London Grill gets the KO in city’s first ‘Burger Brawl’

Win­ning com­bin­a­tion: Amish-raised beef, car­a­mel­ized onions, boursin on a toasted Eng­lish muffin. PHOTO/ MATT GOD­FREY

Fair­mount’s own Lon­don Grill won high praise last week after the eat­ery took home the val­ued People’s Choice Award for best bur­ger in a first-ever city­wide com­pet­i­tion.


The event, the first an­nu­al Bur­ger Brawl, was held at Meredith Ele­ment­ary School in South Phil­adelphia’s Queen Vil­lage and was or­gan­ized by Rob and Mag­gie Wasser­man.

The Wasser­mans own Ritten­house Square’s Rouge and 500 De­grees res­taur­ants — both noted for their bur­gers — and have a son en­rolled in the school. The event was in­ten­ded as a fun­draiser for the pub­lic school.

Lon­don Grill’s head chef, Mi­chael McNally, said his bur­ger was the fa­vor­ite among an audi­ence of more than 400 people.

“It was great … Every­body that was there serves great bur­gers,” said the vet­er­an chef.

About 15 chefs from oth­er res­taur­ants presen­ted bur­ger of­fer­ings at the event, but Lon­don Grill’s “The Ar­is­to­crat,” a bur­ger served at the res­taur­ant for the past 20 years, proved to be the crowd fa­vor­ite.

As a chef with no form­al culin­ary train­ing — “The school of hard knocks wasn’t so bad,” he joked — McNally is proud of the bur­ger, which is pro­duced with beef raised by Amish farm­ers and served on an Eng­lish muffin in­stead of a tra­di­tion­al roll.

McNally said the beef, fresh each week, might have helped push his entry in the con­test over the top, but he couldn’t be cer­tain be­cause many of the res­taur­ants at last week’s event presen­ted bur­gers made with fresh, loc­ally sourced meat.

“I’d like to say that it was our Amish coun­try beef,” he said. “But, I don’t think that’s what it was. A lot of people were amazed that we serve it on an Eng­lish muffin.”

Along with be­ing served on something more than a tra­di­tion­al roll, The Ar­is­to­crat is topped with Boursin cheese, made in-house, as well as car­a­mel­ized onions and a homemade chi­potle ketch­up and beer mus­tard.

“We al­ways have that avail­able,” said McNally of the sauces they make in house. “We try to put a lot of good stuff on there.”

McNally said he and his staff spent eight to 10 hours at the bur­ger show­down, sampling many of the com­pet­i­tion’s of­fer­ings as well.

“We tried everything. It was a long day,” he said.

But, which was his fa­vor­ite?

As a self-pro­fessed meat lov­er, McNally said he liked Cen­ter City-based Lad­der 15’s Bone Mar­row Bur­ger.

“That had bone mar­row in it,” he said of the bur­ger, topped with short rib, truffle jus and served with a bone full of mar­row to spread on.

“I had ex­pec­ted to see a lot of people get bur­ger crazy with foie gras and everything,” he said. “But, it was funny. I didn’t see that.”

McNally said he didn’t do any­thing spe­cial to help en­sure the people’s choice award would be brought north of Mar­ket Street.

In fact, he served the bur­ger the same way it’s served every day at Lon­don Grill.

“It’s just the bur­ger that’s on our menu every day,” he said. “We’ve had it since the be­gin­ning.”

Along with the People’s Choice Award, a pan­el of judges that in­cluded Marc Sum­mers, TV show host from the Food Net­work, and Phil­adelphia Eagle’s line­man Winston Justice, selected a winner of their own. The experts panel selected a burger made by chef Jennifer Carroll of 10 Arts Bistro, located near City Hall.

Mi­chael Klein of the Phil­adelphia In­quirer said her entry was made of “Pine­lands beef and fea­tures Green Bay ched­dar, pickles, lettuce, thin-sliced to­mato, red onion, ketch­up and Di­jon mus­tard, and is served on a chal­lah bun.”

McNally said he was glad that Lon­don Grill’s bur­ger took the People’s Choice Award, but as a friend of Rob Wasser­man, McNally said he was simply happy to help out and be part of a char­it­able event.

“He called me and asked if I would be in­volved,” said McNally. “It was a great be­ne­fit.”

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