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YouTube star MrBeast hits the Philly area with ghost kitchens delivering burgers and chicken

Local restaurants are making the MrBeast food, which is available by delivery only.

The Beast Burger, after a 20-minute car ride, from MrBeast Burger.
The Beast Burger, after a 20-minute car ride, from MrBeast Burger.Read moreMICHAEL KLEIN / Staff

YouTube superstar Jimmy Donaldson, a.k.a. MrBeast, got into the burger and chicken-tender business this month.

Through a deal with Virtual Kitchen Concepts, Donaldson has turned MrBeast Burger into a national “ghost kitchen” brand, operating out of about 300 restaurants across America and delivered only through apps such as Grubhub and Seamless. There’s no dine-in or pickup possibility.

Ghost kitchens, which have no storefronts or dining rooms, are the hottest thing going during the pandemic. Some are all-new kitchens created to house multiple companies. Others, such as MrBeast, are new brands added to existing restaurants that seek additional business.

The number of new restaurant names operating in the Philadelphia area seems to be growing daily. REEF, a large national company, is working with six kitchens in Philadelphia — one near Penn’s Landing, one in South Philadelphia, two in Northeast Philadelphia, and two in Northern Liberties — to deliver food from Wow Bao, an Asian street-food restaurant, and Fuku, a chicken specialist from chef David Chang.

MrBeast’s Philadelphia-area kitchen locations are not disclosed, but I’ve been able to suss out a few. Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey deliveries come out of such restaurants as the Bertucci’s in Plymouth Meeting, North Wales, and Huntingdon Valley, the Buca di Beppo in Exton, and the Brio Italian Grille in Cherry Hill. Bake a pizza, sling spaghetti, grill a burger. Makes sense.

None of MrBeast’s kitchens are now within the city limits. I had to arrange a Grubhub delivery to an address near the Plymouth Meeting Bertucci’s.

The reaction to MrBeast has been spectacular, no surprise given that his YouTube channel has 48 million subscribers. The MrBeast Burger app is one of the most popular free apps on iOS and Apple Play.

On Dec. 12, the North Carolina-based Donaldson, 22, was named Creator of the Year at the Streamy Awards, YouTube’s version of the Oscars. He burst onto the online entertainment scene in 2016 with a video showing him counting, bleary-eyed, up to 100,000. Took him 40 hours. He also routinely gives away cash to fans and random people.

As for the MrBeast food: It’s tasty enough, and a decent value.

The Beast Burger ($6.99 for a double) brought smash-style beef patties (cooked to medium-well), sharp American cheese, chopped onion, ketchup, mayo, brown mustard, and pickles on a soft, squishy roll. The crispy chicken tender sandwich ($6.99) had four preformed tenders, mayo, and pickles on a similar roll. I’d skip the Karl’s grilled cheese ($4.69), which was advertised as three slices of cheese, “grilled crispy on an inverted bun.” Mine did not seem grilled — just a hunk of warm cheese inside a roll. I sensed no inversion of the bun. Crinkle-cut fries were fine.

All sandwiches were wrapped in foil and helpfully labeled, much as you’d find at a hot dog stand at a ballpark. Although this may be an inexpensive, environmentally sound method of packaging, it does not help with delivery food.

The MrBeast sandwiches need paper or cardboard boxes to keep their shape, heat, and flavor. The wrapped sandwiches’ “build” suffered during handling, and, for what it’s worth, the food looked nothing like the beauty shots shown on the delivery app.

Or for that matter on YouTube.