The Continental is All American

Burger Breakdown

The Continental (Old City) - Map It!
$11.00
Bacon, sharp cheddar, sautéed onions, shredded lettuce and a pitcher of gin.
Included, decent, and you'll need the salt to counteract the dehydrating effects of the pitcher of gin.
7.0/10

What could be more American than a martini bar that cooks international food without international flair? I'll tell you what, a light fixture shaped like a giant olive on a toothpick. What's more American than gaudy plastic light fixtures? Huge, heart-stopping burgers. What's more American than that? The Continental.

The Continental is a martini bar and upscale diner with an eclectic, international menu. Compared to the mid-town location, The Continental in Old City is practically sophisticated and classy, which isn't saying much considering the Center City spot was built on a grant from the National Science Foundation to see what happens when assholes inbreed. The experiment was frighteningly successful and like the development of the atomic bomb had awful consequences, but alas, it was too late. The NSF pulled funding, but the establishment had become self-sufficient based on a seemingly endless asshole clientele. A clientele who, might I add, only order vodka martinis, which as we all know aren't martinis at all.

In Old City, The Continental is considerably more palletable and mellow, but equally American. The gaudy light fixtures are the only real tip-off that you're in a Starr restaurant. It also helps that The Continental is Starr's first restaurant, opened in 1995, before Starr controlled almost every restaurant in the city. It holds up after all those years. The martinis are gin, the waitresses are sexy, and the burgers have American proportions with calories to match. Sounds like a winner any day of the week.

The Burger: The Continental serves up a fat cheeseburger topped with bacon, sautéed onions, sharp cheddar, and a special American blend of condescension for your culture and pickled entitlement. Drunks and fries are on the side but are included.

A photo of the burger at The Continental

Laurence: I'd actually seen the burger while at The Continental for lunch one day when a coworker ordered it. It looked like the real deal and so I made plans to return for dinner. We showed up late on a Wednesday, burned out and ravenous. One martini later, the burger arrived and I did a double take. It was much like the first skirt day of spring. On that day, every woman independently decides it is appropriately warm to wear a skirt, and the streets are flooded with smooth long legs and so much skin. On the first skirt day of spring, you walk around wondering if you have been magically transported to a better place. The inner dialog poses questions: “Is this the same city? Are these the same women?” They are, and they aren't.

It was like that at The Continental. Was this the same burger I had seen hours earlier? Technically, yes. But actually it was a huge upgrade. Starting with the perfectly sculpted patty, seared and glistening with melted fat, covered in a perfectly softened layer of cheese and topped with thick bacon, this was a bait-and-switch I was happy to have been subjected to.

The thick sourdough bun was appropriately browned and rich, and added a nice complement to the fats and rich meats. The bacon was top-notch. It was not the most flavorful we've had, but it was top tier. It was salty, rich, thick and provided the flavor you always hope for with bacon but only find in a few choice places. It was also cooked nicely, which is an easy way to make or break a burger that is, sadly, often overlooked.

While my burger was edging from the medium-well zone into the territory of well-done, it kept its moisture and flavor. The meat was of obvious high quality and ground to a very average level of courseness. It had texture but doesn't stand out much on either side of the mean. I couldn't be happier with the way everything was shaping up.

Around this time another round of martinis arrived, and the notes get slightly off topic. A few selections follow:

  • Alkj- corruptionn
  • burgers = the meening of life
  • martini cant run in one leged glass so it can't excape me drinking it...
  • olive light why not shot glass urinal
  • best day eever

I finished the last of the fries, savored the crispy, briney pickles, and staggered home thinking that I'll definitely come back for seconds, but not for lunch. When the sun goes down the burgers are dolled up and the martinis don't make me feel guilty. Rating 7/10.

A burger and a martini at the continental

Kyle: A few years back, I took my cousin to The Continental Mid-town for dinner. I'd never been there, but because she was younger, I though she might enjoy the goofy atmosphere. I haven't returned since. The Continental Mid-town is a restaurant for people who have only eaten at Disneyland and only had cocktails with Rohypnol. It's the tourist-trappy, classless kind of bar that's come to dominate much of Center City and Old City. So when Laurence suggested we check out The Continental's original location, my levels of excitement wavered somewhere between a hemorrhoid lancing and a midlife crisis-aged circumcision.

It's hard not to go to Stephen Starr's restaurants, seeing as how he owns a quarter of the city and is rapidly looking to buy, redevelop or appropriate the remainder. Still, I've never had any interest in visiting his first venture. Aside from the Christopher Walken character upon whom I've based my entire adulthood, I can't imagine anything good coming out of something called "The Continental."

As it often does, the universe warped upon itself, breaking all laws of physics and time, rewriting history, in order to disprove something I've stated. The Continental's cheeseburger is good. The Pat LaFrieda beef blend came out overcooked, but had great texture and full, mouth-filling flavor with just enough fat to make it interesting. It was the first LaFrieda beef I've ever tried, and while not as light or as flavorful as I expected, it wasn't a disappointment.

The rest of the savoriness in the meal came from the incredibly thick, incredibly greasy, incredibly fatty bacon sitting on top, which was so juicy you could suck on it like a lolly pop for hours. (Don't look at me that way. It's a crime that society isn't ready to accept human-on-bacon relations.) Equally excellent was the cheddar, sharp enough to cut through the pronounced flavors of the meat. The onions and grilled sourdough bread were fine but boring, as were the shoestring fries; plentiful, but unseasoned and unremarkable.

The Continental is not without its fault, and my meal was not without complaint: my martini came with an olive although I asked for a twist; our food took a while to come out and mine was overcooked; and when you order a Dean Martini they give you a Lucky Strike that you can't smoke in the building, and as I've told the cashier at CVS while purchasing condoms, if you buy something from an establishment you should be able to use it there. My trip to Starrsylvania was mostly enjoyable and filled with surprises, the most pleasant being that The Continental is far less douchey* than I expected. I like the aesthetic, the staff, the music, the cocktails and the burgers, and I'd like to go back. Rating: 7/10.

*Fun fact: Spell check doesn't have a listing stating whether the appropriate spelling is "douchey" or "douchy." Nor does Merriam-Websters or the Associated Press. I know this because I looked it up, which in retrospect is a pretty douchey thing to do. Observant readers will point out that this causes a logical fallacy in my conclusion. If you point this out, you are pretty douchey, and shouldn't go to The Continental. It's already douchey enough.

Verdict: 

It's a fun spot with good food for just about any meal, but if you want a burger, go for dinner. Meanwhile, avoid the mid-town location, unless it's your favorite place to eat, in which case you probably can't read this anyway.

7.0
Your rating: None Average: 7 (2 votes)