You know that impossible to get into restaurant that you’ve just been dying to try? The one with a 3 month wait for reservations, or worse yet, they don’t even take reservations? The hot spot where you show up on a Friday or Saturday evening any time after 6PM and are told there is a 3 hour wait? A 3 hour wait. Always a 3 hour wait. This must be some pretty fancy schmancy food if you are going to ask me wait 3 hours for dinner. Fancy schmancy food… or the hottest burger joint in town.
Yes. You heard me right. Burgers. There is a burger joint in Philly, so popular, that they regularly turn guests away with a 3 hour wait list. The name of this hot spot? Village Whiskey. The probationary themed burger and whiskey bar owned by Iron Chef Jose Garces is located in center city on the corner of 20th and Sansom. Interestingly enough, Philadelphia’s first Shake Shack just moved in across the street. Hellooooooo competition!
After trying and failing to sink my teeth into one of those coveted burgers on 3 different occasions, I realized I needed to take a different angle. Instead of trying to wrestle the Friday/Saturday crowds again, I decided to give the early Sunday dinner a try: success!! For a Sunday at 5PM though, this place was hopping. I was by myself so I snagged the last seat at the bar, and it sounded like there was still a short wait for the tables.
So this begs the questions. Does Village Whiskey live up to hype? In my opinion: AB-SO-LUTE-LY. First, I love the ambiance. The space is long and narrow with a black bar, white tiles, high top tables, leather booths, and entire wall dedicated to the namesake liquor. It gives off a vibe like you’ve stepped back in time, but not in a cheesy gimmicky way.
The food menu is short (featuring burgers, fries, a few other sandwiches, some apps, and an array of pickles) while the drink menu is long (beers, wine, old-school cocktails, and of course whiskey flights). Unfortunately I wasn’t feeling up for a drink, so I can’t provide any insight on those, but I did watch the bartenders work and they seemed to be creating some pretty intricate concoctions.
For my dinner, I ordered a burger with cheddar and avocado with a side of the famous duck fat fries. (If you’ve been to any of his other restaurants, you’ll know that Jose Garces loves him some duck fat). The service was friendly and quick which I appreciated because I was just stopping in for a quick bite before church. The quality of the food though, was incredible. This is not your average burger. This is 8 oz of hand crafted love. This is a shove-your-face-right-into-it kind of sandwich. (If you’ve had a shove-your-face-right-into-it kind of sandwich before, well then you know what I’m talking about. If not, well then you are missing out and need to stop by Village Whiskey immediately.)
The burgers are thick, juicy, and hand made. Most importantly, I ordered it to be cooked medium and it actually came out medium… not well done with the slightest touch of pink in the center which, in my experience, is a common occurrence at restaurants. The toppings and the bun were fresh and flavorful, really rounding out the whole sandwich. Then there are the duck fat fries. Where do I even begin with the duck fat fries? Can someone please tell me why duck fat takes and already wonderful food and makes it 10 times more awesome! Normally I end up dumping a ton of salt on frenh fries, but these were crispy and perfectly seasoned. I literally had to grab my hand and remove it from the fry container just to give myself a break. To say I cleared my plate, well that would be an understatement. I was one step below licking my plate clean.
Now let’s talk about something I didn’t care for: the price tag. Ok, yes, this was probably the best burger I ever had. And it is probably also the best burger in Philadelphia. But, after tax and tip, I spent $28! On a burger and fries! And I didn’t even order a drink! They really get you because everything is a add on. The burgers start at $11, but cheese is an extra $3.50 and the additional toppings range anywhere from $1.50 to $5.50. Oh, and the fries? Yeah, they aren’t included either. Those cost another $5 as well.
So the million dollar (or in this case 28 dollar) question is… would I do it again?
Expensive? Yes. But worth it? Absolutely. Village Whiskey isn’t an every day (or every week) kind of place for me, but I will most definitely be back. I think I’ll just wait until my parents come to town and I’ll let my dad take me 🙂