It's hard to pinpoint what it is about a hunk of beef slapped between two halves of a bun that makes a hamburger one of, if not the most iconic American foods. Burgers are serious business in this country, up there with fried chicken, barbecue ribs and Twinkies. And though NYC isn't real America according to the Fox News bobbleheads, ground patties are just as important here as they are anywhere, though they're certainly more expensive in these parts. Here are our favorite burgers around town; leave yours in the comments.
JACKSON HOLE: Jackson Hole makes one of the biggest burgers in the city, serving up a 7 ounce patty that's well worth its weight in beef. You can get an excellent (and massive) plain burger for under $8 or with cheese for $8.50, but if you want to go all out, they've got everything ranging from guacamole-slathered Santa Fe burgers ($12) to fried-egg topped Texan burgers ($8.75) to the overstuffed $17.50 Mari Bella burger, which comes with a portobello mushroom, onions, brie or goat cheese served on toasted multigrain bread. If beef's not your thing, you can get any burger offering made veggie or with turkey.
Jackson Hole has a number of locations in Queens and Manhattan. Visit their website for details.
WHITMAN'S: This small East Village spot boasts the famed Juicy Lucy, a piping hot patty made of a Pat LaFrieda beef short rib blend and stuffed with piquant, super-melty pimento cheese. The whole shebang, served with caramelized onion, lettuce, tomato, spicy pickles and sauce, runs $11. Do note the menu's warning note—"juicy lucy is very hot in the middle and might squirt"—lest you leave Whitman's with third degree cheese burns. If the Juicy Lucy doesn't call to you, there's also a grilled brisket beef "Mangold" burger, a P B&B burger made with bacon and peanut butter, a bacon, egg and cheese burger and a $7 classic burger.
Whitman's is located at 406 East 9th Street between 1st Ave and Ave A in the East Village (212-228-8011, whitmansnyc.com).
Courtesy Scoboco's flickr
THE BURGER BISTRO: Most bar-style burgers are "customizable," with a few cheese options and maybe a bacon or caramelized onion topper thrown in for variety. But this small, NYC-based chainlet offers dozens of different ways to top, slather and bind together your meat—and lets you choose what kind of meat you want to boot. There are turkey, veggie, organic lamb and other protein options but for our list, we'll stick to their beef, an 81/19 Angus blend, finely ground and packed into tighter-than-usual patties. For some, this may sound like a turnoff, but it really works with their technique: perfectly seared on the outside to contain the ample juice within. I'm partial to medium-rare, which is warmed through but still juicy and meaty in a way that makes you feel alive.
A burger's base price is $8 unless you're ordering a speciality protein. Next up: topping time. There are cheeses like American, Blue, Gouda, Swiss (all $1); then there are cheeses like fried mozzarella, goat cheese and gruyere ($2). Additional non-dairy toppings are traditional (bacon, portobello mushrooms and caramelized onions) and non-traditional, like buffalo shrimp, hot Italian sausage and guacamole ($2 each); lettuce, tomato and raw onion are free. But we're still not done! There are sauces to select—like verdant and spicy jalapeno mayo, horseradish cream or honey BBQ—and the burger delivery method, including a choice of brioche roll, whole wheat roll, garlic bread, sliders or the gluten-free/diet option of a lettuce-wrapped burger. (Nell Casey)
The Burger Bistro has three locations in NYC: 1663 1st Ave between 86th and 87th Streets on the Upper East Side (646-368-1134, theburgerbistro.com); 7217 3rd Ave between 72nd and 73rd Streets in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn (718-833-5833, theburgerbistro.com) and at 177 5th Avenue between Degraw and Sackett Streets in Park Slope, Brooklyn (718-398-9800, theburgerbistro.com).
RATHBONES: To judge this UES pub and sports bar by its appearance (dimly lit with a sawdust-littered floor) or its clientele (let's just say avoid it on a weekend night) would be a grave error in judgement to your stomach. Despite outward appearances, Rathbones turns out some of the best bar food in the neighborhood, if not the island of Manhattan. Top of the list are their juicy burgers, splendid in their simplicity, not relying on any bells and whistles to get their point across. The price also can't be beat: $8.95 buys you a succulent burger and a ridiculous mound of salty fries.
