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Thread: New York City Burgers

  1. #1

    Default New York City Burgers

    The Burger Takes Center Stage

    I have eaten hamburgers every day for the last two months. I have traveled the five boroughs of New York City to do so. And in the city's lowliest corner diners and loftiest expense account restaurants, I have found satisfaction. New York, my research has documented again and again, is a hamburger heaven.

    All are represented here: the bar burgers, diner burgers, white-tablecloth loaves and fast-food pucks, flame-broiled, pan-seared and roasted. All in some way are deserving of praise. For every New Yorker, my relentless eating suggested, there is a hamburger.

    With the opening a few months ago of Blue 9 Burger in the East Village, this discovery reached a kind of apotheosis. Truly every burger style is now represented in New York, as Blue 9 serves what might be the city's first California-style hamburger. It is reminiscent of the ethereal hamburgers served by the West Coast's In-N-Out Burger chain: a thinnish patty of meat on a toasted bun with lettuce, tomato and Thousand Island dressing.

    The restaurant already faces competition, however. Tucked away in a corner of the Parker Meridien Hotel's grand lobby is the newly opened Burger Joint, which dispenses a thicker, though smaller in diameter, four-ounce burger on a paper plate.

    Burgers go way back in New York. Introduced to the city by German immigrants as steak served in the Hamburg style, they were on the menu at Delmonico's as early as 1833. At 10 cents a plate, or a shade more than $2 in 2002 dollars, a burger was about the best deal in the restaurant.

    This long history explains a bit of why many upscale restaurants still serve burgers, at least at lunch. A tremulous economy is part of it, too. Danny Meyer, an owner of the Union Square Cafe, said he currently serves more than 40 burgers a day.

    "Especially in these uncertain times," Mr. Meyer said, "a juicy, two-fisted hamburger provides comfort and certainty."

    The burger at Union Square Cafe costs $12.50 and comes with French fries; it isn't even close to the city's most expensive. For many years that title was held by the "21" Club, with its $26 burger made with houseground top round and sirloin, which Eric Blauberg, the chef, has recently rejiggered to include duck fat and fresh thyme and marjoram.

    It's a flavorful burger. But really, what kind of a burger joint requires a gentleman to wear a jacket and suggests a tie?

    Then Daniel Boulud stepped forward with a $29 hamburger at his DB Bistro Moderne on West 44th Street, although some burger purists insist that with its interior stuffing of black truffles, foie gras and braised short ribs it is a hamburger in name only.

    "It's delicious,'` said Alan Richman, the food columnist of GQ, "but it certainly doesn't resemble any of the lousy burgers I grew up with in the Philadelphia suburbs."

    That's not surprising. It is hard to imagine a burger in Mr. Richman's neighborhood served, as Mr. Boulud's is, on a housemade bun with toasted Parmigiano Reggiano, tomato confit, chicory and fresh horseradish and a side order of habit-forming fries.

    More recognizable to Mr. Richman, perhaps, but even more expensive, is the new reigning champion of hamburger pricing: a $41 monster that has just appeared on the menu at the Old Homestead on Ninth Avenue, built of beer-fed Kobe beef, with lobster mushrooms and microgreens, on a Parmesan twist roll. It is genuinely lousy, a mushy, gray thing of loose consistency and little flavor.

    The Old Homestead and DB burgers are just two of the extreme burger variations available in New York. Indeed, in New York, if you can grind it and cook it, someone will call it a hamburger.

    La Sandwicherie, carved out of the back of the kitchen of the Moroccan restaurant Zitoune, on Gansevoort Street, serves Moroccan-inspired burgers, made with spicy lamb sausage and salmon. At Dim Sum Go Go in Chatham Square in Chinatown, Charn-Hing Man, the chef, makes a burger with a patty of dumpling filling served on a steamed bun. And at Marseille in Midtown, Alex Ureña makes a Provençal-inspired seafood burger with salmon, shrimp and scallops topped with a harissa mayonnaise and served on a brioche bun.

