September 2 2010

Frog Burger

South Philly Review
September 2, 2010

Waiting for the brutal heat to break is like waiting for Godot.

I ticked off the days, holding my breath for a bit of coolness, so I could visit Frog Burger, Steve Poses picnic-style stand on the lawn of The Franklin Institute.

Finally the day arrived. I walked over and took in the atmosphere. There are large, wooden, picnic tables, umbrellas to shield diners from the sun and comfy plastic chairs.

The small menu centers on burgers, all-beef hot dogs and crab rolls. Sides run the gamut from summer coleslaw, french fries, corn and sweet pepper salad and fried green tomatoes. A kids burger platter also is available.

Step up and give your order and someone calls your name when its ready. A bacon cheddar burger ($8.50) consisted of 5 ounces of juicy beef that could have been better seasoned. Still, it was properly seared and medium-rare.

The fries ($3) were scrumptious piping-hot, but in need of salt. The piece de resistance were the fried green tomatoes ($5). I’ve eaten them all over the Deep South and can say Poses stood their ground. Dusted in flour and cornmeal and deep-fried to a crisp, golden-brown, these five beauties were decadent, especially when dipped in the rich, creamy, homemade tartar sauce.

Poses only serves sweet tea, which is not a good idea. I have friends who are diabetic. I personally do not like sweet tea, so I opted for a homemade lemonade ($2.50) that took me back to the one I savored in bed-and-breakfasts in Charleston, S.C. I loved the tart flavor and it was not overly sweet.

I wanted to try the Chesapeake crab roll ($8.50). I applaud Poses for using blue crab from Maryland. Chunks of the sweet shellfish were tossed in a light mayo and stuffed into a hot-dog potato roll lined with shredded red leaf lettuce. The crab lacked seasoning, so I sprinkled on some salt and pepper. Some fresh herbs would have done the trick, as well.

Summer slaw ($2.50) was a hefty bowl of shredded red and green cabbage with red onion tossed in a light lemon sauce. There was a thin, milky, liquid at the bottom of the bowl. It was not mayonnaise, buttermilk or yogurt because these would have added some tang. Just like the crab roll, chopped fresh herbs would have given the slaw a fine flavor.

Roasted sweet corn and sweet pepper salad ($3.50) also was a hefty bowl of local produce, but it too lacked flavor. Roasted corn imparts a smokiness; this version did not. The specks of red and green roasted peppers added color and texture contrast. But on came the salt and pepper.

I wanted to take a menu home, but the young man who took my order said, sorry, hon. We ran out. It’s kind of cute to hear a 16-year-old call me hon.

I was curious about the 5 to 7 p.m. happy hour. Bottled beers are half price, but I really wanted to see the crowd.

There were about 20 young men and women swigging bottled beer, while several young women chatted over a pitcher of sangria.

I asked for a Fleur de Lehigh ($2) with a plastic cup. I settled in and began reading my Sunday New York Times magazine. I asked the man next to me what time Frog Burger closes. Turns out, he and Noah Poses, Steve’s 23-year-old son, attended Germantown Friends School together. Soon, his younger brother and cousin arrived for a round of Walt Whits.

A little before 7 p.m., a woman yelled out “last call for happy hour.” A number of people stepped up to the stand for one last round.

Steve Poses, who was at the forefront of Philadelphia’s restaurant renaissance, has a sure winner here. Where else can adults and kids enjoy a meal in the shadow of Ben Franklin, even though he sits inside the museum named in his honor?

Frog Burger is open from 11:30 a.m. until dusk, but is closed Mondays. I think Ben would like the idea of people eating outdoors after walking through his institute’s famed Giant Heart, numerous exhibits or browsing through the gift shop. A woman from Princeton, N.J., told me she already did some Christmas shopping because the items were so unique.

Two-and-a-half tips of the toque to Frog Burger. SPR

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