My NFC Wild Card Cook-Off: Philadelphia vs. Seattle

I have had the privilege of visiting both of these American cities during my travels. From a triple DDD perspective, Philadelphia eateries (Honey’s Sit and Eat and Silk City Diner) are in my top 5 whereas my favorite Seattle spot (Voula’s Offshore Cafe) clocks in at a respectable 15th. Philadelphia also historically has a number of celebrity chefs outputs including Morimoto, Jose Garces and Eric Ripert. Seattle, of course, has the original Starbucks and the Pike Market which make it a very competitive culinary destination among many foodies whether Pearl Jam fans or otherwise.

From a pop culture perspective, I think an accurate way to illustrate the differences between these two cities are reflected by the shows “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “Frasier”… or in other words…rough and tumble versus plaid wearing pretension. This concept even extends to football; half of NFL watchers can’t even name the Eagles head coach whereas Pete “Peacock” Carroll struts around looking like an emaciated version of the most interesting man in the world.

Regarding the game, I think the writing was on the wall almost from the start. As soon as Carson Wentz went down early it was over. I mean, Philidelphia being forced to rely on long time and boring back-up QB Josh McCown to fill in as their potential savior was like adding Nick Tortelli to Frasier to increase ratings. A couple of additional observations:

  1. Pete Carroll is annoying. Watching him coach is like watching a teacher who should have retired 5 years ago trying to herd a group of whiny kindergarten children in from recess. I think if it was wasn’t for the professional nature and skill of Russell Wilson, Carroll would have been looking for a new gig years ago. To this day, he has continued to demonstrate the inability to harness clowns like Sherman and Lynch because all he needed to do was lean on guys like Wilson and Thomas to save his sorry ass.
  2. Philadelphia is one of the most boring teams in football. The only reason they were in the playoffs was because the rest of the NFC east is awful. I think you could even hear the announcer’s voices waiver when they tried to amplify the fortitude of the Eagles while clearly thinking they had no business being there in the first place.
  3. Two games at 17-9 within few weeks of each other? These teams should not be allowed to play each other again for a while if ever again.

For the cook-off, instead of a full menu, I focused on a street food battle for this match-up. Honestly, i was hoping to be able to steam up some clams to pay homage to the Seahawks but living in London, Ontario doesn’t give me the best access to fresh seafood. Instead, I focused on North America’s most ubiquitous street meat to represent Seattle..the hot dog. Allegedly, the concept stemmed from a rogue bagel vendor who thought slathering cream cheese (hopefully not Philadelphia brand of course because that would be weird) and fried onions on a hot dog would be a good idea. In this case, in addition to the cream cheese and onions, other acceptable toppings include jalapenos, sauerkraut and mustard. I opted for everything minus mustard for this battle.

I think when one thinks of Philadelphia street food, the cheese steak is a no brainer. What does require a bit of thought are the toppings. If one were to venture to Pat’s or Geno’s, “whiz” would be the cheese of choice but many hardcore cheese steak fans swear by more prestigious (or even real I suppose) cheeses such as provolone. To keep it cheesy, authentic and pedestrian, I used onions, peppers and whiz as my toppings. You still can’t go wrong…

Seattle Hot Dog vs Phili Cheese Steak

My Take

I’ve had many cheese steaks in my time including both Pat’s and Geno’s but I have never had a Seattle style hot dog as my time there was limited to DDD’s and the Pike market. Both are football worthy snacks accented by cheeses as questionable as Pete Carroll’s goal line decisions and Josh McCown’s playoff experience. As for the food, you can’t go wrong with meat (real or otherwise), cheese (real or otherwise) and onions (raw or cooked) on a bun…ever. I’d say the dog was better than I thought although I don’t think cream cheese will replace my tried and true toppings moving forward. As for the Philadelphia sandwich, whether whiz or provolone plus/minus peppers is your vice, it’s all covered beneath the cheese steak umbrella. The only thing cheesier than both sandwiches is Pete Carroll going Gangnam Style after every questionable call in his efforts to justify his over inflated reputation as a coach.

Going Retro outside the Metro

The hunt for a great burger sometimes goes outside of the city limits.  I was in Ajax recently and saw Retro Burger tucked in a strip mall on Bayley St. I went for two reasons.  First, I left like a burger.  Second, I wanted to determine what exactly made a burger “retro”.

There was a time when the word retro was used to describe things that occurred well before my time.  As I get longer in the tooth (that saying in  itself ages me), I realize that I am, in fact, retro.  Although I can’t relate to the objects in the Grey Power commercials, I could relate to the Pac-Man icon on the wall and the fact that the smiling and enthusiastic staff were likely half my age.

Growing up, I remember two types of burgers.  The first were the dry, underseasoned and  overcooked  ones I ate at home, likely the result of an exaggerated fear over some type of food-borne illness. The second were the  oversalted fast food variety which included McDonald’s, Deluxe (a Sudbury staple) and  A&W which,at the time, was served on a tray which hung off your car window while you sat in the drive-in.

Retro burger was neither.  I would call it cross  between Five Guys and Harvey’s.  The burger was Five Guys except char broiled : moist and a nice thickness relative to the bun.  What can I say?  Bun:meat ratio is important to me.  The toppings were Harvey’s style; choose your own from the offerings behind the glass.  In addition to the standard condiments, they offer a number of sauces to spice things up.  I went traditional, opting for cheese, mustard, onion, pickles and hot peppers.  A sesame seed bun is always a good call. The fries were skin on and a nice thickness.  The combo (including a drink),  was around $10, taxes in.

Retroburger and Fries
Retroburger and Fries


Cross Section of a Retroburger
Cross Section of a Retroburger

There are a number of other items on the menu including philly cheesesteaks, hand- dipped fish and chips and souvlaki. The guy in front in front me order the cheese steak and it looked rather delicious.

My Take

After going to retro burger, I’m still a little perplexed at what makes this place retro.  I couldn’t eat the burger off a tray hinged to my car window. It didn’t remind me of the pitiful, overcooked burgers I ate as a kid.  Maybe it’s the fact that they pleasantly serve  a decent burger at a decent price (including an after 2 pm  special) without  complicating things by offering kobe beef/buffalo patties topped with avocado, pineapple or a fried egg. Although the experience didn’t flood my brain with the nostalgia of 1982 ,  at least I wasn’t put through the torture of Tommy Tutone dialing phone numbers or  forced to ensure one-hit wonder Buckner and Garcia’s “Pac-Man Fever”.


Retro Burger on Urbanspoon