July 11, 2012

Best City Burgers


Tracking Down The Best Burger And Fries In NYC

By New York Family


Genesis Burger

By Paul Bisceglio, Megan Bungeroth, Mayara Guimaraes, Rebecca Harris, Regan Hofmann, Helen Matsumoto, Amy Smith and Amanda Woods

New Yorkers have been searching for the best burger in the city since the dawn of time. But New York Family‘s sister publication, Our Town, wanted to find out where Upper East and Upper West Siders can get the best burger without having to leave their neighborhood. A team of reporters scouted out over 15 popular burger joints, from the highbrow to the dive, and rated their signature sandwiches. Check out our reviews and embark on a family taste test this weekend!

 

 

UPPER EAST SIDE

Jones Wood Foundry
401 E. 76th St., 212-249-2700, joneswoodfoundry.com
Burger: JWF Burger, DeBragga Dry Aged Blend; $18.50
Juiciness: 5
Flavor: 5
Inventiveness: 3
Bun: 3
Value: 3
Preparation: 5
Side: Fries, 2
Presentation: 5

If you get the burger at this crowded gem of a British pub, get it with Stilton (as opposed to Swiss) and get it with bacon. Both complement the dry-aged patty in a way that, while making the whole meal a touch salty, pushes the flavors into a sharp, savory combination that makes the burger excellent instead of just great. The accompanying fries (or more authentically, chips) aren’t crispy enough and don’t properly absorb the malt vinegar they are served with, but the housemade pickle and roasted plum tomatoes make up for that. The burger itself doesn’t need ketchup, lettuce or anything aside from those roasted tomatoes. Wash it all down with a Boddington’s ale and you’ll quickly forget that you’ve spent nearly $20 on a cheeseburger that’s actually well worth it.

Joy Burger Bar
1567 Lexington Ave., 212-289-6222, joyburgerbar.com
Burger: Midi (5 oz.) burger with cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, sautéed onions, spicy mayo; $5.60
Juiciness: 3
Flavor: 4
Inventiveness/Creativity: 4
Bun quality: 3
Value: 5
Preparation: 5
Side: Fries (extra), 5
Presentation: 4

This burger bar kicks customization up a notch by letting you decide what size burger you want—3, 5 or 8 ounces—and charging accordingly. Cheese and some upscale toppings like avocado and olive tapenade cost extra, but the regulars are free and unlimited, as are sauces like garlic mayo and spicy mango chutney. The patty itself, which you can get cooked medium rare to order, unlike Joy Burger’s competitors in the mid-priced upscale burger joint category, is decent, if unremarkable. Their slogan, “The sauces make the difference,” is definitely true. Plus, a midi burger with cheese, a side of almost perfect crunchy-on-the-outside shoestring fries and a beer will only set you back $13, and the restaurant’s cozy diner feel makes it a great spot for kids or a kitschy but fun cheap date.

Shake Shack
154 E. 86th St., 646-237-5035, shakeshack.com
Burger: ShackBurger (Single); $4.55
Juiciness: 5
Flavor: 5
Inventiveness: 3
Bun: 3
Value: 5
Preparation: 4
Side: Crinkle-cut fries, 4
Presentation: 2

This oh-so-popular fast food chain does not pretend to be anything more than what it is: a cheap, guilty-pleasure burger joint with greasy, delicious classics. Don’t be put off by the long lines, because this place is quick. For $5 at Shake Shack, you can get a cheeseburger with a juicy, flavorful patty and the standard fixings, dripping with the restaurant’s mysterious, sinfully scrumptious Shack Sauce (you can forgo additional condiments). The burgers are rather small, but if you add a side of their too-salty-in-a-good-way crinkle-cut fries and a creamy, hand-spun milkshake—which you absolutely should—you’ll be full to the gills by the end of the meal. This is not the place to go if you’re looking for the highest quality beef or an exciting blend of toppings, but if a quick, cheap, tasty burger, fries and shake is what you’re after, Shake Shack’s old-school simplicity will be right up your alley.