    Mr. Ureña's fish burger is particularly fine. But more in tune with the common New York burger experience is the superlative beef patty available on East 51st Street, at Prime Burger, né Hamburg Heaven.

    Founded in 1938, Hamburg Heaven gently played off its location across the street from St. Patrick's Cathedral with a slogan printed on its menus and doors: "The Gates of Heaven — Never Closed." Rita Hayworth and Henry Fonda were regulars, fans of the restaurant's prime beef burgers, homemade pies and cakes and perhaps also of its one-person booths with swivel trays that looked like school desks.

    Hamburg Heaven fell victim to overly ambitious expansion plans, but New Yorkers can still eat those same burgers and pies in those selfsame booths for one at Prime Burger, which took over the location in 1965. The single-occupancy booths are a particularly lovely anachronism: take your coat off before you sit down, as the space is so confining you'll find yourself twisting like a contortionist to do so after the fact.

    Neighborhood taverns and bars have also long been havens for superlative New York hamburgers. The Old Town Bar on East 18th Street has served outstanding burgers since 1980 (the bar itself has been open since 1892). P. J. Clarke's saloon on Third Avenue is currently closed for renovation, but it served its signature small bacon cheeseburgers for 53 years before it was shuttered. Philip A. Scotti, the current owner, promises that the burgers will return. And Upper East Side residents have been eating the burgers at J. G. Melon's for 30 years.

    Burgers can also be found at virtually every coffee shop and diner in the five boroughs. I have had dozens of cheeseburgers at the Cosmic Coffee Shop right off Columbus Circle, and though the Cosmic burger can hardly qualify as great, it is certainly satisfying and graciously served by the warmhearted people who work there. It is a perfectly good burger, and in New York that counts a lot.

    The Burger Joint on Broadway and 77th Street serves a similar function (as well as a fine burger) for the Upper West Side, though service there can be a bit more harried. And Downtown artists and families get their good-enough burger fix at Joe Jr.'s on the Avenue of the Americas and 11th Street.

    Just what goes into a great hamburger? Here are some ground rules. Burger greatness begins with fresh ground meat , preferably chuck from prime beef, which has more marbling and therefore more fat. The meat should not be too lean — that results in a mealy, overly dry burger.

    THE newly opened Lunchbox Food Company in the West Village makes its excellent burger by grinding hanger steak. Bill Telepan, chef at the Judson Grill, grinds Niman Ranch chuck steak, which he said has a meat-to-fat ratio of 75 to 25. It provides a wonderfully smooth texture and taste to the interior of his hamburgers. And at Peter Luger in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the burgers (only at lunch) are made of fabulously beefy dry-aged prime beef.

    Good meat is only the beginning of a great burger, however. How a burger is cooked also plays a role. Exemplary burgers can be cooked by charcoal, as at Judson Grill, on a griddle as at Blue 9, or in a salamander in the manner of Prime Burger and Peter Luger. The key element is that the cook makes sure there is enough heat to properly sear the ground meat into a tight patty.

    And how much meat? As with bagels before them, many New York burgers have fallen prey to a sort of elephantiasis that has left many bagels, at least, looking like spare tires. This obsession with size can be traced to the opening of the first Jackson Hole restaurant in 1973, which served 10-ounce burgers then as now. But bigger is not necessarily better. Unless the ground beef used in the burger is of sufficiently high quality, a diner can end up eating a pile of mushy, tasteless meat. It is also worth noting that bigger burgers also invariably overwhelm their buns, resulting in a dripping mess. (Some burger lovers, particularly those who patronize Corner Bistro in the West Village, consider the mess a virtue.)

    Smaller, thinner burgers are more likely to achieve the right ratios of bun to meat to condiment to toppings, which can result in the winsome confluence of flavors and texture that defines the perfect burger.

    Still, half-pound burgers have become the norm in New York. For some, there is the impression that more meat represents better value, particularly for a burger in an upscale environment. Mr. Telepan, the chef at the Judson Grill, said he had tried to make his burger smaller to improve the meat-to-bun ratio and to make it easier to eat, but his customers rebelled.

