I am slowly making my way through this list. Eight years after the article was first published, I am now through nine of the 20 restaurants, after having dined at Rouge in Philadelphia for lunch on Sunday. I knew it was a high end burger, but was still surprised that the final price, including tax and tip approached $25.
Rouge was #4 on Richman's list, which can be found here
, purely as a list without commentary.
However, I found Richman's commentary spot on, right down to noting the gentleman seated at the table across from us was sporting a country club sweater over his shoulders, a la Winthorpe going to the Club in 'Trading Places,' nearly 30 years ago.
The clientele appears to consist primarily of aging men of means, each one accompanied by an Eastern European model/actress. (Who knew that white slavery lived on in stuffy old Philadelphia?) Do these people care that they’re eating the best cheeseburger in America? Rouge is so chic I’m surprised that anybody pays attention to the food. I’m sure they admire the staff, all in black. They probably enjoy sitting outside, right on Rittenhouse Square. Back when I was growing up in the city, outdoor dining didn’t exist.
How is a simple, plump cheeseburger able to compete with all this stylishness? The Rouge Burger does just fine. The aged Gruyère cheese is strong, nutty, and pungent. The caramelized onion is judiciously applied. The bread is toasted brioche. The fries are good. The well-salted sirloin is very lean, so it’s best ordered rare. I could swear the hostess, to stand out from her minions, was wearing pink pajamas, but maybe I was dizzy with pleasure from dining at Rouge and encountering a Philadelphia I never knew.
The burger? Well....it was a winner, as has every burger I have tried from this list (1, 2, 4, 9, 10, 14, 15, 17, 20).
I added bacon....because, well....bacon.
At first, I thought that my medium-rare might be a little too on the rare side for me, but this was a PERFECT medium-rare and the medium-rare to which all other medium-rares should aspire.
This was a four-star burger, given that, in my world, the Peter Luger burger (five star) is still where my bar is set. This ranks up there with some of my other favorites, though.