Genesis Burger
1708 2nd Ave., 212-348-5500, genesisbar.com
Burger: Gaelic Burger (cheddar cheese, Irish bacon, sautéed onions, lettuce, tomato and ketchup on a toasted sesame seed bun); $12
Juiciness: 3
Flavor: 3
Inventiveness: 5
Bun: 5
Value: 4
Preparation: 4
Side: Fries, 5
Presentation: 4

If you’re looking to enjoy a good burger with a creative twist, you may want to consider the variety of options on the menu of this classic pub. Monday nights are burger night, with eight special burgers added to the menu! The patty itself did not have a lot of flavor, which was disappointing, but the combination of toppings—try it with sautéed onions—a perfectly toasted bun and a delicious side of crispy bar fries tied the meal together to make this cheeseburger well worth its reasonable price. Chase it down with a Sierra Nevada pale ale or another of the pub’s many beer options, and Genesis is a great place to enjoy a quality, affordable burger. Plus, one of the pub’s main attraction is its atmosphere (and good music selection); you can watch the big game inside at the bar or dine outdoors with friends on a warm summer’s eve.

Ottomanelli New York Grill
1424 Lexington Ave., 212-426-6886, nycotto.com
Burger: VIP Burger (mushrooms, grilled onions and provolone); $9.75
Juiciness: 3
Flavor: 3
Inventiveness: 4
Bun quality: 3
Value: 3
Preparation: 4
Side: Waffle fries, 5
Presentation: 4

At Ottomanelli New York Grill, the rustic Italian atmosphere and the menu’s vast selection of steak burgers unite the best of two worlds. The VIP Burger is a tasty option; the burger’s toppings—mushrooms, grilled onions and provolone—offer a satisfying mix of textures and flavors. The provolone coats the top of the patty, and every mouthful will satisfy a cheese lover’s craving. The mushrooms and onions are hidden below the cheese, not on top, an unexpected but welcome treat. The meat itself, although fresh, was less juicy than expected, and the bun was thin and didn’t contribute much flavor. A bit of ketchup plus a few of the pickles provided on the side gave the burger the kick it needed. The waffle fries on the side, though, were delicious and crunchy—a perfect complement for the burger.

Café D’Alsace
1695 2nd Ave., 212-722-5133, cafedalsace.com
Burger: Burger d’Alsace (10 oz. sirloin with sautéed onions and cheese); $17
Juiciness: 3
Inventiveness: 4
Bun Quality: 5
Value: 3
Preparation: 5
Side: Fries or salad, 5
Presentation: 4

The description of the Café D’Alsace burger sounds delicious on the menu—caramelized onion and melted Gruyère cheese with a garlic aioli. But for a whopping $17, the burger itself was somewhat average—good, but definitely not worth the price. The flavors of the burger were quite tasty, but the meat was a bit dry and not of great quality. It came on a nice heated plate with warm, crispy fries, and the mesclun salad with vinaigrette is an excellent lighter alternative. But the restaurant’s extensive artisanal beer selection and other great Alsatian dishes are more worth checking out than the burger.

Bareburger
1370 1st Ave., 212-510-8559, bareburger.com
Burger: California Burger (sharp cheddar, hass avocado, romaine lettuce, tomato, raw red onion and cilantro lime dressing); $11.95
Juiciness: 5
Flavor: 5
Inventiveness: 5
Bun: 5
Value: 3
Preparation: 5
Side: N/A
Presentation: 3

Bareburger is a must-try spot. The burger is juicy and fresh, and every bite is bursting with flavor. The cilantro lime dressing is the highlight of the burger—it added some zest to the meat and vegetables and blended well with the avocado. The multigrain roll has a distinctive oaty taste as well. This burger isn’t the only unique concoction at Bareburger—the Maui Wowie is topped with smoked mozzarella, pineapple, Canadian bacon, fried onions, roasted red peppers and ranch dressing and the Western Burger is served with pepper jack cheese, blackened maple bacon, fried onions, house-made coleslaw and peppercorn steak sauce. All of the burgers are made with grass-fed meats, natural cheeses and organic vegetables. The only drawback to Bareburger is the price: our California Burger cost $11.95, and that’s without fries. But if you have the money, this is the place to go for a burger that few can replicate.