    "I started getting complaints that the burger was too small," he said. "So I caved. I myself like a smaller burger."

    The half-pound burger has given way to what the owner of Burger Joint, Nick Imiriziades, has dubbed the sumo burger, which weighs in at more than a pound. The sumo has done well. Until recently, Mr. Imiriziades said, his hamburgers came in three sizes: the regular 5-ounce burger, an 8-ounce Big Nick and the sumo. "But no one orders regular anymore," Mr. Imiriziades said. The smallest burger has been relegated to the children's menu.

    Then there's the matter of the bun. Purists want their buns lightly toasted or grilled. They are correct. A hamburger bun should be soft enough so that it can embrace the burger and the cheese that comes with it. Store-bought buns work very well, as do those made with brioche dough at fancy-pants burger places like Union Square Cafe and the Judson Grill. The newly opened Burger Joint in the Parker Meridien Hotel has an old-fashioned toaster where the buns revolve around the heating element. As each burger is ordered, one of the young women at the shop puts a bun in the toaster; it's ready the same time the burger is.

    Toppings are a matter of personal taste, of course, but the classic New York burger is encased in American or cheddar cheese, with lettuce and tomato and a few slices of onion on the side (burgers that aspire to greatness, I say, should come with sautéed or grilled onions). Fries, of course, should be on the plate as well — fresh, not frozen, golden brown outside, soft inside, served with plenty of salt.

    And to drink? Mr. Richman of GQ requires "bubbles — it could be beer or soda or even Champagne."

    I like a shake, or even better, a chocolate malt. That way you get your beverage and your dessert simultaneously.

  2. #2
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    Garden City, LI

    Default New York City Burgers

    Nice article. *Who doesn't love a good burger. *I actually was craving one yesterday.

    I wonder how those crazy prices burgers really are. *Anyone know first hand?

    NY really does have it all - and is the best at most of it!

  3. #3

    Default New York City Burgers

    I was slavering like one of those Simpson's aliens reading that article! *My vote currently goes to Island Burger. * Here's what some people said on the NY Times forum for the article ...

