A One-Man New York City Burger Tour UPDATED 1-28-10 including write-ups & Favorites list!
The idea to attempt this came after reading a post by Stephen Rushmore Jr. He had heard about two new burger spots in NYC and I made it to both as part of this report and then it just sort of snowballed from there! This took place over roughly a 6 month period from May 2009 - November 2009 and all of the burgers were ordered medium unless indicated otherwise. My goal was to find a really great cheeseburger at 5 or 6 places in the city; the kind of cheeseburger that I would not only want to run back to but would gladly pay for again and again and happily recommend to my friends. And here they are in no particular order:
1.) Corner Bistro
This West Village institution has been around since 1962 and has lovers and haters alike. The hardest element of this place is getting a table as it is usually packed most nights. I came by 3 times until I finally found a wooden runner by the front window where I could stand and eat. Actually I am a big fan of standing and eating whenever possible. There is just such a casual, conversational nature to it that lends itself to meeting new people and being more outgoing.
This is a really wonderful cheeseburger. The bun is toasted and holds up nicely, the toppings (lettuce, tomato and onion) have been fresh on each visit and the burger is juicy and pink. If there is any weak spot I would say that it is under-seasoned. I think more salt in the cooking would be in order to bring out more of the beef flavor. Not the beefiest tasting burger I have ever had, but I was utterly happy after eating this on both occasions.
2.) Bill's Bar & Burger
This is the new kid on the block and it has been written about endlessly since well before it even opened. This Meatpacking District burger bar has a mix of locals, sports enthusiasts, cool kids, etc... I had my eyes on the Bobcat burger which is listed on the menu as having New Mexico green chiles and jack cheese on it. The burgers here are of the smashed variety that the Shake Shack made popular a few years back. Cooked on a griddle and smashed flat, it gives them a wicked crust. I did enjoy the crustiness of this burger and the beefy flavor did come through. I asked the waitress what kind of chiles were used and she went back to ask the cook in the kitchen. She came back and said that they were a mix of roasted anaheims, poblanos and jalapenos. I loved the lingering, creeping heat that they provided.
The two drawbacks for me were the bun: it just wasn't enough to hold up to this burger and the bottom had fallen apart about halfway through eating, and the listing of the Bobcat burger. This is obviously an homage to the Bobcat Bite in Santa Fe, NM and I don't know from where they obtain their chiles, but I think many people in the know would be expecting Hatch, NM chiles on this burger. I filled out a comment card before I left suggesting a bun of better stability and maybe trying to obtain Hatch chiles when they are in season for authenticity's sake. The chocolate malted I had below was okay, but not a lot of malt flavor for $5.95. I was hoping for some clumps of malt powder stuck to the sides of the glass. Still, I would return top try some of the other burgers on the menu and would probably get this one again as I did enjoy it.
3.) Big Nick's Burgers & Pizza
Another venerable NYC institution around since 1962 on the Upper West Side, Big Nick's has a huge menu and a unique NYC feel to it that at turns can be viewed as well-worn, lived-in or perhaps even grubby, but I find it charming. My only word of caution is if you do ever make it to a place where pizza and burgers are in the name, don't order the pastrami sandwich! Not that I personally know or anything. I just, uh, heard it somewhere. Sorry about the dark, not so close-up picture of the dessert case below, buffetbuster
! I ended up being seated near lots of people and was somewhat camera shy.
The baked beans I had (one of my favorite sides at most any meal) were just okay and may have been from a can. The Port Cheddar Burger was great! I have a deep affinity for port wine cheddar cheese as it was always present at every family holiday gathering and it paired nicely with the big, slightly juicy burger here. The taste of that cheddar brought back many memories for me. The bun held up very nicely and the taste of the beef was on point. The pizza proofing pans for the condiments were nice touch and the UWS is a great neighborhood in which to eat and walk around. A must try if you come to the city.
4.) New York Burger Co.
Another burger spot of the In-N-Out variety, I had heard of this place for some time and a few friends said I should check it out. I like that I can watch them cook the beef and assemble the burger in front of me. Seeing the toppings beforehand gives me the chance to know what's looking good and what may be a bit tired. The atmosphere didn't really stand out to me. They do grill the beef here as opposed to griddling which is a plus in my book. I went for a cheddar cheeseburger, cooked medium and a chocolate shake. The beef could have had more pink in it, but the flavor was good. I did enjoy the toasted inside and soft outside of the roll. The toppings looked okay on this night but all I wanted right then was bun, beef, cheese and bun! The chocolate shake was thick, rich and creamy. Not sure how they made it, but I'd return for another. As much as I liked the this cheeseburger, I'm not in a rush to go back. Nothing really popped for me and I found a number of other spots I'd head to first.
