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Too Good Burgers  New York City Entry #92  Burger Joint at the Parker Meridien and db Bistro Moderne at the City Club Hotel

Hamburgers are nothing to sneeze at. It is not for nothing that the American fast food industry applied their Fordist techniques most successfully to those pucks of beef. Seemingly anyone can flip a burger, making it the ideal entry job for teens whom no parent would think of trusting with the family meal.

However, everything can be upscaled, transformed into a luxury good, a source of what social theorist Thorstein Veblen spoke of as pecuniary emulation. Burgers are no exception. This past week I slipped into two hotel restaurants to see what all of the fuss is about. Over the past year I have had a few noteworthy burgers, including those at Donovan's (an extraordinarily fulfilling, juicy burger at an archetypal, convivial Irish neighborhood bar in Woodside, Queens), Better Burger (a better-than-average fast food effort) and Burke in the Box (a cute conceit at Bloomingdale's), but none that I have written about. (Perhaps I should try the burger at Peter Luger's Steakhouse, but that seems such a damn waste). Hamburgers are among the most American of foods: steak on a bun, and even when they are not at their best, they can be intensely satisfying.

Perhaps the most notorious celebrity burger in Manhattan is "The Original db Burger," a $29 platter of excess, the Paris Hilton of beefcake: "Sirloin Burger Filled with Braised Short Ribs, Foie Grass and Black Truffle on a Parmesan Bun with Pommes Frites." But where is the beluga and Tasmanian leatherwood honey? No diner could possibly doubt the damage of this fare to one's own liver - or the elegance of the luxe room in which it is served. One could hardly spend a year in Manhattan without a db Burger and a bit of sushi at Masa (more on this later), if one hopes to understand how capitalist inequalities are tottering.

Daniel Boulud and his Chef de Cuisine Oliver Muller serve a composition that truly deserves the label "concoction." After finishing I felt like a nervous ten year old who has just exited the Cyclone, glad that he had a story to tell and relieved it was over. Chef Daniel, has anyone ordered the db Burger twice? Why? I do not disdain the experience. It was luscious and I will remember the foie gras, short ribs, and truffles, and I have a tale about a burger priced $28 above a White Castle slider.

The Burger Joint at Le Parker is reached by entering a curtained area off the lobby of this upscale hotel. The experience has the feel of finding La Esquina, the hidden SoHo Mexican dungeon, a space whose concealment swells the arch desire to Be There! (At 10:30 p.m. on a weeknight I faced no long line.) Unlike the db Burger, Burger Joint does not carry the weight of Chef Daniel's reputation. It is a high-end burger, ground top sirloin and shoulder. Mine nicely grilled with some charring. I requested my burger rare, but it was, by my standard, medium-rare. I am perfectly happy with medium-rare hamburgers. Ordering rare insures that I will not receive a grey medium. Perhaps the Burger Joint did not produce a Platonic burger, but at $5.50 it was estimable. It did not match the beauty of the perfectly cooked burger at Donovan's, just good sirloin cooked without pretense, and presented rare, served by barmen who are not just marking time, and, of course, at the Meridien there was no Guinness Stout on hand to complete the perfection.

db Bistro Moderne

55 West 44th Street (at 6th Avenue)

Manhattan (Midtown)

212-391-2400

Burger Joint

Hotel Le Parker Meridien

118 West 57th Street (at 7th Avenue)

Manhattan (Midtown)

212-708-7414

Donovan's Pub

5724 Roosevelt Ave. (at Skillman Avenue)

Queens (Woodside)

718-429-9339

My Webpage: Vealcheeks

Just wanted to add another good burger to the thread that I haven't seen mentioned. Surprisingly, the burger at Odeon in Tribeca is very good most of the time. I'd be happy to endorse various choices that already appear here (Dumont, Bistro, BJ at Parker Meridien, etc.) but everyone is already well aware of those. The Odeon is usually at the same level, and it's easier to get in there much of the time.

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  • 1 year later...

Re-visited a few burger places recently, and wanted to post about them here:

5 Guys (7th Av. & Bleeker):

Eaten here twice in the last twice weeks, and both times were perfect. The meat patties (two per burger) had a really nice crust, gooey cheese, and I added mayo+ketchup (to keep it super moist since the burgers are well done) and lettuce+tomato. It's amazing to me how good these burgers are, just a really classic delicious flavor. It's a shame that the grilled onions suck, but that's not a terrible offense if you're gonna have one.

