Dish Nine: the Big Daddy Mac Burger at the Continental, 18th and Chestnut, http://www.continentalmartinibar.com/
The Continental, the home of innovative and yet so simple dishes like the hanger steak with sea salt, a steak so delicate in its simplicity that I dream about it at night, so perfectly rare that the cow seems to kiss you gently on the mouth when you bite into it; cocktails of colors so vibrant and flavors so exotic that you are transported to an island in the South Pacific on the arm of Clark Gable; and desserts like the chocolate covered ice cream bar that I tasted this summer, that make you tear up with the memory of skinned knees and summers at the swim club; the home of all of these creations lays claim to the Big Daddy Mac burger (henceforth referred to as “BDMB”), whose only quality that ventures beyond ordinary is its pompous surname.
Don’t get me wrong. The BDMB is not a bad burger. It is a good burger. It is a sesame seed bun, some shredded lettuce, some mayonnaise, two slices of yellow cheese, and a salty mushroom colored patty. With a pile of shoestring fries and a pickle on the side. Just like every other veggie burger I have ever had (except for one, which I will address in a minute).
Now, hold on a second, I’m not trashing anything. I said the burger was good, and it was. But Stephen Starr appeals to greatness, to a premium dining experience, not just food, but transportation to a time and place, the restaurant as a fully enveloping scene and you are a character. (“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…”) And so frankly, Stephen, and I feel that I can call you Stephen because I have studied your career (Thank you, Wikipedia) and many of your restaurants and dishes, and I hold you in very high regard; frankly, I think that you really dropped the ball on this one.
I can get a veggie burger anywhere. But you set the bar high and you consistently meet it, so I expect a lot out of you. And that’s hard, but that’s the way life goes. It’s the same reason my parents aren’t impressed when I tell them that I made a dark chocolate cake from scratch without a recipe. You can’t be impressed with making the grade when you know that the person is capable of achieving it. So get back in the kitchen and get to work. And to everyone out there in cyber-world, if you want to eat an absolutely brilliant veggie burger, go to Kelly’s in Bryn Mawr. It’s like a giant falafel made by Irish-Americans, with ketchup. Sure, Kelly’s is far away in neither time nor place, but that burger will make your heart sing and your eyes well up with the memory of your mom’s fresh baked cornbread, toasted and slathered in butter, on a Sunday morning when the kitchen table is covered with pages from the New York Times. Bring me home, Stephen. Bring me home.
Tags: achievement, center city, challenge, expectation, goal, Jersey Girl, kelly's, kitchen, martini bar, mission, Philadelphia, philadelphia magazine, philly, philly mag, reach higher, resolution, stephen starr, steven starr, the continental, veggie burger