Burgers are served on English muffins, the superior burger bread, in my opinion. I'm partial to adding cheese ($1 extra), especially the super melty cheddar which envelopes the patty in a dairy hug. Others like the bacon, chili, onions or sauteed mushroom options, which can be added to the burger for just $.50 each. Insider tip: show up just before 7 p.m. on Tuesdays, when the bar offers its ridiculously cheap 2 For Tuesday special: it's buy one get one free on burgers and most sandwiches, with beers and well drinks included in the pot. Score dinner for two for under $30, tax and tip included. (Nell Casey)
Rathbones is located at 1702 2nd Ave between 88th and 89th Streets on the Upper East Side (212-369-7361, rathbonesnyc.com).
THE LITTLE OWL: A bacon cheeseburger is always a beautiful thing. But the 6 oz Pat LaFrieda bacon cheeseburger served up at this quaint West Village eatery is a Met-worthy masterpiece, made of a fresh short rib and brisket blend and topped with maple-cured bacon and oozing aged cheddar. Best of all, the beef, bacon and cheese comes sandwiched between a spectacular bun that's house-made each morning and supposedly baked with a hint of maple. Sadly, this $16 sensation is only available for brunch or lunch, but if you happen to head over there during the daytime, grab that burger and never let go.
The Little Owl is located at 90 Bedford Street between Grove and Barrow Streets in the West Village (212-741-4695, thelittleowlnyc.com).
DRAM SHOP: Dram Shop's burger is a no frills deal. For $12, you get a thin patty with American cheese, lettuce, tomato and pickles, served on a sesame bun with an order of fries on the side. Your burger can be made with mustard and mayonnaise, which feels a little perverse, but it works, even without ketchup. You can double-and-triple up on patties for an extra buck or two, and you can opt for fancier cheese (bleu, cheddar) for $1, as well. You do not need to put truffles on this burger, not that it's an option.
Dram Shop is located at 339 9th Street between 5th and 6th Aves in Park Slope, Brooklyn (718) 788-1444, dramshopbrooklyn.com).
PAUL'S DA BURGER JOINT: This family-run operation off St. Mark's serves a mean, massive patty for a steal, with an eight-ounce, all-beef situation costing only $5.50. And they've got 19 more burger incarnations beyond the basic menu item, with everything from a bacon, cheese, ham and mushroom "Eastsider" burger ($10.75) to a chili burger made with chili con carne ($7.55). Run there now, but be sure to quadruple up on napkins and schedule a bypass surgery immediately.
Paul's is located at 131 2nd Ave between 7th Street and St. Mark's Place in the East Village (212-529-3033, paulsburgers.com).
Via Burger Weekly
PIPER'S KILT/P&K GRILLE: Piper's Kilt (known up in Kingsbridge as P&K Grille) knows how to grill up a burger, stacking their 12 beef burger offerings with all the good stuff. The Eastchester burger ($12.95) is the best of the bunch, boasting a thick, round patty topped with bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato, chili and onion rings. Yes, onion rings. Your cholesterol went up 50 points just by reading this blurb. Beyond the Eastchester, the swiss-covered Bronx Bomber's ($9.95) another good bet, and comes smothered in barbecue sauce. You can also opt for a plain burger for $7.95, if you're some kind of fanatical minimalist.
Piper's Kilt has two locations in NYC: P&K Grille, at 170 West 231st Street in The Bronx (347-602-7880) and Piper's Kilt at 4946 Broadway between Isham Street and 207th Street in Inwood (212-569-7071, piperskiltofinwood.com).
