P.J. Clarke’s vs Clarke’s Standard; May the Best Burger Win!
Ok, so it's a bit of a misnomer, "Old School vs. New Style", My name for the burger battle I embarked upon last week, where I pit NYC dinosaur P.J. Clarke's (the Third Avenue restaurant that's been around since 1884!) against the company's fast-food-ish offshoot Clarke's Standard, just opened on Lexington and 54th.
A misnomer because the Old School P.J. Clarke's I went to was the Upper West Side version of the chain which, however "classic" in look and feel, has only inhabited its sprawling Lincoln Center digs for about six years. And the New Style Standard is decked out to evoke a 1950's malt shop, the idyllic Hollywood version, anyway. So which is the old, and which is the new? Our fascination for the retro can be confusing.
Glenwood's Burger Battle; May the Best Burger Win!
Anyway, the point is, if you wanted to eat a burger and fries at a place with Clarke's in its name (and, really, who wouldn't), which is your better bet, P.J's or Standard? Find out in the Glenwood Burger Battle, where we will compare and contrast the restauraunts!
P.J. Clarke's; A Test of Ambience
P.J. Clarke's: The decor is all vinyl checkered tablecloths, marble bar, dark wood, and overwrought lighting fixtures… aka, depressingly (though deliberately) dated and/or a sop for the tourists. All those open windows looking out onto Amsterdam are nice, though. And the location, right across from Lincoln Center, couldn't be more convenient for both ticket holders and, of course, Glenwood Grand Tier residents.
Clarke's Standard; A Test of Ambience
Clarke's Standard: Designed to evoke nostalgia for an era most of us, at this point, never had: the heyday of small-town America soda fountains, the 1950s. But it's more subtle, more tastefully done, than, say, Ellen's Stardust diner. Friendly counter service and high communal tables along walls of windows make for a pleasant quick-bite venue. If you happen to be near 54th and Lex, that is.
P.J. Clarke's; A Test of Taste
P.J. Clarke's: I ordered their signature Cadillac Burger–which is essentially a bacon cheese burger–with a side of Shoestring Fries, and was psyched when the monster (above) hit the table. Sad to say, although it was cooked fairly close to my requested medium rare, it was also bafflingly, bizarrely dry and bland. The meat itself, especially, tasted like nothing, but even the bacon and cheese (and roll!) didn't bring much to the party. The fries were also a disappointment, potato-wise, though at least they were salty.
Clarke's Standard; A Test of Taste
Compare and Contrast Restaurant Prices
My dinner at P.J. Clarke's cost $26.50, with tax and tip. My meal at Clarke's Standard was $14.52, and that includes two bucks slipped into the counter tip jar.
Glenwood's Burger Battle; We Have a Winner
So there you have it! The Clark's Standard people (which, just to underscore the point, are the same as the P.J. Clarke's people) plan on opening several more of these fast food places in the coming months, some of them, I hope, closer to my usual stomping grounds. Oh and if you're looking for a restaurant near Lincoln Center with a crowd-pleasing menu, featuring one of my favorite burgers in town, try The Smith.