    hobchi - 10:29pm Jan 14, 2003 EST (# 7299 of 7392)
    Re Burgers.... Burgers are OK, In NYC I like those burgers from those places in Wyoming? Can't think of the name. But best are burgers with a hard fried egg atop. Usually called eggburgers. A high Protein diet, with mushrooms and onions.
    siouxms - 10:42pm Jan 14, 2003 EST (# 7300 of 7392)
    hobchi - are you talking about Jackson Hole? Their burgers are okay, but they are really too big.
    petersdowling - 04:47am Jan 15, 2003 EST (# 7301 of 7392)
    A major oversite in this article is its scant mention of JG Melon's, an Upper Eastside institution largely due to its delectable burgers. I highly recommend this place for great burgers, great fries, and the warm, oaky bar feel. God, I love Melons!
    mtvbusdave - 08:45am Jan 15, 2003 EST (# 7302 of 7392)
    God Bless the New York Times for publishing the burger profile. For the record, I would like to point out a few other classic places that my friends and I (or, as we prefer to call ourselves, 'The Knights of the Ground Round Table' ) can't live without:
    1. Who can fail to be impressed by the ginormous colossus known as the McHales Burger? Sweet Jesus, it's hard to finish those bad boys, but man are they heaven. Plus their fries rule.
    2. It was definitely an oversight to exclude the best gourmet burger in town: Island Burger. Come on now Levine -- truffle burgers but not Island? That's just wrong. Just cuz they don't serve fries...
    3. While I do dearly love Old Town, it does seem wrong to exclude the gloriously meaty multitudes served by Molly's in Gramercy Park. Sawdust on the floor, burger juice slip-slidin' down my face? Nirvana!
    4. And you can never forget Big Nick's. Those wonders of low-brow dining technology are big, sloppy and nasty (in a good way) and most certainly should not be overlooked.
    All the same, thanks for the glorious research. Our dining options have multiplied exponentially. Mr Levine, if you ever need help researching an update for this story, I'm there for you man. So are my fellow knights.
    Dave Anderson
    oceanaj4 - 08:46am Jan 15, 2003 EST (# 7303 of 7392)
    In reference to Ed Levine's "Burger," I just drove into NYC last night from Long Island to try the Kobe burger of the Old Homestead with a friend. The burger was pure oral pleasure, although a bit difficult to handle, I savoured every bite of the medium rare succulent patty. Two glasses of Cabernet and oysters to start with, completed the awesome experience!
    terrydmoore - 09:45am Jan 15, 2003 EST (# 7308 of 7390)
    Paul's Palace on Second Avenue in the East Village has the most delicious burgers, and a wide range of types. As a former New Yorker transplanted to Texas, I make a visit to Paul's a must on every trip back to the city. Espcially good are the Texas burger with a fried egg on top (which I have never seen in Texas), and the Blue cheese and bacon burger.
    gblue8 - 09:57am Jan 15, 2003 EST (# 7309 of 7390)
    Greatest quote of all time "Burgers that aspire to greatness, I say, should come with sauteed or grilled onions"...pure poetry....also, just of note, Manchesters on 48th/2nd has been my favorite burger in a pub for years but I will sample all the places in your article...
    kepniss - 09:57am Jan 15, 2003 EST (# 7310 of 7390)
    City Hall (the restaurant, not Mr. Bloomberg's pad) has an amazing burger. The bun is onion, the fries are great and
    winterblep - 11:12am Jan 15, 2003 EST (# 7323 of 7390)
    All the burgers at Piper's Kilt, on upper Broadway at 207th in Inwood, are among the best ever. Besides the fact they advertise "the best burgers in New York," the burgers really may be the best. Out of the way (unless one lives here), but easy to reach via the last stop on the A line running North.
    leilap - 11:53am Jan 15, 2003 EST (# 7328 of 7390)
    I have to agree with phish242, Paul's Place in the East Village should have gotten at least a mention. Paul's is dedicated to cranking out quality burgers that don't cost too much. The article dedicates too much ink to the $25+ burger. After all, don't the vast majority of NY'ers look for value when having a burger?
    tkbaltimore - 11:55am Jan 15, 2003 EST (# 7329 of 7390)
    I agree with many others: I'm amazed that the Corner Bistro only got that short mention about being a mess. It deserves more than that. My only problem with it is that I can never get a table.
    snookle - 12:40pm Jan 15, 2003 EST (# 7341 of 7389)
    Cozy Soup and Burger, in the Village. Massive and good.
    coachboomer55 - 12:48pm Jan 15, 2003 EST (# 7344 of 7389)
    One mention of Corner Bistro. Unbelievable. It is a staple of the burger vocabulary. Everyone knows about it because it is WORTH knowing. It's sort of like not giving MJ the MVP every year. We all know how good. This guy just wanted to talk about something different. And in the end he kept talking about new places that don't have the 15+ years of experience. Anyone else think this dude was all about the California band wagon as well?
    dsteak - 12:49pm Jan 15, 2003 EST (# 7345 of 7389)
    If you haven't tried Island Burger on 9th Avenue, you should. Excellent burgers with many kinds of toppings, and they also serve a nice chicken breast as well with the same toppings. Although there are NO fries, the shakes are great.
