The sandwich has all the hallmarks of a classic griddle burger — two beef patties, lettuce, American cheese and, of course, a special sauce — but I couldn't get two words out of my head the entire time I was wolfing down the new SP Double Stack ($7.99) at Taylor Gourmet: Philly cheesesteak.
It was the onions, chopped into little squares and caramelized on a flat-top until they turned brown and translucent. They gave the Double Stack the unmistakable air of a cheesesteak, that singular Philadelphia combination of griddled rib-eye, cooked onions and gooey cheese served on a soft, nearly indestructible roll. Then there was the hint of cherry peppers in the burger's Boom Boom Sauce, a sly nod to the hot peppers used as a topping on cheesesteaks there.
“It's a little homage to the cheesesteak,” said Taylor Gourmet founder Casey Patten, a native of the City of Brotherly Love.
After talking with Patten, I started thinking about our conversation. I sensed in Patten's tone that, despite my first impressions of the Double Stack, he and chef Jacob Hunter did not exactly set out to create a cheesesteak-style burger. So I put the question to Patten via text: Was this homage intentional or a happy accident?
“Happy accident,” he wrote back. “We just wanted to create the tastiest burger we could. Maybe those flavors crept in subconsciously, but it wasn't the intention.”
The accidental nature of the burger, to me, makes the Double Stack even more remarkable. It's as if the cheesesteak flavors are so embedded in Patten's DNA that he can't help it.
Both Patten and co-founder David Mazza, of course, have a long history with cheesesteaks, first as kids growing up on the sandwiches and later as purveyors. They operated the short-lived Taylor Charles Steak & Ice in Washington, on H Street NE, before shutting it down and incorporating cheesesteaks into their menus at Taylor Gourmet.
Then again, could my burger have been a freak accident? After all, I had ordered the very first SP Double Stack at the Taylor Gourmet on 14th Street NW, right across from The Washington Post. The cook in charge acted nervous about preparing the burger. As such, he may have fumbled the execution: The twin, 3.5-ounce patties sported no crust, that crispy fat that typically forms on the outside of griddled ground beef. It also seemed light on red onions and special sauce.
Out of fairness, I ordered the Double Stack a second time two days later. The cheesesteak characteristics were present, but far more muted, largely because the kitchen came hard with the Boom Boom Sauce, the red onions and the shredded iceberg lettuce. The cooks also seemed to cut back on the onions, too. This order resembled a burger more than a cheesesteak, and it was a fine example of hamburger engineering and worth repeat orders.
Whether it smacks of a cheesesteak or not, the SP Double Stack is part of Taylor Gourmet's new winter menu, which debuted Monday. This is actually an encore for the burger, which was first unveiled for a week in summer 2017. Casey said customers demanded its return. Does that mean the Double Stack could eventually become a permanent part of the sandwich chain's menu?
“I don't think we'll rule it out,” Patten said.
The SP Double Stack is available after 4 p.m. on weekdays and all day on weekends through winter at all Taylor Gourmet locations.