Tag Archives: New York City

Best burger in NYC? Let’s break it down…

(Originally written January 27, 2013)

Eating out in New York City is expensive.  Y’know, I almost wish they had a gift shop that sold t-shirts inscribed with “I can’t believe I paid $16.95 for a deli sandwich!”  (And it was a damn good deli sandwich, too, but still…)  Suffice to say, I didn’t have le cash to eat at Le Cirque–though I’m sure it’s very nice.  Alas, aside from a daring foray into Guy Fieri’s critically disclaimed restaurant and bar, I primarily dined on burgers.  Which isn’t all that unusual for me, since I once spent a whole week eating beef here in Toronto not so long ago.  (Hey, I am from Alberta, after all!)

Now, while Toronto has its share of gourmet burger joints, you won’t find too many of them on Zagat’s best list–with the exception of The Burger’s Priest, which, I must confess, I still haven’t tried.  On the other hand, the best burgers in the Big Apple are adored by critics and commoners alike.  They even go as far as to ask you how you’d like your patty cooked, which was a first for me.  Of course, I’m from Alberta, so I had mine medium-rare.  (Apparently, you’re supposed to cook hamburger for longer to prevent stuff like E. coli.  I guess that explains a lot…)

Mind you, I was only in NYC for one weekend, so it was kind of a case of so many burgers, so little time.  However, I managed to find two great burger joints that couldn’t have less in common, apart from the main menu item.  One was your more traditional fast-food, take-out or dine-in joint (if your traditional fast-food joint serves alcohol) in trendy Fort Greene, Brooklyn.  The other, a popular, wait-for-a-table, upscale eatery in Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan.  But in the end, both had some tasty beef.  Let’s go to the tale of the tape…

67 BURGER

To get to 67 Burger, you’ll hafta take the C Train.  This Brooklyn fav boasts two locations a world removed from Times Square; one in yuppified Park Slope and the other in racially-harmonious Fort Greene.  (GQ describe the latter hood as a racial mucous membrane, which is definitely a disgusting way to define diversity.)  The decor at the Lafayette Ave location leaves little to look at; there is, however, ample seating space if you get there early enough.

As I alluded to earlier, this fairly-fast-food joint also offers a six-dollar selection of beer and wine.  But for the price of a pint, you can go one step further and order a beer shake.  Admittedly, I wasn’t watching the milkshake machine when they mixed it, but it did taste a little like a light lager…

67_burger_shake

The nice thing about 67 Burger’s selection is that you can order any of their 13 signature creations with any one of five proteins: beef, chicken, turkey, veggie or tofu.  They even offer recommendations as to which patty goes best with each style–while also encouraging experimentation.  According to the menu, the southwestern (homemade chipotle mayo, roasted peppers, tomatoes, scallions and pepper jack cheese) tasted best with tofu, but I’d rather shit a brick than eat tofu–though I’m told the two aren’t mutually exclusive.  So naturally, I made mine with beef.

67_burger

Hard to tell if there were roasted peppers on there, but the chipotle mayo blended well with the big block of cheese.  I made sure to pile on all the extra toppings on the plate, as well.  The pickles were especially fresh and tangy.

Meat: Thick and juicy, this patty practically has its own zip code.
Cheese: The big slab of pepper jack didn’t fully melt on the burger, which allowed it to melt in your mouth instead.
Toppings: Tangy chipotle mayo collides with fresh pickles and purple onions for a nice bite.
Price: $8.75 burger, $6 beer shake (fries are extra)

5 NAPKIN BURGER

Though its namesake started as a popular menu item at Nice Matin on the Upper West Side (not to be confused with the Corsican newspaper), the 5-Napkin Burger simply couldn’t be contained, as it now boasts four New York locations (three in Manhattan, one in Queens) as well as sister franchises in Boston and Miami.  The flagship location, at 9th and West 45th in Hell’s Kitchen, is a pretty popular place; you simply cannot just walk in and get a table, not even at 5 pm on a Sunday.  But if you time it just right, you can probably grab a barstool.  Most people sitting at the bar are waiting for a table, so once their buzzer goes off, jump in and snag their spot.