Jackson Hole
232 E. 64th St., 212-371-7187, jacksonholeburgers.com
Burger: Cheeseburger platter; $10.90
Juiciness: 4
Flavor: 4
Inventiveness: 3
Bun: 3
Value: 3
Preparation: 4
Side: Fries, 3
Presentation: 3

Jackson Hole serves a good burger—not a change-your-life burger that would convert you to devout meatatarianism, but a simple, delicious one. With hearty but forgettable fries, a dry bun and a token clump of lettuce alongside a single thin slice of tomato (negative points for that one), the burger was all about the quality patty, which was tender, juicy and large enough for me to feel like, by Manhattan standards, I got what I paid for. The restaurant itself was cramped, but the servers were friendly and the place gets extra points for having an open kitchen—watching your burger be hand-scooped and steam-grilled under a stainless steel cup definitely makes it all the more savory.

J.G. Melon
1291 3rd Ave., 212-744-0585
Burger: Cheeseburger; $10.25
Juiciness: 5
Flavor: 2
Inventiveness: 1
Bun: 4
Value: 2
Preparation: 5
Side: Cottage fries (extra), 3
Presentation: 1

The people who claim dirty-water dogs with those angry red onions are the best kind of hot dogs or oversized, floppy cheese slices are the best pizza are the ones who list J.G. Melon’s as one of the best burgers in the city. The bar, which was designed in the early ’70s to look like a ’30s saloon, is perennially packed, bar and tables crowded with people ordering burgers (add bacon, cheese or both, for a surprisingly reasonable additional charge) and cottage fries on the side for an extra charge. The burger is slapped together with the carelessness of experience—it’s cooked perfectly and the American cheese slice is melted evenly, but it would be nice not to have to place it squarely on the bun oneself—and presented with scattered rounds of red onion and wrinkled pickle slices. It’s juicy, alright, but that fat is covering for a lack of meaty flavor. After a few (reasonably priced) beers it’d be welcome at just about any table—but then, so would a dirty-water dog.

The Mark Restaurant by Jean-Georges
25 E. 77th St., 212-606-3030, themarkhotel.com/restaurant-bar
Burger: THE MARK Cheeseburger (brie, black truffle dressing); $27
Juiciness: 5
Flavor: 5
Inventiveness: 4
Bun: 3
Value: 4
Preparation: 5
Side: Fries: 3
Presentation: 5

There’s nothing quite as saliva-inducing as sitting down for a meal at The Mark Restaurant by Jean-Georges. The celebrity chef extraordinaire has prepared a menu of home-cooked favorites with a gourmet twist. The sumptuous Mark Cheeseburger is every bit as juicy and succulent as one would expect, while the truffle oil drizzled on the surprisingly un-soggy bun gives the perfect tastebud kick, especially when paired with the smokey, melt-in-your-mouth taste of the grade-A beef patty. Topped with brie and a little dollop of ketchup (sorry, Jean-Georges), this burger is worth every penny.

Vote for your favorite at nypress.com/best-burger-ues!

UPPER WEST SIDE

The Sunburnt Calf
226 W. 79th St., 646-823-9255, 
moolifegroup.com
The Burger with the Lot (lettuce, tomato, cheese, bacon, fried egg, onion, pineapple, beets); $12
Juiciness: 5
Flavor: 5
Inventiveness: 5
Bun: 4
Value: 3
Preparation: 4
Side: fries: 4
Presentation: 4

The Burger with the Lot is no less than an explosion on a plate—a delicious explosion, that is. The burger is intimidating at first, and it takes a while to figure out how to tackle eating it. A slice down the middle and some knife and fork action does the trick, though. This Australian classic combines a variety of flavors that blend well together—the bacon provided just the right amount of savoriness, while the pineapple and beet added an unmistakable sweetness. The egg, stained pink in some places from the beet, is cooked perfectly; not too hard, but not runny, either. The burger doesn’t need any ketchup or other seasoning—it is perfectly flavored as it comes. The front of the restaurant has a pub atmosphere, but the back of the eatery transforms into a small oasis, the walls covered with paintings of Australian landscapes in shades of orange and amber with a dark blue backdrop. The wait staff is friendly and attentive, and their Australian accents will have you imagining that you momentarily stepped out of New York City. If you’re hungry enough for a piled-high burger and you’re looking for a short getaway, The Sunburnt Calf is the place to try.

