In Which We Do Not Make a Joke About Eating Babies at Baby Blues BBQ

Burger Breakdown

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Bacon, American or blue cheese, maybe a vegetable, good old fashion smoke.
Salty, super-spiced and included.

Why anyone would choose to leave the sunny coast of Venice Beach to reopen an already successful restaurant in the cold filth of Philadelphia is beyond me. On second though, I'm sure the owner of Baby Blues BBQ visited Philly, saw a ton of fat people, and then decided a BBQ pit couldn't go wrong in a city where the average citizen has more angioplasty and bypass surgeries than his SAT score (combined).

Regardless of the reasons, Baby Blues BBQ opened a few weeks ago to a salivating public. After an excruciating week of smelling the grill and test dishes, we were finally invited in.

Baby Blues' contractors and decorators did a marvelous job with the interior, giving it a warm, weathered look that is perfectly at home on the only remaining original block in University City. The tin ceiling seems original, the walls appear roughed by age, and the tables show their history through nicks and scratches. This is of course all a facade but a very good one that is sure to frighten the freshmen crowds away because it does not have the polish they are used to in an area owned by Abercrombie and Fitch.

Meanwhile, the wood stoves and smokers are not a facade. They're burning and smoking round the clock and churning out some of the tastiest meat this side of a campus full of rich white kids.

The Burger: There are two burgers to choose from. The Willie Brown is 8 oz. of chuck with American Cheese, maple bacon, fried onions and BBQ sauce. The Lasker Burger is 8 oz. of chuck mixed with blue cheese, maple bacon, and topped with lincoln berry mustard. Frankly I was a little disappointed I couldn't get a burger topped with a half rack of ribs and a smoked turkey. I guess some places just don't hold themselves to the standards I have arbitrarily applied to them.

A photo of the burger at Baby Blues BBQ

Laurence: Make no mistake, Baby Blues BBQ is a BBQ joint and a good one at that. Coming in and ordering a burger has a similar feel to visiting Burgundy and ordering a bottle of Chardonnay. In short, they have it and it may be good but it's just not what they're known for. As a side note, that may be the first time in history a snobby wine reference was used to discuss a BBQ restaurant with paper towels on the tables.

Perhaps the only true fault I have with BBB is the beer selection, or lack thereof. To be fair, it's a new establishment and probably needs some time to forge relationships with the city's beer-loving public and beer-supplying entrepreneurs, but currently the menu is slim. At least lager is on tap.

With the aforementioned lager in hand, I ordered my Willie Brown burger medium well. The wait was unremarkable. What was remarkable was our waitress' knowledge of BBQ and the nuances of BBQ sauce flavors. You may think that I'm going to make a joke about slender blonds and smoked meat but I would never sink to such vulgar humor and you should be ashamed of yourself for even considering it.*

The burger was fine in every respect. The meat had a delightful smokiness. It was soft and still moist. The bacon was also smokey, plenty savory and still fatty enough to discourage vegetarians from even looking at it.

Meanwhile, the fried onions were a nice contrast and hinted at being fresh vegetables much the same way Donald Trump hints at being a serious business-man. The sourdough roll gave a nice contrast to the American Cheese, and helped anchor some of the flavors.

photo of the bbq sauce at Baby Blues BBQThe real kick to the burger though is the array of house-made sauces provided by BBB. The flavors are nuanced and mix so well that I found myself creating a little mixing palette on my plate and testing various combinations with each bite. The experience was thoroughly enjoyable and the fries, salty and spiced beyond the point of being recognizable as potato products, also lent themselves to the sauce mixology.

The meal was an utter success and the burger was good, but I found myself eyeing the ribs coming from the smoker and the various plates of smoked brisket and pulled pork. I've since been back for the ribs now that I know what they're up to, and I'd recommend Baby Blues to anyone with a hankering for serious BBQ. While I plan to go back again and again, I can't imagine ordering the burger now that I've sampled the other offerings. Rating: 6/10.

* Perhaps my future in politics is better than I had thought. You see how I turned around what I was about to do and used it to attack you instead? That's something we in politics like to call "politics."

a photo of the burger at Baby Blues BBQ

Kyle: The barbecue pit is the altar at the church of the dead cow, so when Baby Blues BBQ moved in, Laurence and I knew we had to pay our respects. It's perhaps the most relaxed house of worship I've ever attended. From the "sit wherever" invitation to the Kentucky kitchen/Kensington meth house aesthetic complete with unironically exposed pipes, the bar doesn't take itself too seriously. That's not to say it doesn't take its religion seriously. BBBBBQ (the extra B is for beef) is all about the meat, loaded to the gills with PETA offenses. Before we even touched the burger, I knew I liked it.

photo of a burger at Baby Blues BBQ in PhiladelphiaHamburgers are a lowest-common-denominator addition at BBQ joints, and more often than not they aren't taken seriously. My expectations weren't high, so when I saw the description of the Lasker burger, with 8 oz. of glorious ground chuck, blue cheese and maple bacon, I was pleasantly surprised. Almost as surprised as when my burger showed up without any cheese or bacon. I thought I had been XIXed and was ready to flay the waitstaff and make my own bacon, when our waitress kindly explained that the cheese and bacon were cooked into the burger.

Bacon cooked into the burger. It was like Archimedes discovering density or a choir of of angels giving a hummer. It was the greatest thing I had ever heard.

Biting into the burger, I was not met with the overwhelming orgasmic bliss one expects from such a union of pure love. Rather, the burger was very well done, kind of dry and a little fat, less like true love and more like marriage. An unfortunate consequence of cooking the bacon in the burger means cooking the beef until the pork is done, resulting in appropriately-prepared bacon at the expense of overcooked beef.

Another unfortunate consequence is the inability to see the bacon; since you can't serve undercooked pork, and you can't see if it's been cooked properly, your only choice is throw the entire thing into the fire. Forever. The result is bacon that was overcooked to the point of losing most of its flavor, noticeable only when you notice a dry crunch hidden in your beef.

A final victim of this process is the cheese, which has a much lower cooking temperature, and a much greater likelihood of turning into stinky lava that fuses your palate to your tongue in an Eli Roth torture porn kind of way. While the blue cheese is a great addition, the drop of it that lands on the side of your mouth is going to mark you for life.

Everything else in the meal was, you know, okay. The sourdough was crunchy, and the fries tasted exactly like my memory of Burger King fries. On top of the burger was a sweet/vinegary sauce that added a lot of savoriness, and provided some much-needed moisture. On this same note, all of their house-made sauces were excellent, and I fully intend on going back to try them on other, better things.

Despite the many problems inherent in this experiment, it wasn't all bad. While the burger was overcooked, it wasn't bad, and the ground chuck had a nice smoky flavor to it. Likewise, the blue cheese was tasty, as was their porn sauce which I poured over everything. The Lasker burger is not great, and I wouldn't order it again, but that isn't an indictment against the restaurant. You shouldn't order a burger at a barbecue place, just like you shouldn't order chicken at a sushi place or order a vegetarian meal anywhere. Baby Blues BBQ has some other amazing-looking meals (particularly the ribs), a cool style, nice staff and music that was popular 20 years ago. Naturally, UPenn kids will hate it, making it among the least-worst places to go in University City. Rating: 5/10.


The burger is decent and you probably won't be disappointed but you really should get something that comes from the smoker.

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