I spent December 20 – 27, 2015 in New York City and ate a silly amount of burgers. Every day this week, I’ll document every fucking burger from my trip in a 5-part series of stories from what might be one of the most diverse burger cities in the damn world. Read part one, part three, part four and part five.
No. 5: Sebastian’s Steakhouse Burger at Brindle Room
Next I walked less than a block down 10th Street to the highly regarded Brindle Room.
Thy use a cast iron skillet which achieves a majestic fucking sear that makes any puny smashed patty look like a slider (I can say these things now! I know these things!) A healthy sprinkling of salt and pepper helps make that crust; seasoning isn’t just about flavor enhancement, kids. And this is a nice thick juicy delicious patty. It’s made from trimmings from dry-aged prime rib, and the result has that characteristic funk and fattiness and tenderness and amazing flavor of dry aged prime rib. Topped with a goddamn slab of American and caramelized onions on a nicely squishy toasted roll. I put the pickles on it and ketchup for dipping, and this damn near approaches perfection in a way I kind of hate admitting.
But look at this picture! You can see the fucking sear! UGH.
No. 5.5: Stewed Pork Burger at Xi’an Famous Foods
In desperate need of rest for my pig-in-shit tummy, I stopped at the amazing Box Kite Coffee and had a Heart Roasters espresso for the second time in my life, and it was delicious, but they didn’t have outlets and I was really looking for a place to charge my phone, so I found a Starbucks a few blocks away. I don’t live here, so I make do. You can charge your phone at Starbucks. It’s a thing. McDonald’s, too. Now you know.
On my way between coffee shops, I came across Xi’an Famous Foods, which had been recommended to me the day prior, and fuck a rest, let’s get another “burger”. “Burger” of course being reinterpreted once again, as it contained no patty and bread questionably classified as a bun, but had “burger” in the name, so I got one. It could have used a bit of mayo to balance some dryness in both the meat and bun. While definitely not a steam bun, it was similar in flavor and slightly toasted, but a bit too chewy with a crusty exterior. But the flavor was on point. Straight porkiness, a little sweet, a little salty. I kinda loved it.*
Belly fuller than full, I settled in at the Starbucks to charge my phone and read a book and just digest a bit. I had an hour until Whitmans opened for dinner service.
No. 6: The “Juicy Lucy” at Whitmans
I’d lose my Minneapolis burger cred if I didn’t try New York’s foremost Juicy Lucy offering at Whitmans.
They stuff a short rib patty with pimento cheese, a blend of cheese, mayo and–no shit–pimentos, on a sesame seed bun with caramelized onion, tomato, lettuce, and secret sauce. They asked how I wanted it cooked, which I’ve never been asked before in the context of a stuffed burger because that doesn’t fully make sense, but I went medium rare, and it came out medium rare! Though I suppose going with a cheese spread stuffing results in an unaffected goopiness in the face of a less-than-medium cooked patty. The sear was wonderful, the seasoning on point, but the pimento cheese really brings it home. It’s creamy but with a zippiness that the caramelized onions mellow out. This burger’s awesomely balanced, letting all the flavors shine.
No. 7: Superiority Burger
Right after I finished at Whitman’s, I went right on down the block to Superiority Burger, Brooks Headley’s reason for ditching his gig as one of the top pastry chefs in the country. When I arrived a half hour before they opened, there wasn’t a line, so I walked past, paused to think of what to do next, turned around and there were two people standing there, so I got in line behind them. By the time they opened, the line was at least twelve deep.
I went in and ordered the Superiority Burger, drank some Superiority Water ($FREE), they called my name first and I got the fuck out of there. There’s literally six places to sit and probably a dozen people standing in a room meant for four. I sat by a tree outside to eat it, thanking El Niño for the favorable late December weather.
The recipe’s secret (“contains nuts” is the only clue), but Headley’s been developing it for years and it’s still evolving. I could taste some beans, some nuts, but at the end of the day I don’t give much of a shit. It’s tasty, and that’s what counts. The consistency’s great; it holds together and they made a surprisingly excellent sear and a good chew. Muenster cheese is a unique choice, but it paired nicely with the well-spiced patty. They make a glorious point of not using out-of-season fresh tomatoes, opting for a cooked-then-preserved tomato, which is one of those forehead-slapping why-doesn’t-anyone-else-do-this moments; what is it about fresh tomato that people are so damn devoted to? Non-shredded iceberg lettuce leaf for crunch, all on that ubiquitous Martin’s potato roll. It didn’t taste like a meat burger, but that isn’t the point. It’s supposed to be delicious, which it is.
Tomorrow’s entry is a special one-burger-only story about my ridiculous trip to New Haven, Connecticut.
*When I walked in, they were packed, and there was a really stressed-looking dude in a staff t-shirt on his cell phone. While I ordered, I noticed a guy checking the temperature of all the food they kept warm and thought, “Wow, I can’t believe they’re temping all the food during service like that,” when my cook brain realized they were getting health inspected at that moment and I quickly started hoping I my food arrived before they got shut down.