NYC Best Burgers: Six Dream-Worthy Burgers From All Around Manhattan

Date September 13, 2013

burger collage

Clockwise from top left:

Coppelia, Blue Collar, The National, Bayard Ale House, Brindle Room, Full Shilling

“I not only think about food all day,” said Henry Miller in “Tropic of Cancer,” “but I dream about it at night.” NYC Food Guy, he dreams about cheeseburgers. Big, dinner plate-sized sandwiches filled with juicy beef patties with neon yellow American cheese dripping from the sides, please. There are few food items whose simple pleasure make me happier. And since many of New York City’s chefs fortunately share my sentiments, I’ve decided to put together a list of six burgers I’ve eaten over the last year, from sources as diverse as an Irish Pub, an Iron Chef and even a Cuban restaurant. Rest assured, these are burgers worth dreaming about.

Coppelia (link)

Photo above: top row, left

Frita Cubana – $8.95
207 West 14th Street at 7th Ave
New York, NY 10011
(212) 858-5001

Upon first glance, you’re not quite sure how to approach this mammoth mutli-species creation from Yerba Buena and Toloache chef Julian Medina. But like the rest of the menu at the 24-hour Latin diner it inhabits, the Frita Cubana burger offers a lot of flavor and technique for a very palatable price. $8.95 gets you a sirloin patty topped with cheddar, shredded roast pork, chicharron (fried pork skin), lettuce, tomato, pickles, and pickled red onion all between two buns. The first thing that hits you is the textural contrast between the pulled pork, the coarsely ground burger and the crispy fried pork skin. The pickled red onions go to work next, their tartness providing a welcome balance to the fatty beef and pork. Whether late night craving or next morning hangover cure, this burger brings it all day long.

Blue Collar

Photo above: top row, center

160 Havemeyer Street b/t 2nd & 3rd Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211
(347) 725-3837

If your idea of burger perfection is In-N-Out burger, you’d be wise to hasten yourself to Williamsburg, Brooklyn for a taste of Blue Collar Burger. It’s not an exact replica of the chain that legions of Californians pine for daily, but if you’re 3,000 miles away, it’s a damn good replacement; certainly enough to make a West Coaster lose their cool. The kitchen will even oblige in-the-know In-N-Out fans by doing their best approximations of “hidden” menu items (though they may need a refresher on the specifics). On my lone visit, I brazenly ordered a double cheeseburger and a side of fries “animal style.” And while my cheese whiz-topped fries arrived without the requisite special sauce, the burger was a perfectly delicious mess of crumbly griddled beef, crisp iceberg lettuce, bright red tomato, and sweet sautéed onions all inside a griddled white bun. Melted American cheese and special sauce ran like a salty, tangy river of richness throughout. I desperately craved something sweet to top it all off, but as it was near closing time I decided to spare the counterwoman the stress of the heart attack one of their highly recommended milkshakes surely would have induced. Go easy, West Coasters, Blue Collar is here to stay.

The National (link)

Photo above: top row, right

“Ugly” Burger – $18, +$2 for bacon
557 Lexington Ave at 50th Street
New York, NY 10022

The dishes at Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian’s Midtown mecca The National read like Guinness World Record entries for most ingredients in a single menu item. Yet somehow, the layered flavors provide a swoon-inducing trip with every bite. Take the ironically named “Ugly” burger. A colorful garden’s worth of thinly sliced vegetables (punctuated by fiery pickled jalapenos) are topped with the house made “NTL sauce,” which combines ketchup, mustard, mayo, BBQ sauce, and A1 steak sauce; a stoner concoction gone wonderfully wrong. Only the burger itself (topped with cheddar or gruyere and optional baked-then-grilled bacon) allows the kitchen to play one more trick: what seems like an ordinary flame-grilled patty is in fact a Pat LaFrieda blend of short rib, brisket and chuck. The “Ugly” burger is a thing of beauty.

Full Shilling (link)

Photo above: bottom row, left

Burger – $10.50 +$1 for cheese, +$1 for bacon
160 Pearl St #1 b/t Pearl St and Pine St
New York, NY 10005

My brother Craig (aka Lil NYC Food Guy) appreciates a great cheeseburger just as much as I do. In fact, the majority of the best burgers I’ve eaten in my life were alongside him (Peter Luger, the original Donovan’s of Bayside, Rowdy Hall in East Hampton, Burger Joint, and Minetta Tavern to name a few). So when he told me there was a burger near his office in the Financial District that reminded him of the original Donovan’s of Bayside, incredible fried onions and all, I made sure to head downtown as soon as possible. This is a burger I could probably eat a few times a week. Similar to NYC’s most famous pub burger JG Melon, the Full Shilling burger is compact enough to guiltlessly throw back with a few bites. The perfectly cooked patty is just big enough to satisfy and the lightly toasted, simple white bun allows for maximum squishing, an important characteristic when you load up the burger with American cheese, crispy bacon, and onions that are more sautéed than fried. It didn’t put me back in the ripped booth at the old Donovan’s of Bayside, but it definitely delivered the simple satisfaction I hoped for.

Brindle Room (link)

Photo above: bottom row, center

Burger is only listed on the brunch menu, at dinner and lunch it’s offered but only if you ask for it
$12 at brunch, $14 at lunch and dinner
227 East 10th St b/t Avenue A and 1st Ave
New York, NY 10009
(212) 529-9702

Chef Jeremy Spector says it best in a Food Curated video dedicated to his cast iron skillet cheeseburger, “It coats your lips in fat and kind of makes them stick together.” There are few words a dedicated carnivore would rather hear. Nestled on a quiet stretch of 10th street near Avenue A in the East Village, Brindle Room offers Spector’s juiced up take on hearty classics; bruleed French Toast and bananas at brunch, perfectly cooked double-fried French Fries alongside mussels bursting with flavor, and freshly fried donuts that would make Homer Simpson swoon. But it’s his deceptively decadent cheeseburger that keeps me coming back for more. It’s essentially a deckle burger, composed mainly of fatty trimmings from dry aged steak. The flavor is rich and faintly funky like a finely aged rib eye. Caramelized onions cooked in the burger’s leftover fat offer a subtle sweetness complemented by the welcome, salty tang of melted American cheese. Spector wisely packages his creation in a simple white bun allowing the burger to continue to steal the spotlight.

Bayard’s Ale House

Photo above: bottom row, right

533 Hudson Street near Charles Street
New York, NY 10014

A buttered and griddled bun, crispy curls of bacon, nicely melted cheddar, an expertly grilled burger, and dark, double fried French fries make Bayard Ale House a neighborhood pub worthy of distinction. And with its corner location on a quickly burgeoning stretch of Hudson Street (perpetually packed Swine and Red Farm are next door, classic cocktail spot Employees Only is one block over)the secret of their perfect pub burger is bound to attract burger lovers soon enough. It’s just too bad their kitchen stops serving at __ instead of 4am as I’d happily choose Bayard over Corner Bistro any night.