5 Napkin Burger
2315 Broadway, 212-333-4488, 
5napkinburger.com
Burger: Original 5 Napkin Burger (gruyère cheese, caramelized onions, rosemary aioli); $14.95
Juiciness: 5
Flavor: 5
Inventiveness: 3
Bun: 4
Value: 3
Preparation: 4
Side: fries: 5
Presentation: 4

The boast inherent in 5 Napkin Burger’s name implies that one would want a meal so messy it requires an abnormal amount of face-wiping to get through it. While the 5 Napkin Burger itself lives up to that name, it wouldn’t kill the establishment to aim for perhaps three or four napkins. The juice dribbling down your chin as you bite into the burger notwithstanding, the flavor is well above average. If you order a burger medium rare (recommended), be prepared for it to crumble a bit and sop up the extra bits with the roll. The toppings of the standard burger work well together, though the rosemary aioli gets lost amidst the sharp cheese and onions, and the burger still needs a dose of ketchup. The accompanying fries, which make the meal more of an affordable deal, are thin and crunchy, as they should be. The restaurant’s other burger variations are done well, and if they have a special, it’s a good bet it will be a tasty one.

Amsterdam Ale House
340 Amsterdam Ave., 212-362-7260, 
amsterdamalehouse.com
Burger: Angus Burger with American cheese and seasoned fries; $11.95 ($1 extra for cheese)
Juiciness: 4
Flavor: 5
Inventiveness: 3
Bun: 5
Value: 4
Preparation: 4
Side: 3
Labor: 3
Presentation: 4

Ninety-five percent of reasonable burger eaters will agree that English muffins are not hamburger buns. Apparently nobody told the Amsterdam Ale House this–and thank god. The grilled muffin stands up to the juicy, remarkably well-seasoned patty better than a regular bun, though even it had began to disintegrate by the final bites, unable to stand up to the challenge. Though it wasn’t entirely clear what the “seasoning” on the fries was besides salt, the thin-cut, skin-on crisps were tasty, a better choice than the well-fried but slightly too sweet onion rings or cinnamon-and-sugar sweet potato fries. The place has a cleanly, pubby vibe, with oversized front windows to let in the light of day and an above-average beer selection, with hard-to-find cask ales, to make you want to stick around till the sun goes down.

Big Nick’s Burger 
and Pizza Joint
2175 Broadway, 212-362-9238, 
bignicksnyc.com
Burger: Mozzarella Burger; $8.25
Juiciness: 4
Flavor: 3
Inventiveness: 3
Bun: 2
Value: 3
Preparation: 4
Side: fries: 3
Presentation: 3

This so-called “greasy spoon” spot might intimidate first-time visitors unless they’re prepared for what they’ll see. The place has its own charm, with pictures all over the walls and handwritten menu items glued everywhere. It’s a little dirty and a little dated. The best way to describe the burger here is with the word “medium.” It’s not excellent, but it’s not terrible either. If you go, order medium rare for taste, and maybe complement the choice with some bacon. The bun tasted old and very dry, but the patty itself was quite good. The French fries are a fine addition, and you can also choose waffle fries. The place is so eccentric and the menu so huge, it’s worth going and trying a few things out.

Shake Shack
366 Columbus Ave., 646-747-8770, 
shakeshack.com
Burger: Single Shackburger (cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, Shack sauce); $4.55
Juiciness: 3
Flavor: 4
Inventiveness: 3
Bun quality: 3
Value: 5
Preparation: 3
Side: fries (extra) 4
Presentation: 3

The Upper West Side outpost of Danny Meyer’s fast food burger joint has perfected consistently delicious burgers. While the standard Shackburger contains a somewhat thin beef patty that is cooked slightly more than necessary, the special sauce more than makes up for it, and the option to get a double patty is on the table too, though it brings the price up to $7.10. The burger pairs well with a side order of crispy crinkle-cut fries ($2.65, enough to share) for a complete if salty meal. The spot unfortunately lacks the outdoor seating of other Shake Shack locations, but there is usually room to grab a seat downstairs, and the line here doesn’t stretch to absurd lengths. Burger lovers looking for a decently priced outing for a family or a place to grab a bite after a movie will find it here.

