P.J. Clarke’s vs Clarke’s Standard; May the Best Burger Win!

Exterior view of NYC burger joint P.J. Clarke's, through the windows you can see that the dining area is full of people eating burgers

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.

Man walking by the exterior of Clarke's Standard, NYC burger place in Midtown

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!

People sitting down to eat the burgers of P.J. Clarkes by Lincoln Center, tables dressed with red checkered table clothes

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.

NYC's burger joint Clarke's Standard sells icecream

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.      

Winner: Tie. P.J.'s far better location evens things out with Standard's overall superior vibe.    

Image of P.J. Clarke's Burger, topped with lettuce, tomato, bacon and cheese, with a pickle on the side.

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.

Image of Clarke's Standard's Burger, topped with lettuce, tomato, bacon and cheese, with a side of french fries

Clarke's Standard; A Test of Taste

The Clark's Standard menu here also features a burger called The Cadillac, and though it's smaller than its old school counterpart, it beats it by a mile in terms of taste. The meat is seriously juicy, grilled exactly as asked, with a big enough flavor to stand up to the smoky, chewy bacon and sharp cheese. And the roll, baked exclusively for the place by St. Joseph's, was excellent: soft, sweet and springy. The fries, too, were first rate. Nice job all around.    
Winner: Clarke's Standard, in a rout.

Interior of Clarke's Standard, where people are sitting and eating their burgers.

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.

Winner (duh): Clarke's Standard.

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.        

For more info and the complete Lincoln Center P.J. Clarke's menu, click here.
For more info and the full Clarke's Standard menu, click here.

P.J. Clarke's on Urbanspoon Clarke's Standard on Urbanspoon

Posted in Midtown West, NYC Dining, Upper East Side, Westside | Tagged