    snookle - 01:25pm Jan 15, 2003 EST (# 7348 of 7389)
    Cozy Soup and Burger, in the Village. Massive and good.
    liulide79 - 01:35pm Jan 15, 2003 EST (# 7351 of 7389)
    Coachboomer55 - Ed Levine was all about the California bandwagon because it's worth getting on. I'm a lifelong New Yorker but I have to swallow my pride and concede the burger to California. That In-N-Out burger was an eye-opening experience.
    tobilove - 01:45pm Jan 15, 2003 EST (# 7354 of 7389)
    Donovans in Woodside has a great burger and the beer is cold, but when I am in the 60's around Ave of the Americas there is a corner diner at 55th and 6th called Astro, the burger is an Astroburger and it is the best I have had....Sometimes they are only good, but usually they are great I worked across the street for a few years and had a lot of them. I never get tired of Donovans' or Astros'. Just great burgers.
    mollyceger - 01:46pm Jan 15, 2003 EST (# 7355 of 7389)
    I too, am surprised that the Corner Bistro merely gets a nod. Although, I find it amazing that Jimbo Burger (the one on Amsterdam between 125th & 126th) did not make it either - the best griddle burger in Manhattan.
    laudanet - 01:49pm Jan 15, 2003 EST (# 7356 of 7389)
    P.J. Clarke burgers with Guiness stout is still my #1.
    gkirch - 02:14pm Jan 15, 2003 EST (# 7359 of 7389)
    Handsdown "Houston's" at Citicorp Center... Can't beat it. Ed Levine should have tried them.
    lornarg - 02:52pm Jan 15, 2003 EST (# 7371 of 7389)
    My fav bar burger is from Julius’s bar on West 10th and Waverly. They are cheaper and much better than Corner Bistro. (Which are totally overrated.)
    kaprock - 03:06pm Jan 15, 2003 EST (# 7372 of 7389)
    I live in LA but when I'm there, none is better than Arizona 206 on East 60th.
    aghavey - 03:14pm Jan 15, 2003 EST (# 7373 of 7389)
    SoupBurg on Lexington just above 79th is a great burger. Also Neils coffee shop on 71st and Lex. Perfect burger for lunch.
    Los angeles has the Apple Pan and My Fathers Office in Santa Monica is fantastic with onion compote great beef bleu cheese with arugula on baggette.
    sidearm17 - 03:18pm Jan 15, 2003 EST (# 7374 of 7389)
    Pauls at St. Marks and Second....hands down....try the blue cheese burger on a oversized English muffin....
    mklonsky1 - 03:23pm Jan 15, 2003 EST (# 7376 of 7389)
    Clancy's has by far the best burger in Midtown!
    duffyhiggins - 03:26pm Jan 15, 2003 EST (# 7377 of 7389)
    Barney Mac's (now Boxer's) on the corner of west4th on Barrow. GREAT burgers! and aside from the top 3's of Corner bistro, J.G. Melon's and Jackson Hole, FIND Chumley's in the West Village and get you socks knocked off !!!
    020001 - 03:51pm Jan 15, 2003 EST (# 7378 of 7389)
    Hey, what about Nick's Burgers on the Upper West Side (across from Ruby Foo's)? -- they're the best I've tasted in NORTH AMERICA!
    michaelcambre - 03:53pm Jan 15, 2003 EST (# 7379 of 7389)
    Big Nick's on Upper Broadway. A great variety of burgers, great taste. Atmosphere is cramped, but fun.
    jonnya640 - 04:10pm Jan 15, 2003 EST (# 7383 of 7392)
    without a doubt my favorite burgers in the city are knickerbocker on university and 9th st(also great crispy fries) and McHales on 8th ave and 46th st (a great bar burger) check it out
    manoto - 04:11pm Jan 15, 2003 EST (# 7384 of 7392)
    Skinflints in Brooklyn has one of the all time greatest flame charred burgers anywhere. Worth the trip to Bay Ridge for a look into this great old time bar alone! Who would have ever thought to order a cheeseburger at Lugers? It's not like they give you a menu there! Gotta try one.
    mwolf14 - 04:16pm Jan 15, 2003 EST (# 7385 of 7392)
    It seems that the other boroughs, besides Manhattan and Brooklyn, were seriously neglected.
    I highly recommend Mikes Diner in Astoria - 31st Street just under the Ditmars Boulevard Station Stop on the N or W Subway Lines. The burgers are heavenly and the milk shakes are so thick that you'd think you were drinking slightly melted iced cream. It is the only place I feel safe ordering a drippingly rare carniverous hamburger and knowing I won't regret it later - a thing of value for a female the day before that time of the month.
    The other place of note is the Bayside Diner located on Northern Boulevard. The place is in disguise as an actual restaurant but is huge and the burgers are served with a heap of french fries and coleslaw and a nice salty pickle.
    dave! - 04:24pm Jan 15, 2003 EST (# 7386 of 7392)
    Rita's in Chelsea Piers makes the juciest, best burgers. The buns are always fresh and the beef is thick & juicy...
    ebcohen4a - 04:32pm Jan 15, 2003 EST (# 7387 of 7392)
    Hmmm Blue 9 is like In and Out in am I going there this wkend ....maybe twice
    djmnyc - 04:43pm Jan 15, 2003 EST (# 7388 of 7392)
    I've always thought Fanelli's was nearly as good as Corner Bistro, though not quite. Blue 9 is exemplary for the thinner patty--get the Blue 9 burger with onions, it's very well proportioned. Definitely go with the medium-well, much better than the medium-rare. Knickerbocker's is quite good, as well.

