And so begins an installment of the Philadelphienne where I obsess over the best burgers in the city (if there’s one thing Philly knows, it’s sandwiches) while reiterating that I do in fact have a normal BMI despite my eating habits (although I think my cholesterol is questionable).
If there’s one restaurant in Philadelphia where I could literally spend hours just hanging out (and have), it’s the Dandelion at 18th and Sansom. Owned by Stephen Starr, the Dandelion manages to capture the spirit of an English pub without being overly banal and clichéd. The pub’s every detail (from the Tudor-style windows and flowerboxes that adorn the façade to the vintage floral china and English Heinz bottles), has been rendered to transport the patron from Philadelphia to Yorkshire. Each room within the three-level pub captures a different essence of English life: you have the boisterous downstairs bar reminiscent of my favorite pubs in London, the Old Queen’s Head in Islington and the Audley in Mayfair, a second level with a huge fireplace and leather-backed chairs where you would almost expect to find elderly men in green wellies, oversized cable knit sweaters and well-worn Barbour coats sipping scotch and smoking, to a top floor with ample bay windows that feels like you’re in someone’s dining room having afternoon tea and a hunting hound-themed bar. Basically, it’s the quintessential English pub (without the questionable health code violations).
As a rather aggressive Anglophile, the décor alone would make the Dandelion a favorite for me but it just so happens that the food and cask ales (or what ingenuous Americans refer to as “warm beer”), are just as impressive. I’m a huge fan of the Dandelion’s fish and chips (unusual choice that I would never order anywhere else), chicken sandwich on cranberry bread and awesome devilled eggs but I (and my dad would agree) truly go to the Dandelion for one thing only: their house-blend aged beef burger (…and usually an Imperial pint of London Pride). Dripping with melted Vermont sharp cheddar, the burger is probably the most American item on the menu and features (relatively) local components such as Brooklyn Brine pickles (available at Di Bruno Bros.). The Englishness is evident in the addition of apple-smoked bacon. This is “real” British bacon meaning it has a super-thick cut and is not the “strange, thin meat that Americans call bacon” as an English guy I once dated put it (insulting bacon was probably an early indication it wouldn’t work out). The burger is finally topped with “Churchill sauce,” a creamy, tangy slaw with a great name and served on buttery brioche.
Location: 124 S 18th St, Phila. (northwest corner of 18th & Sansom)
Take Note: Reservations available on OpenTable.com
TLDR: The burger. Just trust me.