BRGR (7th Av. & 26th)

What used to be one of my favorites seems to have had a massive collapse. I went and made a point to sit at the bar, and frankly, it was a little scary. Flies were everywhere, to the point where I had to move down to the end to avoid them. The line cook was KILLING the burgers, letting them sit there forever! Not only that, but he didn't scrape/clean the grill once the whole time I was there, meaning the meat crust would stay behind stuck to the grill once the burgers were finally rescued. Even burnt cheese just sat there on the grill the whole time. My burger was a hockey puck, which is a shame since that grass fed beef still tasted pretty darn decent. I really hope I just went on a bad day, but I imagine that chef has to be there at least 40 hours a week no?

Corner Bistro (some "impossible to find without a map" intersection of the west village)

More flies! And more jobless Wall Street guys bellying up to the bar! I never understood this place, the burgers get fingered over, pressed to death, the meat isn't seasoned properly. bleh. The bacon was nice this time though, had a solid crunch. But the establishment is run down and smelly, not my bag.

RARE (Lexington & 37th)

Although their "steakhouse" burgers are very pricey ($20+), they are absolutely (absolutely) delicious. My personal favorite is the Ribeye burger (sucker for cipollines and smoked cheddar and avocado!), my co-workers go with the T-Bone (bacon, cheddar, crispy onions). The best part here is that it's identically delicious every single time without fail. Every time we go back, the first bite get's a groan without fail. I also like the cottage fries with chipotle mayo.

STAND (12th b/w 5th & University)

I heard they switched buns a while ago, but I hadn't had the chance to check it out, and from my recollection it's definitely better now. While the meat still wasn't anything to write eG about, I ordered a burger with a side "dip" of cheddar cheese and thought it was a fantastic idea. It tasted great, and quite frankly, it was fun dipping a burger into a container of runny cheese sauce! I don't know this place as well as the rest above, so the details are a little weak. I did notice they place kewpie mayo tubes on every table though, which is sweet.

Benjamin's (41st between Park & Madison)

Not unlike the meat itself, getting a burger from a NY Steakhouse can be maddeningly inconsistent. I've had two burgers here that were amongst the best I've ever had - super tangy like only well aged prime beef can be, and delicious - perfectly cooked to a medium rare. And then I've had a couple of burgers that were ok. And then a couple more that were very bland. It's a gamble, but when you win, it's awesome.

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  • 5 months later...

Is Black Iron Burger part of any serious discussion about Manhattan burgers? It should be. We stopped in last night (and thanks to donbert for the re-recommend, because the first time we tried to go, they were closed) and had a couple of delicious burgers. I went old-school, plain with lettuce, tomatoes and onions, and Ali went for the patty melt, again a donbert recommend. These are somewhere in between the Shake Shack/Burger Joints burgers vs. the big, juicy burger school of burgers. It's a big patty, but not an inch thick.

But it is seriously good. Great meat. Great bun. The only complaint is that I don't love shredded lettuce, but it was nice and fresh. I didn't even get to try the patty melt, but she was in heaven.

Lots of beers on draft. Including Pabst. On draft. Hadn't seen that in forever.

And the fries...I complain a lot about shitty fries. These were so damn good. And VERY salty - might cut back a bit on the salt, and they'd be perfect.

Way east, on 5th between A & B. But how far is that from Death & Co. or PDT? Really.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Is Black Iron Burger part of any serious discussion about Manhattan burgers? It should be. We stopped in last night (and thanks to donbert for the re-recommend, because the first time we tried to go, they were closed) and had a couple of delicious burgers.  I went old-school, plain with lettuce, tomatoes and onions, and Ali went for the patty melt, again a donbert recommend. These are somewhere in between the Shake Shack/Burger Joints burgers vs. the big, juicy burger school of burgers.  It's a big patty, but not an inch thick.

But it is seriously good.  Great meat. Great bun. The only complaint is that I don't love shredded lettuce, but it was nice and fresh.  I didn't even get to try the patty melt, but she was in heaven. 

Lots of beers on draft.  Including Pabst. On draft.  Hadn't seen that in forever.

And the fries...I complain a lot about shitty fries. These were so damn good. And VERY salty - might cut back a bit on the salt, and they'd be perfect.

Way east, on 5th between A & B. But how far is that from Death & Co. or PDT? Really.

Oh, yes. Had a burger there (also after D&Co, shocker) over the summer and thought it was excellent.

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I agree that Black Iron's pretty good. Talking to the counter guy at an earlier visit, he mentioned that they're using a custom blend of grass fed beef. I don't think it's in that top echelon, but it's very good.

