Surgeon General's Warning: Smokin' Betty's May Increase Your Risk of Heart Disease

Burger Breakdown

Smokin' Betty's - Map It!
Confit pork belly, avocado, cheddar, lettuce, tomato, roasted garlic aioli, a fried egg, the Large Hadron Collider, and a health waiver.
Golden thick hand cut and totally unnecessary.

Smokin' Betty's really sounded like a Southern style barbeque joint and I was excited to visit it. Suave and sophisticated Center City restaurants get boring sooner or later, particularly when you're there for a burger and the burger is so-so. In my mind Smokin' Betty's was an oasis in which I could happily drink beer, eat a burger without being viewed as the cheap guy, and get food on my face without it being a problem. In reality Smokin' Betty's is more like a trendy bar from a prime-time television show aimed at middle-aged, middle-class white folks. With a sleek modern wooden interior, massive bar and dining room in each of two stories, an airy open arrangement, ample seating and lots of standing/shouting/drinking space, it isn't hard to see why the establishment is a hit among young professionals. It is also not hard to see why they hardly noticed Kyle and me walk in the door. We stood around waiting for someone to offer us a table with no success. It was not until five other people came in behind us that we were offered a table for seven and it was with slight chagrin that we were eventually seated at a table for two in the nether reaches of the upstairs dining room. So much for a place where I could feel comfortable.

The Burger: Taking the decadent anything goes approach of a '90s Wall Street quant, the Betty Burger uses every ingredient that could be found in the kitchen. Starting with a half pound sirloin patty, it continues to build a tower with confit pork belly, avocado, cheddar, lettuce, tomato, roasted garlic aioli, and capping the whole affair with a fried egg. You may not survive.

Photo of the Betty Burger at Smokin' Betty's

Laurence: In addition to Smokin' Betty's not being the kind of establishment I was expecting, it also was not the kind of establishment I like. That aside, I was able to get over my prejudice because of my massive hunger and the burger that could sate it.

Photo of the Betty Burger at Smokin' Betty'sThe Betty Burger is a must have for any burger geek. It's a massive helping with quality ingredients, smart preparation, attention to detail, and no sense of reasonable portions. The pork was the first taste I really noted. It was salty and lean, perhaps as a result of being cooked down into confit. The sauce itself was flavorful and savory. The pork belly was not prominently displayed on the burger but did it's work hidden among the other toppings. It was a strong start.

The meat was very savory and was cooked a proper medium-well (though according to Kyle's experience that could just be because all the burgers were cooked to medium well). It didn't have much flavor beyond the meat, but with more topping than I can count (I didn't do so will in math), any additional seasoning may not have made much of a difference.

The avocado was very nice, a fresh bright green, it was soft and savory, adding that vegetable-inspired fatty taste to an already fatty meal. The cheese added more savory character, and a mild flavor. To my taste, it was just right, a sharp cheddar, but I could see it underwhelming more dire cheese connoisseurs.

There were, however, two let downs to this burger. The first is partially my fault. I have an aversion to eggs that are too runny and I asked the waitress to tell the chef to cook the egg over-easy. The egg came out a mealy over-well. I say this is partially my fault because I asked for an alteration. But the rest is the fault of Smokin' Betty's for two reasons.1. It's not that hard to cook an egg over easy in an idustrial kitchen. 2. The waitress didn't understand me. That's right. She had no idea what an over easy egg was. I explained that it involved flipping the egg. Regardless, the concept really should be familiar to those in the food service industry and I hold it against the restaurant that they have an waitress who didn't have a clue about this common egg preparation.

The second let down was the bun. With all the savory, fatty and flavorful ingredients, the Betty Burger (at least when we were there) was server on a dry sour dough roll. It wasn't bad, but it lacked the aggressive flavor and caloric content of the rest of the burger. I wanted more from it. At least I wanted more from it until the very end of the meal when I was holding little besides wet scraps of food as the burger collapsed under it's own mass like dwarf star. The last bites of the meal were difficult and I was slightly relieved to finish and wash them down with some Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA. I was reflecting that Smokin' Betty's might be better than I had originally given it credit for. The atmosphere seemed comfortable and civil. Then a heavyily drink woman threw up into one of the booths. So much for second chances. Rating: 6/10.

Photo of the Betty Burger at Smokin' Betty's

Kyle: Let us eschew the mysticism: umami is the flavor of cholesterol. The sensation you feel on your tongue is caused by a lack of blood due to temporary heart failure. The taste is la petite mort.

Smokin' Betty's burger may be the most unhealthy thing we've consumed for Burgerdelphia, and we once ate a slab of meat and Russian dressing between two grilled cheese sandwiches. Smokin' Betty's takes the kitchen sink approach to burger construction, combining nearly every topping you can find in the city save for the ones that may have some nutritional value. As a carnivore and a glutton, I love it. As a sentient being, it kind of scares me.

Taking it from the top, the Betty Burger avoids the now-expected brioche in favor of a hearty sourdough, a necessity when building a sandwich that sweats more oil and grease than all of Wildwood. Slathered on the underside of the bun is a garlicky and sweet aioli, with just a dash of horseradish heat on the tail. A fried egg, cooked to a solid yolk, gels with the aioli in a little eggy family reunion, and it's around this point you start to wonder if your dinner is genius in its flavor template, or if its chef is the Eli Roth of sandwich making.

Things tip toward toward torture porn once you hit the confitted pork belly, a slab of fat-aged fat between other layers of protein and fat. Something about pork belly confit crosses that line from PoMo to perverse. Preserving duck in fat is a delicacy; preserving stomach fat in other stomach fat is grotesque.

It's also good. It's real good. The pork belly is not Rembrandt's level, being thinner and crisper, but the size allows it to thoroughly soak up the confit. This is the most socially acceptable way to eat a block of pure calories since Costanza took that first brave step.

Quality begins to taper a bit after that. Mild cheddar is here just in case you didn't realize this meal is designed to kill you, and the meat is strictly average. It was overcooked and unseasoned, and while you couldn't notice any special preparation underneath the pound of saturated fat above, it's really what keeps the burger from breaking into the upper tiers. A thicker, redder burger with some design to it could have provided a nice counterbalance to the rest of the excess.

That, and more lettuce. I could have used extra roughage after that.

If you wanted to design the most savory burger in the world, it likely wouldn't be far off from the Betty Burger. The egg, aioli and pork belly are a potent combination for your tongue and moreso for your arteries. Smokin' Betty's burger is an unbalanced but delicious mess, and worth getting if you don't have anywhere to be for the rest of your life. Rating: 7/10.


The Betty Burger is certainly an experience. So is having your stomach pumped. And death. Getting at burger at Smokin' Betty's is the kind of experience you should have if you aren't too concerned about those other two.

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