It’s been a burger sort of week here at Fritos and Foie Gras.
Which is why my friend Lisa and I decided to check out Burger Joint, the once secret burger spot in the high-end Le Parker Merien hotel. I say the once secret spot, because even Helen Keller has heard the buzz about this joint. It is located just past the registration desk, towards the back. If you can’t see the flaming neon burger, just look for the ever-present line or sniff around for the mouth-watering scent of grilled meat.
This is a bare bones place where you go up to the front, place your order, then wait for your number to be called. There are only a few stools and booths, so if you find an empty spot, send your dining buddy to save the seats while you pick up the burgers. The choices here are simple – burger, cheeseburger, fries. Milkshakes, too, after 1:30 pm. Work your way through the throngs of businessmen in suits, Asian tourists with impossibly cool cameras, and cool fashion interns in the city for the summer. It is worth the wait.
“The works”means tomato, ketchup, mayo, mustard, pickles, onions, and lettuce. The scent of the burger is almost better than the taste. It smells like backyard barbecues, sunscreen, and fireflies. It is a nostalgic scent that takes you straight back to childhood. The first bite of this burger completes the illusion. It is really like eating a perfect backyard grilled burger. The beef is lean and full of body. It is cooked to a spot-on medium rare, with a smoky crust contrasting with the soft, juicy interior. The bun is just the standard supermarket stuff, but it is a sturdy canvas for the fresh vegetables, tangy pickles, and mayonnaise-ketchup mashup. Lisa got hers blanketed in melted cheddar cheese. The burger isn’t overly salty or greasy, it is just the way that you would make it at home.
“These are just like McDonald’s fries,” Lisa whispered conspiratorially, as if an angry Burger Joint employees might come out and chastise us for mentioning another burger place. But she was right…they ARE! Well, they are like McDonald’s fries used to be. Crisp, very light, evenly cooked, and generously salted. A swipe through some tangy ketchup is all that’s needed to make you ask where your Happy Meal toy is.
This isn’t the best burger in the world, or even in NYC. But it is a cheap meal in a very cool joint. And the food is just what you want it to be. It tastes just like every burger you ate growing up at block parties, except with less flies and cooked to a better, juicier medium rare. Lunchtime is busy, so get there early or prepare to wait on line. This is just the burger you need when you crave a little meat and a little memory of your summers as a kid.