The new burger at Shopsin's, however, is crazy good. He's using a custom blend of (and don't qoute me on this) ground chuck and brisket from Jeffery's. It was juicy, fatty and had that perfect, charred crust from the flat top. A definite contender.

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Is Black Iron Burger part of any serious discussion about Manhattan burgers? It should be.

I think I started a thread on it. If you care to, you might cross-post there too. It's pretty solid, but I wasn't blown away. It's been several months since my one visit, however.

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  • 1 year later...

Tommy, I'd say there are several legitimate styles of hamburger, and grilled-with-heavy-crust is only one of them. Top broiling creates a similar crust and depending on the equipment being used can I think do a better job because the fat runs off and away instead of creating flareups. Certainly top broiling is preferable to a gas grill -- and there's a question whether any burger cooks long enough to pick up wood flavor from a wood- or charcoal-grill.

Aren't the flare-ups preferable, when there's not an excessive amount? I've read that much of the aroma imparted from a grill is actually from the flare-ups and not as much from the fuel (gas, charcoal, wood) for something you cook as quickly as a burger.

Is there an easy way to discern a top-broiled burger from a griddled one? With a grilled burger, there are the grill marks.

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  • 1 year later...

While there are a most likely a ton of places to add to this list, it appears as if one of our local favorites, Black Iron Burger Bar, might be no longer. Last night, 4 of us were dying for a burger (along with those fired pickled green tomatoes) and headed over - where we were greeted by a lights out, empty restaurant. No sign on the door - nothing - just a closed up joint.

According to their recorded message, they will be closed for renovations until July 19th - last night was the 21st, so maybe there is still some hope.

Ah well...

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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My current favorites, in different styles:

- Corner Bistro - the bistro burger (bacon cheeseburger). Big fat chargrilled classic East Coast Irish burger.

- Shake Shack. Still the best West Coast style burger in town to my mind. I prefer the cheeseburger to the Shackburger.

- Dumont. The regular Dumont, not Dumont Burger. The burger with blue cheese is ridiculously delicious.

For those willing to travel to New Jersey:

- White Rose System in Linden. Fastest way to get there is via Staten Island. Way way way off the beaten track. Absolutely perfect real sliders cooked in the same way since the 1930s - mashed on the griddle for crispyness, then steamed under a metal dome with onions. Your only neighbor will be a truck driver in this deserted industrial area, plus maybe Tony Bourdain. (Not affiliated with the inferior place of the same name in Jersey City.) More info here:

http://aht.seriouseats.com/archives/2009/09/classic-sliders-white-rose-system-linden-nj-new-jersey.html

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Growing up in NY a burger (and I'm taxing my memory here, since when I come to NY a burger isn't on my to-do list) was composed of nothing more than a bun, lightly toasted if you were lucky, ketchup, the meat patty and some pickle chips. Or you could add cheese--yellow in those days. How do you put Irish on it?

So what exactly is a west coast burger, at least from an east coast perspective? When we make burgers at home here we use mustard, mayo, ketchup and have a plate with sliced red onion, tomatoes and lettuce, and either pickles or roasted green chillies. I've abandoned the traditional bun for toasted slices of good quality batarde or rustic french style white bread.

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Growing up in NY a burger (and I'm taxing my memory here, since when I come to NY a burger isn't on my to-do list) was composed of nothing more than a bun, lightly toasted if you were lucky, ketchup, the meat patty and some pickle chips. Or you could add cheese--yellow in those days. How do you put Irish on it?

So what exactly is a west coast burger, at least from an east coast perspective? When we make burgers at home here we use mustard, mayo, ketchup and have a plate with sliced red onion, tomatoes and lettuce, and either pickles or roasted green chillies. I've abandoned the traditional bun for toasted slices of good quality batarde or rustic french style white bread.

I've started a topic on just this subject.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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  • 2 weeks later...

While there are a most likely a ton of places to add to this list, it appears as if one of our local favorites, Black Iron Burger Bar, might be no longer. Last night, 4 of us were dying for a burger (along with those fired pickled green tomatoes) and headed over - where we were greeted by a lights out, empty restaurant. No sign on the door - nothing - just a closed up joint.

According to their recorded message, they will be closed for renovations until July 19th - last night was the 21st, so maybe there is still some hope.

Ah well...

An update on Black Iron Burger Bar from EV Grieve...doesn't really tell us much:

However, the space is still closed... the outgoing message still says July 19... and we haven't heard any updates on when BIB may reopen...

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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