11/19/2012 03:14:00 PM

Pat LaFrieda Talks New Starr Burger in Philly, Superstorm Sandy and More

The new burger at Butcher and Singer
“I probably eat 10 pounds of raw beef each week.” Pat LaFrieda, Jr. tosses the words off surprisingly casually, explaining, “My guys will call me over to check quality and I’ll have them slice me off a piece and eat it right there.” It makes sense, if you run a chef-favorite butcher shop, which is exactly what LaFrieda does.

The “Magician of Meat” was in town recently to introduce a new blend for the burgers at six Philadelphia Stephen Starr restaurants, and we had the chance to chat with him during a press dinner at Butcher and Singer. Read on to find out out more about the new Starr blend, how long the oldest beef Pat has ever eaten was aged and how LaFrieda Meats dealt with Sandy’s blow.

Zagat: What’s in the special Starr Restaurants blend? Are you allowed to tell?
Pat LaFrieda: Not exactly, it’s definitely a secret. We do over 50 different blends for restaurants around the country, and every single one is different. Chefs come in to LaFrieda Meats and we work with them to develop different blends. For Starr Restaurants, what I can tell you is the burger is made to be on the sweet side, with a round taste and long beefy flavor.

Zagat: Do you really eat that much meat? How often are you in your facility?
PL: Our shop operates around the clock, seven days a week, and I’m there almost every day. My dad (Pat LaFrieda, Sr.) comes in at 3 AM. Then my cousin, Mark Pastore, comes in later in the morning, and I have the late shift, arriving around 3 PM. So one of the three of us is always on site at Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors.

Zagat: We’re eating LaFrieda lamb chops for dinner - your company produces meat other than the burgers you’re famous for?
PL: Definitely! We do lamb, pork and we’re known for our dry-aged beef. The aging process makes the beef taste just incredible. The oldest beef I ever ate was dry aged for 140 days, and it was amazing.

Zagat: Have you tried any other burgers while you were in Philly?
PL: Haven’t really had a chance. What I’d really like to find is a great cheesesteak. But it would have to be made with real meat. Do you know what cheesesteak meat usually is? The knuckle - that’s the part of the cow right behind the knee, and it’s filled with sinew and ligament. It wouldn’t get used otherwise, but it gets chopped off, pressed into a rectangle and shipped out for “cheesesteaks” all over the country.

Zagat: Your business is based in North Jersey; were you affected by Hurricane Sandy at all?
PL: Our facility was built with natural disasters in mind. When they occur, food runs out quickly. Being a meat supplier is very important because we need to feed the masses, and ship out the moment product is needed.

For this particular storm we had a lot of warning that it was coming. We filled our generators with diesel and flipped them on the moment the electric went down. Many of our employees used our facility as a shelter. When we built this building, we designed a two-bedroom apartment with a huge living space and we used every inch of it. For any employee that had electric, we shuttled them back and forth from home to work and back again.

When the state ran out of diesel, we had a truck run over to Pennsylvania to get it. We had plenty of challenges, no sleep and after three days the bread and propane ran out. The only thing to eat after that was raw beef. Carpaccio was the dish of choice! Through it all, Lafrieda Meats remained open and our customers got meat as soon as their power went back on.


You can get your LaFrieda burger fix at several restaurants around Philadelphia, including the six Starr spots below.

Butcher and Singer
with English cheddar and fried onions

Continental Old City
with sautéed onions and sharp cheddar

with cheese, lettuce, tomato and charred onions

with grilled onion and raclette cheese

charcoal-grilled umami-style with Cabot cheddar, soy ketchup and pickles

Route 6
with oven-roasted tomato and Louie dressing

1 comment :

  1. I'm from philly and in my mind the only non-tourist cheese steak to eat is dalesandros's in roxborough ....you get laughed at for putting "wiz" on your steak ..In my mind a lot of philly foodies are pretty sick of stephen star restaurants and to have 6 places that will offer "the best burger in the city" will get annoying..I've been to minetta tavern in nyc 3 times just for the burger, and to have my city over ran with premium burgers totally takes the cool factor out of getting 30$ burgers .In no time soon will probably be able to buy stephan star/ pat lefreda sliders at phillies games and to go at ACME