The 5-Napkin bar itself is a pretty impressive structure.  It conceals over 50 beers, 100 wines and several stirring cocktails.  I confess, I spent longer looking at the beer menu than I did deciding on food.  I was a little disappointed, however, when my drink arrived.  I saw Brooklyn Pilsner for seven dollars and assumed it was on tap; nope, that’s seven bucks for a bottle…

brooklyn_pilsner (1)

Now, I must say, the fare at 5 Napkin was much more diverse.  While 67 Burger offered burgers, fries and salads, this Manhattanite’s menu included chicken wings, pork taquitos and a wide variety of sushi maki rolls.  No, really.  Who goes to a burger joint and eats sushi?  Not this guy.  Alas, while they also offered turkey, tuna, lamb and veggie burgers, I went back to the beef.

5_napkin_fries

The Bacon-Cheddar almost needs no introduction.  It’s sharp cheddar, bacon, raw onion, lettuce & tomato on a soft white roll.  As you can see, mine was extra bloody.

Meat: Let’s put it this way; I went to a Rangers game afterwards, and they probably coulda used this patty as a puck–if hockey pucks were meant to explode if your mouth without knocking out your teeth.
Cheese: Smothers the meat like an overbearing mother, or a warm slanket.
Toppings: Top marks for the big pile of thick, crispy bacon; just the way I like it.  There wasn’t much else on top of ol’ smoky, but there didn’t really need to be.
Price: $14.95 burger (fries included), $7 beer

 

THE VERDICT

Although it’s hindered by a weaker photograph, I’d hafta say 5 Napkin had the slightly better burger.  However, for convenience, speedy service and affordability, the edge goes to 67.  Uh, I guess it’s a draw, then?  (That just means you’ll have to have them both!)

“Don’t forget you have a lunch date tomorrow with Donald Kimball at Smith & Wollensky…”

It started off as a shockingly violent Bret Easton Ellis novel before becoming the starring role that launched Christian Bale’s career. And tonight, American Psycho the musical debuts on Broadway. While some of the scenes were certainly squeamish, both the movie and the book also contained some of the craziest restaurant trends of the 80’s. And many of these joints actually existed–at least they used to, at the time. A couple years back, I took a flavourtown roadtrip to one of the few that’s still standing: Smith & Wollensky.

(Originally written July 31, 2013)

Not all the restaurants name-dropped in the Bret Easton Ellis novel (and subsequent cult classic film) American Psycho actually existed.  There was no Dorsia in New York City circa 1987–some guy from Godsmack or something tried to open one 20 years later, but it didn’t catch on.  (You can’t even find it on the internet anymore; ditto the short-lived Dorsia in London.)  On the other hand, many of the real restaurants referenced in the book/movie have since closed down–hey, 25 years is a long-ass time in the restaurant biz!  There are, however, a handful of NYC institutions (as documented here) from that era that are still going strong today–although something tells me Gorbachev’s not at ENK-NYC. 😉

Alas, when I found out that the hotel I was staying in last weekend was just a few blocks from the legendary Smith & Wollensky steakhouse, I knew I had to go there for lunch.  If Detective Kimball asks, I had a shower… and some sorbet.

smith&wollenksy

Now, because I didn’t think I could get a table at the main steakhouse in a Weed Metal trucker hat and a t-shirt depicting a Satanic goat throwing the horns, I took the side entrance to Wollensky’s Grill, which is meant to be more down-market, relatively speaking.  They’re even open until 2 am, but when I got there around noon on a Sunday, the place was Texarkana empty.  There was just one guy in the corner enjoying a salad, and no one else but the wait staff until an elderly couple came in right before I left.  I guess no one eats a business lunch on Sunday, eh?

But while the battered bartop had seen better days, the shelves behind it well certainly well stocked.  Put it this way: the place didn’t have J&B or a Corona, but I doubt they were out of Finlandia.  In any case, I ordered the house beer, Wollensky’s Irish Ale, which happens to be brewed by Rogue Ales.  It might not have been brewed with bacon, but it was still quite tasty.

