There was a time — long before food blogs existed, long before the rise of cheflebrities — when the world assumed kitchen workers ate like royalty at home — because of course they did. Because chefs are around great ingredients every waking hour of the day, there’s no chance that they go home to peanut butter and jelly.
But when the world got obsessed with food, secrets were spilled. And now we know: the guy who built that 18-course menu with caviar and gold leaf? He probably wen’t home to a lovely spread of instant ramen and Arby’s. And there’s no shame in that. The kitchen is exhausting and junk food is easy. It makes sense.
But that’s where the love affair between chef and junk food begins, and it doesn’t stop there. Here, now, nine junk foods reimagined by some of our city’s best chefs.
McDonald’s Egg McMuffin Hungry Pigeon’s egg and cheese sandwich
Scott Schroeder has said in the past that McDonald’s Egg McMuffin is “one of the greatest sandwiches ever invented.” So when he and Pat O’Malley opened their all-day cafe in Queen Village, he styled his breakfast sandwich after the McMuffin for good reason. It gets elevated with a scratch english muffin, over-medium farm egg, jack cheese, and breakfast meat made from happy farm animals.
KFC Double Down Puyero’s patacones
Maybe it’s a stretch to compare this delicious Venezuelan street food to KFC’s American atrocity, but, stripped to its parts, it’s still a sandwich that nixes bread for something fried. Puyero does it right with the patecón pisao: two smashed and fried sweet plantains (the buns) holding together a beautiful mess of shredded chicken (or beef), two cheeses, cabbage, green mayo, ketchup, and mustard.
Wawa Sizzli Res Ipsa’s breakfast sandwich
The Wawa Sizzli is a perfect breakfast sandwich (in theory — in practice, things can go awry). It’s simple, convenient, compact with a clean bite. Res Ipsa’s breakfast sandwich — inspired by the Sizzli — is a little more involved with herby frittata, asiago fresco, and a spicy long hot spread, but still simple (enough), compact and convenient just the same.
Poutine Blue Duck’s fries
In Montreal, it’s 3 a.m. food — fries drowned in thick gravy and squeaky cheese curds. And at 3 a.m., it satisfies all needs. But at a more respectable time, Blue Duck’s duck fat fries tossed in smoked gouda cheese sauce and shredded duck confit will, too, satisfy all needs.
Little Debbie Nutty Buddy Wister’s Nutty Buddy
You know those lovely Little Debbie chocolate wafer bars layered with peanut butter? Benjamin Moore makes a “deconstructed” (in the most playful sense) version at his Old City BYOB Wister with chocolate peanut ganache, caramel, waffle cone, and Franklin Fountain chocolate ice cream.
McDonald’s Double Quarter Pounder with cheese Butcher Bar’s Royale with Cheese
Butcher Bar’s cheeky nod to the classic scene in Pulp Fiction could easily be the best burger in town right now. Two beef patties, American cheese, shredded lettuce, special sauce. As it ought to be.
Sour Cream and Onion Chips ITV’s puffed pork chips
Nick Elmi’s new East Passyunk wine and cocktail bar is a bar snack haven. Sidle up, order some Gruner Veltliner with a side of cheffy sour cream and wild onion chips (the chips are actually puffed pork skin).
Stouffer’s Creamed Chipped Beef The Dutch’s savory waffle
The Dutch’s chef-owners Lee Styer and Joncarl Lachman love creamed chipped beef — Styer, because of his Pennsylvania Dutch roots, and Lachman because he’s a sucker for Stouffer’s creamed chipped beef. Rest assured, The Dutch’s version isn’t nearly as goopy as Stouffer’s. Have it on a savory scallion waffle.
Oreos Essen Bakery’s oreos
Tova Du Plessis may have won us over with her tiny, adorable Jewish bakery and swirly chocolate-halva babkas, but her cookies — no matter which — may be the menu’s dark horse. Definitely go for the salty chocolate chips or the citrus-tinged black and whites, and be sure to throw in an Essen Oreo or two. There’s a reason the Oreo is America’s favorite cookie, and her version is quickly becoming Philly’s.