This article was submitted by Michael J. O’Brien.
Americans eat approximately 50 billion hamburgers a year, which translates to three burgers a week for every person in the United States.
If you’re like me, then that sounds like a wonderful week. If you’re not like me, then congratulations on your healthy eating choices, now please stop reading.
This is not the article for you.
That billions-of-burgers data point came from a 2012 report, and I’d wager those numbers have only increased since its publication because it’s the same year we bought our home in Glenside and began discovering all the different and delightful hamburgers this neighborhood has to offer. (Perhaps not coincidentally, it’s also the same year I went up a waist size in pants.)
So in an effort to better understand the complexity that exists within this burg of burgers, I undertook the following research solely for my own amusement and without monetary- or meat-based compensation. Since then, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a challenging environment for local restaurants everywhere, so I’m now sharing this with the hopes it leads to a burger-buying boom at the following local establishments this summer.
Indeed, as one recent departure on the local scene sadly illustrates (more on that in a moment), our local institutions constantly teeter on the sharp edge of the spatula when it comes to survival, so please #buymorelocalburgers.
And now without any further ado, I present my findings on what my wife jokingly(?) refers to as “a dangerous obsession”: the best burgers in Glenside.
It’s only proper that we begin with an ending.
While this dimly lit bar brightened the local nightlife skyline for decades, the legacy of one of its staple items is now destined to endure just as long: the Blue Comet’s Peanut Butter and Bacon Burger.
With the Blue Comet’s final pass through the Glenside night now complete, this creative culinary concoction enters into the smoky mists of bar-food legend. Indeed, the unlikely combination of smooth peanut butter, crisp bacon, iceberg lettuce, tomato and red onion on a burger made for one of the most unique offerings in this neighborhood or any other.
But just as the past now claims this classic as its own, we must also acknowledge the arrival of the newest member of the burgerhood: Wawa’s Customizable Hamburger.
I’m certainly no burger snob, but even I was skeptical when my wife suggested I should include this offering from the convenience-chain location at 88 Limekiln Pike. I’m happy to report it exceeded my expectations, as the bun was soft and the beef patty was bigger than you’d probably expect from a typical convenience store. It’s the perfect addition to any late-night Wawa run.
On the other side of the clock dial, the early bird may get the worm, but I’ll always order The Village Diner’s Bacon Cheeseburger (299 Keswick) for breakfast. It’s the earliest burger you can legally get in the neighborhood, and is there any better way to start the day than with a burger and fries? (Answer: No, there is not.)
And now we pivot to praise three spicy burgers from an unlikely trio: an Arizona-inspired Mexican restaurant, a pizza shop and a sports bar.
The Green Chile Burger from Pinto Glenside (24 East Glenside) may not appear on its regular menu, but they will gladly produce this caliente combo of meat and heat upon request. The green chile puree atop the fresh-beef patty produces a pleasing heat that doesn’t overwhelm the senses. Pair this burger with the cactus fries to take the whole Southwestern trip.
For those who’d rather keep it local, Jerzee’s Deluxe Burger (2609 Mt. Carmel) is served with fried onions, hot and sweet peppers and your choice of cheese (I go with American). This big burger will likely have you reaching for your beer to put out the fire in your mouth in no time.
Meanwhile, Apollo’s Special Burger from Apollo’s Pizza (112 South Easton) is not for the faint of heart, featuring chipotle sauce, lettuce, tomato, raw onions, cheddar cheese and jalapenos. Just as Apollo is one of the most important and complex of the Greek gods, this is a burger worthy of the name.
Let’s continue the Greek theme as we come to my favorite local non-beef burger: Elia Greek Authentic Cuisine’s Pita Lamb Burger (264 North Keswick). It’s a huge grilled lamb patty with delightfully spicy whipped feta cheese. This is likely the healthiest burger on this list, but don’t let that stop you from trying it. νόστιμο!
While we’ve still got our culinary passports out, it’s hard to imagine anything surpassing the unique flavor profile of The Umami Burger at Bernie’s Restaurant and Bar. (Umami is a Japanese word that roughly translates to “pleasant savory taste.”)
This flavor bomb is best detonated outdoors on the patio at 391 Highland Ave., because putting it anywhere near your mouth can be as messy as it is delicious. It arrives beneath a tower of mushrooms, provolone cheese, bacon, fried egg, roasted garlic aioli, lettuce and tomato. Good luck getting out from underneath it all without wearing some egg yolk home.
Speaking of outdoor-burger vibes, there is perhaps none more deserving of being eaten outside than the Double Burger at Richmans’ Ice Cream & Burger Company.
This is truly summer’s own burger. And the fact that you are already standing outside their iconic stand at 2682 Limekiln Pike when you receive your order makes it all the harder to imagine ever consuming this classic indoors.
Now let’s stay outside to say a few words about Glenside Pub’s Bacon Cheddar Burger.
It should come as no surprise that this beloved gathering spot at 122 South Easton Rd. would serve a burger that actually made me smile and say “I feel like I’ve already eaten 1,000 of these,” after my very first bite.
That soft sesame-seeded bun and those grill marks combine to form a powerfully nostalgic taste that will take you back to your very first burger. Close your eyes when you take your first bite and it will almost feel like Dad just handed it to you right off the backyard grill. Now quit bugging your sister and eat it!
Speaking of dear ol’ dad, here’s a Dad-ism for you: Simple doesn’t always mean easy. Fortunately for us, The Ways’ Simple Burger (11 South Easton) deliciously demonstrates this bit of fatherly wisdom. The charbroiled meat pillow of Angus goodness will pair well with any of the brewery/restaurant’s full slate of in-house beers, but the 19038 Lager is the true hometown-hero combo.
If simple doesn’t describe your burger style, then you’ll want to get your hands messy with complex creations like Glenside Pizza’s Pizza Burger (274 Keswick). This Angus half-pounder comes with pizza sauce and melted mozzarella; add pepperoni for the full pizza experience.
As we all know, only good things happen when you add another meat to a hamburger (see: bacon). So it should come as no surprise the Roberts Block Burger (2 Roberts), which comes topped with savory short ribs, cheddar cheese and caramelized onions, is a winner on top of a winner.
No tour of “extra” local burgers is complete without a stop at the corner of Keswick and Easton, where Keswick Tavern’s Alamo Burger (294 Keswick) is served. This half-pounder comes with cheddar cheese, thick-cut applewood smoked bacon, beer-battered onion rings and a bourbon-based BBQ sauce. As the name implies, there’s a “Never Surrender or Retreat” flavor in this burger that compels you to try and finish it. Buena suerte, amigo!
Now, if you’ve read this far, then you must be wondering if I was ever going to mention Bullseye Burger House’s Bacon Cheddar Burger (282 Keswick). This is my personal grand champion, folks. It deserves top honors for its perfectly charred and cheesed double patties and crisp bacon on a fresh brioche bun, but the true glory is the savory mayo spread on top of it all, which perfectly captures the essence of grill smoke. We all have a favorite burger, and this one is mine.
So there you have it, fellow Glensiders: All the information you’ll need to find your own favorite local burger this summer. I hope to see you in the pants section this fall!
Photo: Bullseye Burger House