Philly vs Main Line: Burgers

August 10th, 2010

TJ's Burger

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.

Village Whiskey Burger

9 Responses to “Philly vs Main Line: Burgers”

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  1. J.W.W. says:

    I always feel a bit anxious when ordering a burger, because no matter the place, there’s always a chance it’ll come out overdone. Just last week I ordered a medium rare at Village Whiskey, and it came out medium well. But other times it has been fine. Similarly at TJs, there is just an error rate that exists. Are things too hectic in a restaurant kitchen to whip out a thermometer? That’s what I do at home, and it never fails.

    • mld says:

      Great point — and perhaps it was unfair to compare a place where I’ve ordered lots of burgers vs. a place where I just ordered one (because there is a natural inconsistency). I’ll even admit that I use a thermometer at home and still have a hard time getting burgers exactly right.

  2. Jeff says:

    So T & I we went to Whiskey Village last night and ordered the Whiskey King (Bacon, Blue Cheese, Maple Bourbon Caramelized Cippolini Onions & Frois Gras). And I gotta say it was hands down THE BEST burger I have ever had. As the bartender put it “that’s what happens when an Iron Chef makes a burger”. Although I ordered it medium-rare and it was more medium than mid-rare. Still absolutely delicious.

  3. SteveR says:

    to MLD – hope you include Bobby Flay’s place at UPenn vs ML, a little more in-line price wise when you do compares.

  4. TJ's says:

    Clearly we’ll be giving all of our grille cooks a temp test this week.

    Not an excuse, but perhaps an explanation:
    We did just replace our old 2-burner open flame char-broiler (which had many dead/cold spots – a source of problems during peak service) with a new top of the line 6-burner Wolf radiant, which make a beautifully charred med-rare burger.

    I also know where we’ll be going this weekend. I must try that frois-gras burger!



  5. DP says:

    Love Garces’ places, but to be able to drive 2 minutes from my house and woof a great burger (the TJ’s burger with the Onion Rings on the burger) and sweet potato fries, plus wash it down with a American Micro or German beer of my choice? Easy decision.

  6. dave wilcox says:

    If you chose the burger from “The Stone Rose” in Conshy, the battle would be hard to judge a winner. Their burger will bring tears to your eyes…

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