New feature at Main Line Dine, where we take a highly-regarded food experience in Philadelphia and compare it to a similar offering out here in the burbs. Will it be worth the trip to the city, or are you better off staying close to home?
Starting out we have Village Whiskey, Jose Garces’ happening burger joint and whiskey bar, selected recently by Philadelphia Magazine as one of the best burgers in the city, versus TJ’s of Paoli, who won Main Line Today’s “Best Burger” award in 2009.
Philly – Village Whiskey: The “Village Burger” (not to be confused with the decadent, fois-gras topped “Whiskey King”) is an enormous burger, perfectly-cooked to medium rare. The bun is light, but imparts a crisp, toasty flavor. For toppings, Whiskey starts with house-made thousand island dressing, then allows customers to build their own combo, with three cheese options and six other toppings such as bacon or avocado. We tried it with fried egg — always a decadent addition to any sandwich. The burger itself was packed with beefy flavor, and endlessly juicy, completely soaking the plate. If there was a weak point — and we’re really stretching here — it was the crust of the meat. It could have been a bit more charred and seasoned, so that contrast of the crispy exterior to juicy interior that the very best burgers have was more prominent. Not surprisingly, prices are a quite high, especially as the toppings get added ($3.50 for cheddar?), but then again this is Rittenhouse trendy dining and should likely be expected.
Main Line – TJ’s: TJ’s is known mostly for their beer list, but also for big, tasty burgers on pillowy, juice-soaked Le Bus Brioche rolls, offering both a build-your-own option plus some fun combinations such as wild mushrooms & smoked mozzarella or wasabi mayo and cole slaw. A trip to the Paoli bar & restaurant comes with a guarantee of great beer, but the quality of the burger can vary. On a good night, they’re nicely charred on the outside and brilliantly pink and juicy within, but on other occasions we’ve found the middle to be gray and dry (always ordered medium rare). In fairness, it should be noted that we only tried Village Whiskey once, so they had fewer chances to be off. One thing is for sure, however — you won’t leave hungry after a mammoth TJ’s burger! (Tip: Try the “mini” burger and fries for a lighter meal.)
Verdict: Village Whiskey clearly offers the superior burger, and is certainly recommended if you are in the vicinity. If getting downtown isn’t in the cards, however, the far superior draft list and funky toppings at TJs make up for the difference.