to go, even if it is good by franchise standards. In the midsts of last week's ice storm, which on the Ang Lee Scale of Overratedness was between The Ice Storm and The Hulk in terms of how much I hated it, I learned from Lazer Drew that all Marathons were having a snowday special: the magical burger and beer for $10. The only thing more potent than my snobbery is my poverty, so we were off.

It wasn't much to look at. Sloppily put together, everything sat slowly sliding off of a slightly sweet and severely dry brioche that even the sweet, tangy BBQ sauce could not bring back to life. Sitting on top of the burger was the saddest lettuce ever. A waterstained piece of tissue paper with a taste to match, it was easily and fortunately the worst part of the meal. Aside from walking to the restaurant in the middle of a goddamned ice storm.

Bucking the expectations attached to chain dining, the burger patty was decent and seemed to be house-made and cooked correctly. Browned on the outside and pink in the center, it was moist but surprisingly bloodless, meaning it may have been frozen and thawed rather than made at the time of order. The beef was mild and lean, complemented by the thick slice of mild cheddar. The french fries, which are a smaller-than-average portion, were generic but enjoyable. As for the bacon, I completely forgot it existed until I read Laurence's half of this piece, so that's a ringing endorsement.

It isn't often that I make excuses for other people, since I so often need to make excuses for myself. The weather was awful, we arrived late and the waitstaff was anxiously awaiting going home. Despite the fact that everything was amazingly average, I found myself enjoying the meal at Marathon Grill. Partially it may be because I hadn't eaten anything all day, and partially it may be because I got two beers again, making January the only month worth being Laurence's friend. But what I think I most enjoyed was being able to write a review of a one-time-only deal that you'll never be able to get, making this review useless to you. And that's funny to me. Rating: 6/10.

Verdict: 

Is it snowing? Are you broke and being offered a burger with a beer? Do you hate going to more interesting places? If you answered yes to any of these questions then go to Marathon Grill for a burger.

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