  4. #4
    Moderator NYatKNIGHT's Avatar
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    Default New York City Burgers


    My current favorite neighborhood burger is at Milady's bar and grill - Thompson and Prince in Soho. Yummy.

  5. #5

    Default New York City Burgers

    I practically lived in Milady's back in the '70s.The great thing about them is they are SO neighborhood that the casual visitor would probably overlook them.I was there recently,hung out with some regulars for awhile,had a Western egg there.(By the way,Cosmic Cafe's Western is excellent.)
    A couple of blocks East is Googie's Bar,another old hangout,and I've heard they have good food.I just go there to drink.
    But my favorite NY burger,after an exhaustive personal survey,is at Jackson Hole.That Wyoming place.Great 1/2 pound burgers,made in front of you,served on a loaf,surrounded by a mountain of fries-- and beer is available.Lotsa good burger,not expensive.Cheap,really.
    Try one.The restaurant has about 9 Manhattan locs.I've been to 2 of them,and keep going back whenever I visit the City. *

  6. #6
    Moderator NYatKNIGHT's Avatar
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    Cozy Soup 'n' Burger

    Quote Originally Posted by L D
    739 Broadway at Astor Place

  7. #7
    Moderator NYatKNIGHT's Avatar
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    Next question: how much?

  8. #8


    What is wrong with the meat on that burger? Yikes.

    You truly cannot beat Corner Bistro's $6 Bistro Burger. It's tied with DB Bistro's $30 burger for the highest rating in Zagat.

  9. #9
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    Ear Inn Tavern.

    Bacon Cheddar Burger and a Guinness. VERY nice, and very affordable.

    Any other suggestions for the West Village/Soho/Tribecca?

    (I tried reading throygh all of it, but only the Corner Bistro came up that I recognised...)

  10. #10


    Amusingly written and very informative.

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    Silver Spurs, Broadway between 9th and 10th, just up from Soup Burg. A bit more expensive, but if I recall the burgers are bigger.

  12. #12


    I think the Corner Bistro on West 4th is the best, HUGE BISTRO for only

    five bucks. The burger joint is good too but the burgers are a little on the

    small side.

    A couple of years ago Relish in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn was

    rated as having the best burgers in the city. Never ate any burgers there

    but, its an awesome diner.

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    Donovan's Pub in Woodside and Bayside, Queens.

    200 Fifth in Park Slope, Brooklyn and Dumont in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

    Also, for a sick amount of meat and variety, while not being the best, Jackson Hole is something. Locations in Manhattan and Queens.

  14. #14


    I would agree with the quality assessment of Jackson Hole. The one time I got one of their burgers it was practically swimming in oil.

  15. #15
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    Better Burger, etc. Nice burger, not too big, selection of sides and a drink...$8. Not bad.

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