The Unbearable Lightness of R2L's Burgers

Burger Breakdown

R2L - Map It!
$10.00
Barbecue sauce, mustard and Lilliputians. Bacon and cheese will set you back another $2.
$5 for a sizable basket of thick, house-made fries.
5.5/10

After our last venture into the exciting world of eating at places because they're really high in the air, my expectations were set pretty low. Drawing a broad conclusion based on one experience would be foolish, so I'll do it: the quality of an establishment's food is inversely proportional to its distance to Earth. Following this logic, the burgers at R2L should be somewhere between the charcoal brick we ate at XIX and whatever dehydrated crap they're choking back in the International Space Station. I'd consider myself lucky if the burger was made of Tang.

I blame Laurence for this. When he told me his goal in life was to stand on top of tall things, I thought he was joking. Why couldn't he have a normal goal, like consuming all the porn on the Internet at once on a multi-display array? Regardless, it was his desire to have less access to oxygen that led us to the 37th floor of 2 Liberty Place. The restaurant's decor has that loft-slash-bottle service vibe that says "I stole his idea from a bar in New York." Low ceilings and exposed steel girders butt up against plush red and zebra-striped upholstery in what looks like a set from Sex in the City 3: Raise the Roofie. It's a bar that was  cool five years ago, which is a shame because it only opened this past January.

The Burger: Just kidding, they don't have a burger here. Meals are so passé, and they don't do a thing for my eating disorder. What R2L offers instead is the R2L Snackburger Plate, featuring two sliders with mesquite and mustard sauces along with the saddest potato chips you've ever seen.

Snackburger at R2L

Kyle: Truthfully, the bar is not terrible. The view is terrific, and while the Manhattans were only average, the menu had other interesting-sounding cocktails. I heard some Etta and some Ella from the speakers, and the staff was very nice. But we're not reviewing any of that. We're reviewing the food, which is difficult to do when the portions are smaller than your taste buds.

These are the smallest sliders I've ever seen. They make White Castle look filling. Barclay Prime's offering was easily twice as large. The photos do not do them justice; the only reason you can't eat them in a single bite is the thickness and dryness of the bun, and even then, they barely pass for two. I'd guess there's at most 3 oz. of meat between the two patties, and at $10 a plate, you're look at spending $25 or $30 to get a regulation-sized burger. The cheese and bacon portions (which are $2 extra) are laughably small simply because there's no room. You can't even fit bacon on there. You get one baco, and it's the the ShopRite brand.

All of this is a pity because the quality of the food is decent. My medium meat was lightly pink and juicy, and tasted so smokey that I thought it was burnt. Then I realized it really was burnt on the top and bottom, which is what happens you when try to cook a mouse-sized patty. Still, it had a rich bite that reminded me of a good backyard barbecue, and these flavors were enhanced by the bacon, equally smokey and thick. The bun was dry and nothing to write home about, but was helped by the German mustard and barbecue sauce drizzled over the plate, the latter of which had a strong vinegar and mesquite combination.

The plate comes with potato chips, which are always bullshit, and the offense here was even greater. Because R2L wants to be chic, they don't serve normal potato chips, but rather offer vegetable crisps similar to Terra Chips, which are always soft, damp and mildewy like sweatsocks or the aforementioned cast of Sex and the City. If you want french fries, they cost another $5, and are thick and crispy, with slight rosemary seasoning. If you're going to get the sliders, the fries are necessary. Same goes for the bacon and cheese, and that's when you realize this $10 plate of sliders will run you $17, and you'll still need to get a slice of pizza after to feel sated (which I did).

What I had was tasty, but for the price absolutely not worth it. If R2L had an adult-sized burger of the same quality as these sliders, at a similar price, I'd add two points to the rating. As is, the burger at R2L is a pass, but there might be other reasons to go. If you want to see a nice view of the city, or you want to relive New York club life circa 2004, check it out. But if you want to eat a burger approaching the $20 range, walk the six blocks to Village Whiskey. And if you have a bizarre desire to be in tall buildings and allow this eccentricity to interfere with the quest for the best burger in Philadelphia, I hate your face. Rating: 4/10.

R2L

Laurence: I haven't been able yet to figure out what R2L stands for. That's not a huge concern though, because while I don't know what the letters literally stand for I do know what the 37th floor cocktail lounge and restaurant metaphorically stands for. Drinking a Manhattan above the busy bees on the street below, you are free of the annoyance, noise and general vibe of hate that is ever-present in the city of rapists and murderers we call home. Now, you pay for the temporary illusion of peace and class offered in R2L. Two mini burger sliders will set you back $12 if you choose to honor them with bacon and cheese. Add an order of fries to that and you've nearly lost your old friend, Andrew Jackson, to the beautiful and friendly waitstaff.

We've dropped that much before on burgers and while it's not the happiest moment, it is sometimes worth it. In this case I wouldn't say the meal is necessarily worth the cost but the atmosphere probably is. Face it, there's no real reason to visit R2L aside from the view. Even if the food and drinks are good, there are certainly better in the city and with better prices. That said, the R2L sliders take a different vantage on the standard burger concept and I'm happy to say they are not reminiscent of any others I've had in the city. They are in presentation, ingredients and taste, independent entities.

R2LWhen our sliders arrived we were first struck by how small they actually were. Each of the sandwiches is not much larger in diameter than a silver dollar. The meat, a perfectly shaped miniature version of the metaburger was cooked to order, a great feat for such a small helping. With a delightful char on the outside, and subtle seasoning, each patty was a delectable morsel. The bun, a small, dry sourdough-type of experience, was crisp and flavorful. A roll this dry would be an issue on a larger burger, but in its minor roll on a minor burger, it was a nice compliment and didn't detract from the moisture of the meal in any way. The bacon and cheese, both good, were also added in only small quantities, creating a nice balance but only applying their talents in the most understated way.

I was pretty hungry at the time, and was only really able to assess the second of the two sliders because the first one was gone before I realized what had happened. Three reasonable bites can finish off one of these midgets. But I balanced the time between sliders with the fries, which were crisp, golden, well seasoned and certainly made from real, high quality potatoes. I had no complaints with them other than that they weren't included and were an extra $5.

I was able to taste the second slider more thoroughly. The flavors balanced well. The savory and the dry carbohydrates flirted on my pallet. The bacon and the cheese joined in. We had a nice little dance party with no hangover the next day.

As we finished the meal, I looked out the window and while I could still have eaten more, I was satisfied enough. Even though the burgers were “Really 2 Little,” I for one finished a meal without feeling like a bloated whale, or a real Philadelphian, which are generally synonyms. Looking out the window at the lights below and stimulated to a softer outlook on the world by Mr. Maker's Mark, I could almost imagine that I lived in a better city, which I suppose is really the point of R2L in the first place. This isn't the place to visit when you need a fast meal, lots of it, on a dime. This is the place to forget who you are, where you live and the troubles below, and for once, get to see the sky and the lights from a vantage that makes them seem logical. You don't come here to worry about the $20 you're dropping on your mini burgers. You come here to have some food, some drinks, and remember that burgers are the “Reason 2 Live.” Rating: 7/10.

Verdict: 

R2L slider's are enjoyable if you're one of those temperance types that doesn't like too much enjoyment. The view is worth the price of admission, and while you could do better for food, but you could do worse as well.

5.5
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