DONOVAN'S PUB: Though the stripped down burger at this Woodside pub is arguably the best in Queens, it's a strong contender for the city's top burger, too. Not that the offerings here are anything fancy: A basic burger runs $9, a cheeseburger $9.50, and the special "Donovan" burger, packed with peppers, onions and mushrooms, runs $10.25—no Texas-style madness here! But Donovan's patties are thick, juicy and made with rich, high quality beef, so each bite seems like a far more decadent intake. Burgers come with steak fries, but be sure to order a brew on draft if you want to wash that baby down in style.
Donovan's is located at 57-24 Roosevelt Ave in Woodside, Queens (718-429-9339, donovansny.com).
Courtesy wallyg's flickr
MINETTA TAVERN: Minetta Tavern's wicked Black Label burger is the stuff of legend. The $28 monster seems innocent enough on the menu, described merely as a "selection of prime dry-aged beef cuts with caramelized onions and pommes frites." THIS IS A TRICK. The selection of prime dry-aged beef cuts is the very finest selection of prime dry-aged beef cuts, the bun is a buttery custom brioche. The patty is a simultaneous mixture of meaty and airy, topped with sweet caramelized onions and drizzled with butter and grapeseed oil. This burger is so good, it eschews cheese. It is better than cheese. Eat it and never deign to enter a McDonald's establishment again.
Minetta Tavern is located at 113 Macdougal Street in Greenwich Village (212-475-3850, minettatavernny.com).
SHAKE SHACK: We have thus far neglected to sing praises for New York's fine fast food joints—Five Guys serves excellent burgers, for instance, and you can't beat the sentimental joy of biting into a Burger King Whopper in a moment of weakness. But the best fast food burger offering around was birthed right here, in a small hot dog cart in Madison Square Garden—ladies and gentlemen, the Shackburger. Scratch that—the double Shackburger, for twice the meat and twice the fun. A $7.75 double Shackburger appears to be a mere thin-patty cheeseburger and potato bun from the outside, but upon first bite, you will be transported to a simpler, more refined time. A time in which calorie counts were not listed on menus, and no one would ever line up for a Cronut Concrete. Go get a ShackBurger RIGHT NOW, but be sure to cancel whatever plans you had for the afternoon, because you will live on a line for the next five hours. (Kidding, the line is usually long but it moves pretty quickly.)
Shake Shack has a number of locations in NYC. Visit their website for details.
THE SPOTTED PIG: This West Village restaurant's earned a reputation for being impossible to get into, and it's the burger that's drawing packs of foodies and four-hour wait times night after night. The $21 patty comes thick, chargrilled and smothered in tangy Roquefort cheese. It sits between two halves of a fluffy brioche-but-not-quite-brioche bun, and comes paired with a handful of the most perfect garlic shoestring fries. This is a burger worth giving up your evening for.
The Spotted Pig is located at 314 West 11th Street between Hudson and Greenwich Streets in the West Village (212-620-0393, thespottedpig.com).
ALAMEDA: This Greenpoint bar serves up grass-fed burgers alongside their brews and cocktails, with a cheeseburger running $11 (add $2 for fries). There's nothing particularly fancy about this guy—the burger here is plain, but thick and flavorful like the burgers you grilled in your own backyard at home, assuming your childhood backyard wasn't 57th Street. Pair the burger with a side of pimento cheese fries and never eat again.
Alameda is located at 195 Franklin Street between Green and Freeman Streets in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (347-227-7296, alamedabk.com).
KORZO HAUS: For a Hungarian twist on the American classic, head to this East Village eatery, where burgers come deep-fried and served in a deep-fried bread pocket, to boot. A Korzo Burger runs $15, and comes with applewood-smoked bacon, allgauer emmentaler, an organic ale mustard and a dill pickle; you can also opt for the Slav ($15), which comes with pork neck, spiced sauerkraut, caraway seeds, juniper berries and bryndza, or the American cheese and iceberg slaw-stuffed Otto burger ($15). No fries necessary, though they're on the menu, but make sure you slather your burger with beet ketchup for a super unique kick.
Korzo Haus is located at 178 East 7th Street between Aves A and B in the East Village (212-780-0181, beetketchup.com).