As for the main, I ordered the notorious Wollensky Burger, with blue cheese topping and a side of fries served in a miniature chef hat.  The burger itself was $17.50, while the white-suited barkeep may or may not have comped me for the fries–the card-sized menu makes no mention whether they come with the sandwich.  (In any case, I left him a receptacle, erm, respectable tip.)  And hey, that might seem like a lot of bread for a sandwich, but believe me, you get a whole lotta burger for $17.50:

wollensky_burger

The beef, besides being bountiful, was also very juicy and tender.  The blue cheese–an optional topping, which didn’t cost extra–added a nice tangy bite, along with the pickles, and crisp lettuce, onion and tomato were piled on top for good measure.  Let’s just say you need two hands to eat this thing, but you’ll wanna keep one free for the fries, which were served hot and fresh.  I never have enough ketchup when they put it in those little dishes, but that’s a very minor, erm, beef.

Bottom line, this might be the best burger in NYC–and hey, I’ve actually had a couple.  Just try not to look shocked when you get the bill; I assure you, it certainly wasn’t cheap. 😉

Top 5 Food Cities: 4. New York City

For me, NYC is all about the burgers, baby! 5 Napkins, 67 Burger, Smith & Wollensky’s…this city has some Bomb.Com beef, bro. Sure, you can get other fancy food, like a $25 fried chicken in Brooklyn, a $20 pastrami sammy at the Carnegie Deli, or a $15 shrimp po’ boy at Bubba Gump’s (only 1020 calories!), but when I’m here, I’m eating burgers, son. Unless of course I’m eating at Guy Fieri’s funky joint in Times Square!

5_napkin_fries

Hell’s Kitchen used to be pretty dangerous, but now, the only thing you gotta worry about is whether you can get a table at 5 Napkin Burger!

67_burger

67 Burger lets you pick between beef, turkey, chicken, veggie and tofu patties. But really, why would you choose anything but beef, bro?

wollensky_burger

Dude, the Wollensky burger at Smith & Wollensky is big enough to feed a whole team of Dash Riprocks!

carnegie_deli_sandwich

Believe it or not, I actually ate this for breakfast…

Guy’s American Bar is in Times Square, but its Kitchen must be in a distant suburb of Flavortown…

(Originally written January 23, 2013)

What trip to New York City would be complete without a visit to celebrity chef Guy Fieri’s Times Square joint, which received such a glowing review in the Times?  As a big fan of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (the show, not the fat fuck who hosts it), I of course had to come check it out.  Were the Awesome Pretzel Chicken Tenders really not so awesome?  Did the watermelon margarita really taste like formaldehyde?  My life would not be complete without the answers to these questions.  But, much to my dismay, I see they’ve omitted the formaldehyde martini.  The chicken tenders, on the other hand, are very much still a menu item:

awesome_chicken_tenders

Now, I will agree with NYT food critic Pete Wells in that I would’ve never guessed that the breading contains either pretzels or smoked almonds.  That said, they really weren’t that bad.  Big, hot and crispy…  Better (and more expensive) than the chicken fingers I buy at Costco, that’s for sure!  Also, the Donkey Sauce really added an extra kick.  At least, I think that’s what it was called.  It was really just a spicy mustard.  Anyways, while the tenders were at least partially awesome, I can’t exactly say the same about the pulled pork tacos…

pulled_pork_tacos

Now, while the pork itself had the right amount of tang, it wasn’t even remotely warm.  And the random sprinkling of corn, cheese and semen-lookalike white sauce didn’t really add much of an extra kick.  This dish does not reside in Flavourtown, put it that way!

Alas, while there were initial reports of the place being packed, it was half-empty when I arrived around noon on a Sunday.  And yet, even though there were only three people sitting at the downstairs bar, the food-runner still managed to give my grub to the other folks–before he was chastised by the barkeep.  Granted, it might seem weird for one person to order two appetizers, but man, their mains were fucking expensive!

On the plus side, I take some comfort in knowing that the cooks all washed their hands before preparing my pork tacos.  I’m assuming they read the sign, anyways…

must_wash_hands