Monday, January 12, 2009

Hank's Gourmet Root Beer

That dark box in the bottom left is a matchbox embedded
in the table. The restaurant is called Matchbox. Get it?

Genuine Hank's Gourmet Philadelphia Recipe Root Beer

I had Genuine Hank's Gourmet Philadelphia Recipe Root Beer at a fancy schmancy restaurant in Washington DC. We'd been instructed to go to Matchstick, the restaurant, by some smart friends of ours who'd lived in DC long ago. They swore up and down that the place was great, and that I had to try the "mini burgers". They said this because, I think, they knew I liked slider type burgers.

Now to take a moment: Mini-burgers aren't sliders. A slider is like a White Castle burger, it's small and greasy and not just a miniature sized regular hamburger. It's a fundamentally different beast, with one of the most important qualities being the way a slider bun absorbs grease from the meat patty. In a good slider, you can hardly tell where bun stops and meat begins.

So we go to Matchsticks... wait, it was Matchbox. Matchbox. We wait for forty minutes for a table, marveling at the strange suit and tie casual crowd. Most of them seemed to have that desperate affectation of casual money. You know what I mean.

Anyways, forty minutes and we get a table in the top floor area. If you ever go to Matchbox, wander around the place, the interior layout is pretty neat. They basically gutted two side by side buildings and filled them with a totally new configuration of floors. Hardly any interior walls, all just random metal floors.

The menu boasted "Hank's Gourmet Root Beer", the wait said they were out of the bottles but had some sort of generic fountain root beer. He ran to see what sort it was, and returned with a bottle of Hank's. They hadn't sold it for quite some time, but luckily enough he'd found one.

So we ordered some sort of hot pepper pizza and a plate of mini-burgers which turn out to be just that, not sliders. I'd been told they were sliders, by my friends, by the restaurant reviews, by the waiter. I even heard people at other tables referring to them as sliders. They're not, and I got cranky pretty quick. They came with a mound of deep fried onion shreds, what are sometimes called "tobacco fries". Those would've been good but they were lukewarm and stale. Bah. They might've had garlic powder on them.

The pizza was good, when it came out. They had a blend of cheeses on it that was surprisingly reminiscent of St. Louis provel cheese. The pizza made me happy, and it was just as good out of the hotel freezer the next morning.

Oh, the Hank's root beer?

The first sniff of the Hank's was so sweet that my nose got a cavity. It was incredible that a smell could convey "sugar" so powerfully. The taste was nondescript, just sort of blah. I'd go so far as to say it wasn't even really a root beer, just uninspired sugar water. Don't buy it.


  1. Hanks is one I haven't tried yet. Root Beer is the only thing I've been "reviewing", and strangely enough, smelling of sugar is quite an accurate description of a lot of the ones I've tried. Another odd revelation is that the Walgreen's brand is actually better than a lot of the "premium" stuff I've been spending $4-6 on. Unfortunately, when you only review root beer, they are all either just kid pop, Barqs-esque or pretty good. There's an incredible amount that are just Barq's rip offs.
    (A word of warning to anyone, that Bundaberg stuff from Australia is AWFUL. Unless you like drinking molasses straight out of the container)

  2. Oh man, I LOVE the Bundaberg. I've only had one bottle, but it's the most delicious thing I've ever tasted. Maybe if I revisit it, I'll have a change of heart.

    It seems like many root beers are all about the bottle and not about the drink. The local specials, like Hank's, all taste like they are variations on the same formula. I don't mean "formula for root beer", I mean "flavor packet #62". Or flavor crystals, as Dan Blair recounts on his blog.

    But seriously, that Hank's bottle is gorgeous - gold print, raised text, the whole shooting match. Great looking bottle. Tastes like nuthin'.

  3. Hanks is the best-- It's a specialty in Bucks County, PA where I live, along with A-Treat. They've updated their formula, but it is still sweet- but not overly sweet.