Spending Labor Day at Tiananmen Square 1682
Look at any species in any part of the world and you’ll see the same thing. When a population’s food source increases, the population increases; kill the food supply, kill the people. It’s the fundamental principle guiding homeostasis, it’s the Malthusian balancing act behind resource depletion theory, and it’s the reason I don’t give money to homeless people.
You can imagine, then, the moral dilemma I experienced walking to Square 1682 when a bum said to me, “Can I have some money for a cheeseburger?” Although I don’t give anybody money, food or respect, who am I of all people to deny this man the joy of a burger? Ultimately, because it was Labor Day (yes, we're behind), instead of giving the guy money I told him to get a job.
Still, someone must be feeding the homeless. Have you looked at this city lately? Whoever is giving them food should knock it off. They’re just going to follow you home, and then the mother will never take them back.
Square 1682 purchased all of its furniture and fixtures from the Contemporary Store, where it also stole the soundtrack, servers bearing thick-rimmed glasses and menu. Ground floor of the beautiful Hotel Palomar, it’s a very bright and inviting space, thoughtfully designed and presented. I liked the restaurant, which makes it difficult for me to write mean things about it. I hate liking things.
The Burger: The geolocation-challenged Brandywine River Texas Longhorn Burger comes with Pennsylvania blue cheese, lettuce and tomato on a brioche bun, with a side of fingerling potatoes. For $1 you can get a quail egg, which you should do. Normally $11, they often have a lunch special where you get the burger and a beer for $9. You should do that too.
Kyle: Much like a pitcher's throwing arm [Ed. note: find a better analogy, you fucking hack], without use a writer's skills fall into disrepair. To the point, it's been so long since I've written something complimentary, I don't remember how. I don't even like to like things, which makes it all the more painful, so it is with great regret that I tell you the burger at Square 1682 is really, really good.
As with the restaurant and entire hotel, the Brandywine River Texas Longhorn Burger, which I will not be writing out again, knocks the presentation out of the park [Ed. note: stop pretending you understand baseball metaphors]. The glistening burger, the quivering egg, the melting cheese: Everything simply looks good. It's a little detail, but given so little attention elsewhere, it's noticed and appreciated.
While a lot of places called Farmers' Cabinet drop the ball after the packaging, Square 1682 delivers. The beef came out wonderfully bloody, with a noticeable but not overpowering dose of salt. Ground to a soft, almost fluffy consistency, it easily broke apart with each bite. People abuse the phrase “melt in your mouth”: this burger earns that distinction.
The soft, semisweet brioche is equally indulgent, fresh from the oven and pleasantly warm. The sharp blue cheese is also above par, melting into the craggy top of the burger and the crannies of the bun alike. All the vegetables are fresh and tasty, which should be nothing out of the ordinary, except that the ordinary Philly restaurant gets their produce from the compost heap. Of all the toppings, though, the standout is the quail egg. It's a delicate flavor, more of a feeling, and almost unnoticeable by itself. But when it sinks into the beef, it produces an extremely savory and satisfying mix. I take a pass on a lot of fried egg toppings, but this one gets an unqualified endorsement.
The lowest point of the meal are the chips, because they aren't fries. They are very good chips, not overcooked and still filled with plump potato. Plus, the red pepper aioli they come with is excellent, featuring a slight hint of lemongrass; if you're feeling bold, spread a little on the bun. For what they are, the potato is excellent, they just aren't french fries. Good chips; bad fries.
Square's burger isn't anything exceptional: there's no secret ingredients or unique preparations. It is simply a very basic burger done very well. It is an example of the sum being greater than its parts. And that's not just because one of its parts is a free beer. But that's a pretty good part. There are better burgers, but Square 1682 offers one of the best values and hits a home run. [Ed. note: Kill yourself.] Rating: 8/10.
Laurence: This week I've been deep in thought about what it means to be a square. I am of course speaking of the '60s era slang for an uncool person. But why did this term evolve? Is it that the square is inflexible, structurally strong from only certain angles, a stringent and unique case of the more broad concept of the quadrilateral?
I've also been thinking about those who are squares, the over-analytical, stiff and determined. But what's all this have to do with burgers?
So glad you asked.
There are in this world the square burgers. Burger's of detail, unyielding character, and high maintenance. And these burgers are the better burgers. We've eaten at the more casual establishments and found the food to be unexceptional. Here I do not refer to the character of the restaurant so much as the character of the chefs and the preparation. Take the other square burger we've discussed in Franklin Square. This couldn't be more laid back. I watched some kid heave a ball of meat onto the grill and cook it dead then serve it onto a mashed bun. End of story. But then we sat at Royal Tavern, a place I was thrillingly comfortable wearing a T-shirt and jeans and had one of the better burgers in Philadelphia. The difference is in the details. But those details add up.
Now we turn our attention to Square 1682. This burger isn't smoking pot and skipping class. This is the kind of burger that emails homework assignments sends a printed copy just in case. And this burger is going to go further in life.
For evidence that the lunch-only burger at Square 1682 is Type-A, we turn to exhibit A, a fried quail egg. This delicate morsel is tiny and fragile. It is hard enough to cook an egg to perfect runniness without leaving it raw or ending up with rubber, let alone one that is half the size of a normal egg. Yet the quail egg topping our burgers found this fine line and drenched the meal in a bubble of extra savoriness. It wasn't enough to be messy or overwhelming, it was just a delightful enhancement.
The superb meat also demanded similar diligence. The grind and rich flavor left little room for carefree cooking. But the results are spectacular. With dark sear marks and an ever-so-slightly pink interior that is as juicy as a Ron Popeil contraption, you'll be hard pressed to find a better example of attentive cooking and quality ingredients short of an Iron Man restaurant. Add to that the strong and rich blue cheese and you've achieved a level worthy of the accolades of insignificant bloggers.
On top of all this Square 1682 may have the best lunch special burger in the city. Ten dollars buys a the burger and a beer. The only compliant I can rightly issues is that the dish is served with chips rather than fries and that's just never hip.
I guess my overall point is that the squares have won. When the most influential companies in the country are run by nerds and hipsters are proving every day that cool is actually not, then we can embrace our compulsive tendencies and give a resounding cheer for those who freak out about slightly compressed bun and won't serve a burger with anything less than a beautiful tomato. Thanks to them, our lives, or at least our lunches, are vastly better. Rating: 8/10.
If you're eating lunch in Center City, you either work in retail, make an obscene amount of money, or are a college student. Whatever group you fall into can appreciate a cheap meal, and this one just happens to be awesome.