Zaitzeff Burger: Family & quality ingredients are a winning recipe

Date November 29, 2007

zaitzeff-burger.jpg

Above: Zaitzeff’s standard cheeseburger (not sure if it’s sirloin or wagyu Kobe)

I just got off the phone with Amine Zaitzeff (pronounced Amina), matriarch of the Zaitzeff empire she runs with her two sons, which spans the Financial District location (map) and the new spot at 18 Avenue B in Alphabet City. Zaitzeff is known for serving their grass-fed burgers on Portuguese Buns. My point in telling you this is that after our conversation, I came away with a new appreciation for Zaitzeff and their philosophy: Good food in a good atmosphere, something I can dig. That and a secret recommendation I was given which will make a meal at 18 Avenue B even better.

Although the burger I ate down in the Financial District didn’t impress me, I credit that to two things: 1) showing up at the height of lunch hour on a cold, windy, rainy fall day and 2) my seat in the storefront shop provided no protection from the elements, making me and my burger cold.

Here’s a pic of the refershing quarter pound Wagyu Kobe Vermont cheddar cheeseburger ($9) with grilled onions, tomato, romaine, and yes, I hang my head as I say this, organic Heinz, all on a Portuguese bun:

zaitzeff-kobe-cross-section-cropped.jpg

The Kobe Burger was pretty delicious. The organic Heinz scared me, I heard about it before I went and I intended to bring my own supply of real Heinz, aka the best condiment on the planet (don’t even mention Hunts in my presence), but it was actually decent, just sweeter than regular Heinz. They did have regular packets at the front though. The Kobe Burger, combined with the rest of the toppings, tasted sweeter and fresher than any burger I’ve ever had, then again, I’ve never had a Kobe anything before. The Portuguese Bun was fluffy and could have been a little more toasted on the inside. It was slightly sweet as well and it didn’t do a good job of keeping everything contained within the burger i.e. a lot of falling toppings. The Vermont Cheddar was on the mild side but added some nice balance to off-set the sweetness of the ketchup and tomato.

KNOW THIS BEFORE YOU GO: When I got to Zaitzeff in the Financial District, I was so overwhelmed because of the crowd and the weather that I didn’t get the full experience. If you order a burger, this is how it comes: Burger, Grilled onions, lettuce, tomato. Here’s what you can add for free: Raw onion, mayo, dijon mustard, ketchup. Here’s what you can add for extra cost: Bacon, Vermont Cheddar, Avacado.

My first impression of the burgers was that they were pretty small, they were piled high but not balanced, and the grilled onions looked more like sauteed. Then again you could also order a 1/2 lb. burger (Kobe: $15.75, Sirloin: $13.50) and I’m sure that would have been more ample.

And here is the other burger I ate, a sirloin cheeseburger ($8.25) with all the same toppings:

zaitzeff-sirloin.jpg

Though I ordered both burgers medium rare, neither really came that way, that was disappointing, but I guess it’s all fair in the spirit of a healthy burger place…BUT WAIT….Zaitzeff is not a healthy or an organic burger place, it’s really just a restaurant that uses great ingredients.

All the beef is grass-fed. The wagyu Kobe beef comes directly from Morgan Ranch in Nebraska and the sirloin is from D’Artagnan a well known procurer of beef from co-op farms in Orgeon and Washington State.

At Zaitzeff and at 18 Avenue B there is only one goal: Provide good food in a nice atmosphere. After speaking with mother Zaitzeff, I’m looking forward to getting over to 18 Avenue B where their eventual goal is to stay open 24 hours. Imagine eating a bacon cheeseburger on a soft Portuguese bun at 5AM and not feeling like death the next morning. Right now, they’re close time revolves around the demand and the number of people hanging out at the bar late night. Generally close will be around 4AM but call ahead (212-477-7137) to be on the safe side.

Now we talk French Fries. These fries were pretty solid. The beauty of the Zaitzeff fries is that they’re fried in a skillet atop the gas range, just like mom used to do. This is so the oil can be changed frequently, leaving the fries tasting more like fried potato than just fried. This order was well cooked and pretty tasty. The sweet potato fries (not pictured) also looked awesome but we opted for regulars:

zaitzeff-fries.jpg

ZAITZEFF SECRET: Junior’s homemade Chipotle sauce & a slice of tomato on the farm-fresh egg and Vermont Cheddar cheese on a Portugese bun….Amina, Mother Zaitzeff, said this is her favorite thing to eat at 18 Avenue B, where breakfast is served all day….Zaitzeff in the Financial District serves breakfast only in the morning due to limited grill space.