6.) The Little Owl
I've been reading about this West Village haunt for a few years now and it consistently makes many top burger lists on the message boards online. I convinced my girlfriend to go there one Sunday for brunch, knowing full well that the burger is on their brunch menu. I'm sooo clever!! A couple of notes about this place. The building at 90 Bedford Street at Grove Street is probably better known as the place where Rachel, Monica, Chandler and Joey hung their hats for 10 seasons on the NBC sitcom "Friends". The Owl is a pretty small restaurant and there can be a wait to get in. We put our names in and explained that we had to make a show in the Village in a bit and they were very accomodating. We ended up sitting at the bar which worked out just fine. We were able to have a really nice conversation with the woman who was serving us.
We split a side of asparagus home fries which were amazing. The potatoes were crispy and creamy and the asparagus was tender and crunchy at the same time. Highly recommended. The bacon cheeseburger was nothing short of yummy deliciousness! It could have been a little more pink, but it sure wasn't short on juiciness. I had some run down my chin and my hands. The beef flavor really popped on this. They gave us mini glass bottles of ketchup and mustard, but I didn't want to besmirch this beauty with such pedestrian fare. That bacon was smoky, chewy, crisp and full of flavor. While the bun was chewy and had a great taste, I don't think it was the perfect partner for a burger. Something with a bit more "give" would have been better suited to the task. The fries were rather addictive and nary a spud was left on the plate. $16 for this plate was money well, well spent and I would happily run back here for just one more bite!
Another NYC institution that always pops up on the perennial favorite places to get a burger in the city. For some reason, I absolutely love the hue of the green on this place and that sign has a Roadfood-y vibe to it. As I stepped in and waited for a seat at the bar, I spied the grill and could see the burgers coking over the flames. The place was packed but I lined up my shot anyway. As I took the picture, a waitress stepped into the shot and didn't yell at me and firmly told me not to take her picture. As for the accompanying look she gave me, let's just say that if looks could kill, I'd be telling this story to St. Peter at the Pearly Gates instead of posting it here!
I ordered the Cottage Fried Potatoes on the side. The burger was smaller than I expected, but thick, juicy and loaded with great beefy flavor. The cheese was mild and creamy, exactly what I had wanted and the bun was soft and had a nice texture from having been toasted. Unfortunately, the potatoes were little more than bland puffs of air. As seems to happen when I start having food model for me, I ended up having a fun burger discussion with the two couples sitting next to me after I explained my sacred burger quest! Part of Melon's charm is the decor inside. The walls are covered with paintings, pictures, wood cut-outs and other various forms of art depicting melons (watermelons, honeydews and cantaloupes). Cheesy joke spoiler: Do you know why some melons HAVE to get married? Answer: Because they "cantaloupe"! Definitely one of the higher end burgers I have tried and most worthy of repeat visits.
8.) burgers & cupcakes
[<font]Back to a place I reviewed a few years ago, this particular burger visit happened by accident. My friend Christina and I came here specifically for their most yummy sweet potato fries, only to be "spud-blocked" when we were told that they had run out for the day. She went with a salad and I grabbed a cheeseburger. While it is, in the words of one Mr. Jules Winnifield, "a tasty burger", there space, for me, is really devoid of any character and I find that it does take away from the overall experience. I would return, but I'm not in a rush.
9.) Shake Shack - A perennial favorite among many New Yorkers and simultaneously hated for the notoriously long lines at their original outpost in madison Square Park, The "Shack" has one of my favorite burgers in the city. I have loved it each and every time I have eaten one and I always take my time and savor it. This relatively new Upper West Side location is always busy, but I've never waited more than 10 minutes for my food. On this visit, I picked up a Shackburger and a Purple Cow float (grape soda and vanilla ice cream). $4.75 for a burger with cheese, lettuce, tomato and Shack Sauce (like special sauce, but better)? I'd happily fork it over. Everything comes together really well and the beef is the star here and the toppings are really fresh, really memorable supporting players. The potato bun was soft and just held up so well to the juicy goodness inside. The float was a throwback to my childhood and a creamy, grapey one at that. It tastes better than it photographs, trust me!
- a fairly new place on the NYC scene, brgr just didn't do it for me. The cheeseburger was good enough, but it didn't stand out. Sure glad I tried it, but it didn't come together for me or make me say "Wow!" The fries were okay too, but I can think of at least 3 other places I would go for fries before this place. The decor was pretty cool, but I'd trade it for a better burger. The strawberry shake, however, was quite good. I didn't see them make it, but it had a great strawberry flavor to it. I'd come back for that.
- When they brought me the TOASTED MARSHMALLOW MILKSHAKE (seriously, have they been reading my diary?), I thought, okay, so they threw on a couple of toasted marshmallows for garnish. Big Deal! Every single sip toasted like a campfire toasted marshmallow. Every.single.sip!! Unreal. I wanted to crawl inside that glass with a squeegee to get out every last drop. Thick, rich, decadent, toasty. One of the best things I have ever drank. Ever.
