November 29, 2007
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:
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:
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 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.
72 Nassau St., New York, NY 10038
at John St. (212) 571-7272
18 Avenue B (map)
18 Ave. B, New York, NY 10009