Finding the Best Burgers in NYC
We're not ones to bemoan the "burgerfication" of the New York City cuisine scene. There will always be plenty of superb high- and upper-middle-end restaurants in this town, and we will always enjoy dining in them. BUT we (and our wallets) also appreciate the now decade-long trend of talented chefs and well-conceived specialty joints serving first-rate renditions of traditional comfort foods, such as burgers, pizza, fried chicken, ramen, macaroni and cheese, and pork buns, to name just a few. After all, what's not to love about a tasty cheeseburger, bun-to-bun, the best burgers in NYC, filled with fresh ingredients, prepared with care, a satisfying meal (or most of a meal) for under $15?
Anyway, we pop into burger places in Manhattan all the time, and thought we'd share three recent hits, as well as a couple of pretty terrible misses. These are not destination spots, to be sure, nor are the burgers as good as you'll find at, say, Shake Shack on the Upper West Side, Corner Bistro, or newcomer Burger and Barrel. BUT, if you're in the neighborhood, and hungry, you could do a whole lot worse than to wolf one of these burger beauties.
Three Very Good New York City Burgers…
The Dram Shop, Park Slope
We admit it: we're kind of addicted to this salty, juicy, double-pattied wonder, which we order with smoky, chewy bacon and American cheese. Well balanced and well cooked, the Dram Shop burger is topped with shredded lettuce, tomato, pickles, mayo and mustard… like what a Big Mac could be if it tasted really, really good. The fries are also first-rate. The Dram Shop double-patty (you can also get a single, or a triple) heads up a short menu at this friendly neighborhood bar, which also features sports of the multiple flatscreens, serious beer drinkers up front, a pool table in the back, giddy groups of hip young Brooklynites in the big banquettes, and families playing board games, supplied, with their kids during the dinner hour. And the best burger in NYC. On 9th Street between 5th and 4th Avenues; The Dram Shop Bar.
The Burger Shoppe, Wall Street
Packed at lunch, desolate at dinner (though clearly enjoying a brisk delivery business to late-working bankers), The Burger Shoppe is an olde-timey gimmick of a place that would be easy to dismiss if these Manhattan burgers weren't so good. We're partial to the monster Macaroni and Cheese Burger, a half-pound of medium-rare Ottomanelli and Sons meat topped with macaroni and a four cheese sauce, all held together by a soft sesame bun that somehow survives the gooey onslaught, but the regular ol' quarter-pound Shoppe Burgers (or the double Merger Burgers… get it?!?) with cheese, lettuce and Shoppe sauce are also a good bet. On Water Street, between Broad and Coenties Slip; Burger Shopped NYC.
Ruby's Cafe, Nolita
There's an underlying, remarkably appealing sweetness to the Bells burger at Ruby's Cafe… and that's the one WITHOUT the sweet chili sauce (that'd be the Bronte burger, which is also good), or the slice of pineapple (that'd be the Whaleys, which we're kind of scared to try). Ruby's is a somewhat rickety, all-day Australian spot whose best burger is as unique as it is crave-worthy: the beef patty is rectangular, seasoned and stuffed with peppers and onions, and served on a chewy pressed panini roll with lettuce, tomato, mayo, and, in our case, bacon and Swiss. We hear the pastas are good here, too. And make sure to check out the minuscule "duplex" NYC kitchen! On Mulberry Street between Prince and Spring; Ruby's Cafe Menupages.
…and two duds.
Whitman's, East Village
There was no burger which we were more excited about eating last year than Whitman's Juicy Lucy, and there was no burger that more disappointed. The Juicy Lucy, defined by the pocket of melted pimento cheese in its center, is, apparently and understandably, cultishly-adored in its native Minneapolis. But at Whitman's, at least the night that we sat down in this suitably scruffy, bi-level space, nearly drooling in anticipation, is a bust: the meat cooked to a dried-out, cardboardy crisp, we're guessing to make sure the internal core of cheese was sufficiently molten, which is was, but even the cheese was a buzzkill, more wet than glutinous – certainly not the best burger in NYC. The crispy fried Crack Kale was pretty addicting, though. On 9th Street between First and A; Whitman's Menupages.
Mikey's Burger, Lower East Side
The Mikey's Burger at Michael "Bao" Huynh's Mikey's Burger–a gloppy mess of a thing topped with corned beef hash, onions, pickled mustard seed, and, at our request, cheese–seems deliberately designed to function as drunk food and, it's likely, serves that role admirably for the folks who crowd into this battered little place 'round about 2:00 a.m. But for regular ol' not-drunk dinner, say at 7:00 on a Tuesday? It's just gross – not the best burger in Manhattan – too much of greasy thing. Ditto the BLT Burger, with salty chinese bacon and sweet kewpie mayo. On Ludlow between Rivington and Stanton; Mikey's Burger.