Burgers are big business in America. According to the The Economist, “the average American eats three hamburgers a week, a collective effort that puts paid to 40 billion burgers annually.” That’s a lot of burgers, but it’s certainly not a surprise.
I was never a big burger fan until I spent time Stateside and learned that yes, burgers can be a greasy fast food option, but they can also be delicious culinary creations. As NPR reports, “its simplicity and convenience, coupled with the fact that it can be dressed up almost any way imaginable — or not at all — have turned the hamburger into a culinary force to be reckoned with.”
So, accompanied by a burger expert (my other half), I explored New York City this spring in search of the Big Apple’s best burger. Read on for the results…
Corner Bistro, 331 West 4th St
The Guardian got it right when they said “There may be better burgers in New York, but none more famous.” Corner Bistro has sat on the same corner of the West Village since the start of the last century, and the tavern – all wooden booths and dim lighting – has changed little in the interim.
The $8.75 classic Bistro Burger was charbroiled and served simply – cheese, bacon, lettuce, onion and tomato – on a paper plate. A $3 mug of McSorley’s ale (from one of the oldest bars in Manhattan) washed it down nicely. While not the best burger bite in town, it’s worth visiting this West Village stalwart simply for the experience.
Shake Shack, Madison Square Park
It’s been a while since I stopped by Shake Shack, the burger kiosk in Madison Square Park that grew from Danny Meyer’s small hot dog stand. When I did drop by, the line was long, but the summer sunshine meant I didn’t mind waiting an hour, and the setting of Madison Square Park definitely didn’t hurt. At less than $5 my burger was good – certainly better than any burgers I’ve eaten in Britain – but not quite worth the hype.
Burger and Barrel, 25 West Houston
Chef Josh Capon’s B&B Winepub in Noho is famous for its $45 white truffle burger, and is one of the more upscale burger outposts in Manhattan (much like The Spotted Pig and Minetta Tavern). Cooked to a meaty medium rare, my lamb burger was beautiful – if you can say that of a burger. Deliciously juicy, packed perfectly and adorned with interesting additions (grilled onions, feta, and harissa aioli) it was worth every cent of the $17.
I sampled the B&B speciality too, the Bash Burger, and it was equally tasty, topped with onion and bacon jam, pickles, American cheese and a secret sauce. For burger enthusiasts, Burger and Barrel is a must-bite.
The Burger Joint, Le Parker Meridien, 119 West 56th
Each time I enter the elegant Le Parker Meridien Hotel and head past the red curtain to the almost-hidden room that is The Burger Joint, I wonder if the burger will be as good as the last time. Surely it can’t possibly taste as excellent as I remember?
Luckily for me, it always does. The Burger Joint is small, dark and crowded, with vinyl booths and wooden walls covered in customers’ scrawlings. The hand-written menu gives you limited options, and you need to know your order before you reach the counter or you’ll be sent back to the start.
Patties here are cooked on request, from a dripping medium rare (my personal favourite) to a roasted well done, while the side of fries is served in a brown paper bag that sports spots of grease. A great burger in a fun, surprising setting – it never disappoints.
Our burger eating exploits weren’t exhaustive; I’m still to sample The Spotted Pig, Minetta Tavern, and JG Melon among others. While these locations are on the list for my next New York adventure, for now, the patty to beat can be eaten at the always brilliant Burger Joint.