Island Burgers and Shakes
422 Amsterdam Ave., 212-877-7934, islandburgersnewyork.com

Editor’s note: While our burger review team didn’t make it to try this one, we couldn’t leave it out of an Upper West Side burger roundup, based on the feedback we’ve seen.

At Island Burgers and Shakes, diners can enjoy char-broiled, steakhouse-style burgers. The menu is extensive, and variety is key. The Tijuana Burger, covered in crispy bacon, sautéed onions and spicy guacamole, is a popular item there. As one blogger, NYC Food Guy, calls it, “the Tijuana Burger is a beast.” A Yelp reviewer tried the Derby Burger, which comes with triangle bleu cheese, avocado and bacon. Another tried Marco’s Burger, which is topped with pesto, ranch, bacon and parmesan, served on ciabatta bread. The fries are perfectly seasoned, reviewers say, but they don’t come with the burgers, so you have to order them on the side. The burgers are typically on the rare side which some enjoy and others would rather avoid. Some think the chicken and the shakes, rather than the burgers, steal the show at this joint. The establishment has a retro vibe, and diners can even scrawl messages in chalk on the bathroom walls.

The Lighter Side of the Upper West Side
Whether you’re loyal to the four-legged fleet or you’re just looking for slightly lighter fare, here are some vegan and vegetarian-friendly options worth giving a try on the UWS.

Josie’s Restaurant West
300 Amsterdam Ave., 212-769-1212, josiesnyc.com
The organic three-grain vegetable burger at Josie’s Restaurant is a sure crowd-pleaser. Comprised of quinoa, bulgur and couscous, it is an interesting alternative for those who are maxed out on run-of-the-mill vegetable patties. Suitable for vegans, Josie’s burger can be topped with soy American cheese or natural cheddar for non-vegans and is served with another healthy twist on the burger’s best companion—air-baked Belgian fries.

Shake Shack
366 Columbus Ave., 646-747-8770, shakeshack.com
As the unofficial New York City burger authority, Shake Shack has a delicious answer for non-meat burger lovers. The Shroom burger is made of two Portobello mushroom caps with muenster and cheddar cheese sandwiched between them, breaded and fried. Ok, we concede it’s not necessarily a healthier option, but it’s enticing all the same.

Café Blossom
466 Columbus Ave., 212-875-2600, blossomnyc.com
Entirely organic and vegan, UWS veggie lovers can’t go wrong with this menu. For those who yearn for their abandoned carnivorous lifestyles, opt for the Soy Bacon Cheeseburger, complete with tapioca cheddar and soy bacon. If that’s not appealing, the Veggie Grain Burger is an alternative, not to mention one chock-full of protein, made from lentils and quinoa and topped with hummus.

Don’t forget to vote for  your favorite here: nypress.com/best-burger-uws!

DOWNTOWN

And if you’re downtown and get a hankering for a hambie, Carla Sullivan of MiniMunchers has some savory suggestions:

Cowgirl in the West Village has a delicious burger and the kids love perusing the general store.

P. J. Clarke’s on the Hudson has great burgers and great views of the Statue of Liberty!

Landmarc in TriBeCa has an extensive kids menu, hamburger and chicken burger options, and very reasonably priced wine for Mommy & Daddy.

Warren 77 in TriBeCa, owned by hockey great Sean Avery, becomes a hopping bar scene after 6, but burgers are always available to order and they have old-school tabletop video games that the kids love.

Corner Bistro–at the corner of West 4th and Jane–is a total beer bar with AMAZING burgers. If you go early enough, the bar crowd has yet to get going. Plus, they have peanuts that little ones can have fun de-shelling.

 

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  • Christine Wei

    I tried an elk burger at Bareburger — eek! (One of the major attractions of this restaurant is the availability of not-so-common meats like bison and ostrich.) It sounds super wacky, but the burger was really nice and juicy. And apparently elk is leaner than beef, so it’s somewhat healthier too!