Imagine eating this with a fresh order of fries at 3am after a night of boozing in Alphabet City. Thank me later.

Zaitzeff (map)

72 Nassau St., New York, NY 10038

at John St. (212) 571-7272

18 Avenue B (map)

18 Ave. B, New York, NY 10009

nr. 2nd St. (212) 477-7137

7 Responses to “Zaitzeff Burger: Family & quality ingredients are a winning recipe”

  1. Lizzy said:

    I regularly read your site and I was very disappointed after visiting Zaitzeff (Ave B location) last Friday. The restaurant decor was cute, although a little chilly. Maybe because of the subway tiles covering the walls and floors. My main concern however, was with the food. The kobe beef burger was completely unseasoned! It was also soggy. My favorite thing about burgers is that crispy salty crust made from grilling it hot and fast, with gooey cheese everywhere. The Portuguese bun was also nothing to write home about, give me a potato bun anyday. Too expensive for what you get. I don’t think i’ll be back. Oh and the servers were confused all night, they don’t seem to have been trained very well.

  2. The NYC Food Guy said:

    Lizzy

    I’m sad to say the general consensus on 18 Ave. B has been negative. I haven’t been there myself but my faith in this Zaitzeff family business is wavering. I had my first Kobe burger at the Financial District location and was equally disappointed with a burger that lacked the “wow” flavor I’d expected. It was ordinary at best. Did you get your bun toasted? There’s nothing worse than lost servers and a bad burger.

    Sorry to hear you had a bad experience but thanks for letting us know about it. It’s great to hear from a regular reader. Have you had any noteworthy eating experiences lately? What are some of your regular go to spots for burgers? Are you a BBQ fan?

  3. Loubert said:

    ironically i JUST posted something about Zaitzeff to my site (www.greaze.org) when i stumbled onto your site. i’m from DC, but a bunch of my friends are up in NYC, we just went there a couple weeks back. pretty good, not the best burger i’ve ever had, but definitely above average… reasonably priced, and 8 of us sat down on a saturday night with zero wait… unprecedented for Manhattan!

    check out my blog and definitely feel free to comment!

    http://www.greaze.org/blog.php

  4. The NYC Food Guy said:

    Loubert,

    Dude, great blog. The cheeseburger hype circle? Out of control. Once I got through the “thoughtful stuff” (read: not just drooling at food porn and seeing ocassional words), I was cracking up. Those massive burgers are nuts.

    I don’t know if the Zaitzeff burger really falls into the Greazy category though, I found the burgers, particularly the Kobe, to be kind of dry and not very greasy at all. What’s the greaziest burger you’ve ever had not fast food.

    Check this guy’s site out people for a gluttonous look at some seriously dangerous grub.

  5. Loubert said:

    agreed… zatizeff wasn’t even close ot the defintion of a truly greazy burger, but i was happy about not waiting. a blog is forthcoming on Corner Bistro, which one of my NYC correspondents claims to be the greaziest burger in the city. from the looks of it, i think he’s right.

  6. The NYC Food Guy said:

    Loubert,

    No way is Corner Bistro the greaziest burger in NYC. It’s really not even that good unless you’ve been drinking at the bar all day. The beef is poorly seasoned and the fixins are all pretty weak. The fries and bacon are only good when turnover is fast. If they’ve been sitting around or the bar is slightly empty then prepare for chewey re-cooked bacon and cold, hard fries.

    Have you seen my Brooklyn Diner burger? Or Five Guys? Look at those two and tell me there are greazier burgers in this city….

  7. kanapki z nowego jorku « można gościom said:

    [...] kanapki od zajcewów były smaczne, ale kłopoty z konsumpcją (nie było akurat nikogo, kto by jadł te hamburgery przy nas, może stali bywalcy mają jakieś sposoby, które można podpatrzeć) i dość wysoka cena sprawiły, że nie mogę powiedzieć, że było to coś rewelacyjnego. być może nie jestem w stanie docenić smaku wołowiny z krów wypasanych tylko przy pełni księżyca na południowym stoku jakiejś wyjątkowej góry w apallachach  poczytałem trochę recezji w interencie i skrajnych zachwytów jest niewiele, choć nikt nie pisze, że nie smakowało. jeszcze tego by brakowało, byśmy marudzili na mielone. z polędwicy wołowej. zdjęć nie robiłem, ale ktoś się nie powstrzymał. [...]

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