Then the Clouds Opened Up and God Said, "I Hate You, Alfa"

Burger Breakdown

Alfa American Tavern - Map It!
$11.00
Lettuce, tomato and Black Eyed Peas are included. Everything else is extra.
A fast food-box of greasy, salty, beer-absorbing good fries come with your meal.
5.5/10

Now, I'll never say, "I never said I was smart," because that would be a lie. I say it all the time. All of my ideas are brilliant, each word I speak is poetic, and everything I does is meaning. All the live-long day I'm telling people I'm smart.

Thing is, that's a lie too. I'm a liar. I lie. That's kind of our thing, us liars.

Still, even now I don't know how I was able to convince myself that going to Alfa American Tavern was in any way a good idea. For ages I've walked by it and gazed into the impenetrable blackness of its bar, and somewhere in my feverish brain, I told myself it was probably an old man bar with awesome food and Frank and Sammy in the background.

This, as you can imagine, was a lie.

Situated on the most traveled block on our fair city's most commercial street, there's really no way Alfa could be anything but a douche hive of grandiose proportions, its tunnels running deep into the city, its worker douches trekking sugary cocktails back to the queen douche. For all the lies I've told you over the years, one thing I can honestly say is this: I am no douche.

Situated below the Walnut Room, filled with women in their mid-30s (dressed like women in their mid-20s and dancing to music for women in their mid-teens) and the men who love them, and with a cocktail list consisting only of vodka drinks with names like "I Heart Chase Utley," we knew we were out of our element. Laurence and I slunk to the back, sunk into a booth, ordered two Kenzingers from a waiter who thought it was a good idea to have dreadlocks in 2011, and prepared to hate ourselves.

The Burger: For $11 you get a bare-bones burger: black angus beef, lettuce, tomato. A sizeable list of other toppings is available for $1 on up, including a variety of cheeses, extra meats, and probably vodka. Did I mention they have a drink called "I Heart Chase Utley"? I couldn't make that up if I tried, and believe me, I tried.

Photo of the Alfa Burger at Alfa

Kyle: "I Heart Chase Utley." What the hell, Philadelphia.

As Laurence started taking pictures of our food, and eager to get the experience over with, I dejectedly started snacking on the fries. Surprisingly, they were kind of good. Very good, actually. They had a strong salt-and-garlic coating, and seemed to be made in-house. Half of them were gone by the time Laurence finished his photos.

Alfa's burger comes on a brioche bun just a hair above average. Warm, fluffy and buttery, it tasted like it just came out of the oven, which it probably did after coming out of a Metropolitan Bakery bag. Also above average was the bacon, a thick cut with a sweet and smokey maple glaze. My cheese, a semi-sharp cheddar, also had an alarmingly good bite to it.

The worst part about the meal with the burger itself, which was... kinda okay. Alfa's meat is nothing to write home about, or at most is enough to fill up half a postcard, but it's not bad. While it came out overcooked, it had a nice peppery flavor and remained juicy from start to finish. If I had to wager a guess, the burger was store bought, but unlike your average pub burger, Alfa opted for the top-shelf frozen patty.

Licking our fingers after our meal and feeling strangely satisfied, I had to admit to myself that Alfa's burger wasn't bad. It's by no means great, and my impression is undoubtedly swayed by the locale, but it's better than I imagined. As we waited for the check, Stone Temple Pilots came on the radio, and I was gratified. I guess there's a little douche in all of us. Rating: 6/10.

Photo of the Alfa Burger at Alfa

Laurence: This article is all about prejudice.

I hated Alfa when I walked in the door. It was a combination of things that started with the terrible music and club-like ambiance, and that ended with a paltry beer selection and fruity cocktails designed to mask the taste of the alcohol. Judging by the look of the place I was well prepared for an awful meal.

But I was pleasantly surprised by the food at Alfa.

It's always a struggle for me to give a burger its fair rating when the restaurant makes me cringe. It's a bit like watching a Tom Cruise movie. When I see that stupid face, I have a hard time acknowledging that any other aspect of the film could posses any craft of merit at all. Mission: Impossible is however the best movie of all time with a plot that makes total sense. As for Cruise's other movies, I've never seen any, but I know they're all bad.

Alfa came through in the food department, providing a burger that was thoroughly enjoyable even if, by Philadelphia standards, it was only average.

I've probably stated this many times before, but average for Philadelphia is usually well above average anywhere else in the country. I was recently in upstate New York for a weekend and finding a decent place to eat was about as successful a venture as cutting high-fructose corn syrup out of your diet. I didn't end up eating at any of the places I found while away. They all had terrible food.

The meat on the Alfa burger was boring by most measurements. It had little innovation in it's spicing, and the meat itself, while good, was not worthy of accolades. But in the context of the greater burger, the meat was fine, and nice enough.

Topped with bright fresh cherry tomatoes, and crisp lettuce, the freshest parts of the meal hit the mark, imparting flavor and balance to the heavy meat. I don't really eat tomatoes often, but I'd say the tomatoes on this burger were probably the best in the world.

Topping everything was a butter-browned fresh brioche which I've come to just love on burgers. I know other bread exists but I don't need to try it to know it can't be as good as brioche.

Photo of the Alfa Burger at AlfaAs for other toppings, you can choose from a list of standard toppings (all at extra cost). I was so sure that Alfa's food was going to disappointing that I didn't order bacon. I was saddened to see the bacon that came on Kyle's burger was thick, dark, and nicely cooked. I didn't need to eat it to know that it was awesome and that I was missing out. In my fear, I had ordered standard cheddar cheese and caramelized onions. Both were savory and flavorful and worked well with the rest of the sandwich but it's hard for me to give too much credit to caramelized onions, I mean you can't really mess them up. I've never made them myself but all you have to do is put them on heat with some seasoning. It's pretty basic.

All in all the food at Alfa was worth our while and we had a nice time even if we didn't feel right at home with the atmosphere. Regardless I don't think I'll be revisiting Alfa any time soon. I know the rest of the food is good, but I don't need to try it to know I probably won't like the restaurant any more in the future. Rating: 5/10.

Ed. Note: So we gave Alfa a 5.5 despite being douchey, but slapped The Dandelion down with a 6 because it was douchey? It doesn't make sense to us either. Stay tuned to a re-review of The Dandelion shortly.

Verdict: 

Do you heart Chase Utley? Not love him, but heart him? If you use heart as a verb, go to Alfa. Everyone else can take a pass.

5.5
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