16.) Cozy Soup N Burger
- A stand-by of mine in the heart of Greenwich Village. I used to come here often where I worked in the neighborhood. One of the first places I had eaten when visiting the city before I moved here. This is a burger of the variety I like to call "griddle-steamed". While there is a faint crust on it from the griddle, its texture and taste more closely resembles a steamed cheeseburger from Ted's in Meriden, CT than a griddled burger. For me, it is eternally comforting and a hefty burger at that. Juicy, although the flavor of the beef could be drawn out more with some additional seasoning. The medium cheeseburger below was exactly what I was looking for on this day.
17.) Wall Street Burger Shoppe
-another fairly new kid on the block and home of the $150 dollar burger with truffle and such, they do put out some very tasty small burgers. Not as small as sliders, but not as big as your average burger, they are bursting with flavor. The potato rolls are pillowy soft and hold up nicely to the juicy filings. The toppings are always very fresh. The beef is always fresh and it's flavor really stands out. Below are the Shoppe Burger on the left and the Becky Burger on the right. The one drawback of this place for me is that while the Shoppe Burger is $4.50, the rest of the burgers start at $7.00 and I think it's a bit steep for the size. I'd go back to try some of the others, but I wouldn't be in a hurry to part with my money.
18.) Black Iron Burger
-the second place Stephen Rushmore had asked about is a fairly new place in the East Village section of the city. I apologize for the quality of these photos, but I made it here on a fairly rainy, steamy day and I was not to be deterred from my mission of finding this place. I went for the standard burger (medium) with cheddar and a side of fries. The fires were of the food service variety and not fresh cut, but the cook was very up front about tat and he used an 80/20 mix of pepper to salt on them which brought them to another tasty level. The burger was of the thin school of burgers, cooked on a griddle and very, very good. Closer to medium rare, it was juicy and beefy and the toasted sesame seed roll really was a plus. I will be back here again, most definitely.
19.) Pauls da Burger Joint
- an East Village institution and one that friends have been telling me to check out for some time now. Paul's is another of the "griddled steamed" variety of burgers. Those upside down bowls on the griddle below are covering the burgers and steaming them as they cook. They do get a slight crust, but the insides look grey, but I had three of these in one week and just can't get enough of them. Very basic and very comforting. If you're not a fan of Ted's steamed cheeseburgers, then you might not like this. I really dig the big bowl of pickle slices o the table with the tongs. A nice touch. Lots of old posters and colorful East Village types are to be founds in here. The mushroom and swiss burger below was very tasty, but it just doesn't compare to the basic cheeseburger.
20.) Island Burger and Shakes
-I reviewed this place on Roadfood a few years ago and was curious to see how it has held up. Below are a hefty baked potato, a Napalm Burger and a chocolate shake. I have to say that this was disappointing. I had hoped the medium burger I had ordered would have more pink in it. The fresh jalapenos and habanero sauce on the burger were pretty tame and the shake wasn't very cold. Just an ordinary meal and I had had higher expectations. I'd go back, but not anytime soon.
21.) R.U.B. BBQ
-I read a food blog recently that had said R.U.B. would be serving burgers on Monday nights from 6pm to 9pm or until they ran out and that they were supposed to be pretty good. Well, that all I needed to hear. The first time I went and they had run out. About a week later I returned and was in luck. I ordered a R.U.B. Burger for $7.50 and a side of those wicked good BBQ Beans (with burnt ends laced throughout). This was one huge, seriously gaudy and messy burger. A smashed burger cooked in a hot cast iron skillet, it had an awesome crust on it and was seriously beefy. The toppings were crunchy pickle slices, caramelized onions, gooey cheese and a chipotle sauce. I could not get enough of this burger and seriously contemplated getting a second one, but that would have been overkill. I'm fantasizing about it right now as I write this. I don't know if they still serve them as it has been a few months since I was there, but if they do, run over and get one, right now!!! That is all.
22.) BLT Burger
-my last stop on the tour. BLT stands for Bistro Laurent Tourendel. Im love the relaxed feel of this place as well as the suggestive t-shirts and the glass water bottles once again. The fries and onion rings were okay, but my Great Hills Blue Burger was a beefy, savory intense punch in the mouth and I would gladly take that hit again! Juices dripping, beef flavor exploding in my mouth, and if usually not a huge blue cheese fan, but the combination of the blue cheese, balsamic onions and mushrooms was a tangy, earthy symphony of flavors that just really spoke to me. Being a huge milkshake fan, I loved the Cookie Monster shake, even at $7. BLT is another winner in my book.
23.) Peter Luger
- I won't say much about Luger's here as most of you have read the separate report I wrote already, but if I may borrow a phrase from the "Lady with the Legs", one Miss Tina Turner, Peter Luger's is SIMPLY THE BEST!! My Top 9 Burgers of this Tour:
1.) Peter Luger's
2.) The Little Owl
3.) BLT Burger
4.) Shake Shack
5.) JG Melon
6.) R.U.B. BBQ
7.) Corner Bistro
8.) Big Nick's Burgers and Pizza
9.) Black Iron Burger
post edited by billyboy - 2010/01/28 13:02:58