Monday, June 22, 2009

Best Burger in NYC Search: Five Napkin Burger

Five Napkin Burger
630 9th Avenue (Corner of 45th St. and 9th Ave.)
(212) 757-2277
Burger: The Original Five Napkin Burger ($14.95) 

So here we are, ready to take our first bite into burger blogging, choosing a much hyped and highly recommended spot in Hell's Kitchen in search of the best NYC burger. Expectations are high, lets get right into it...

Our Expectations: The Original Five Napkin Burger. It's supposed to be big, 10 ounces of fresh ground chuck to be exact, and damn tasty. As a cheese lover, Brett's totally cool with the idea of Gruyere cheese, while Kyle on the other hand has his reservations.

*Fyi, Five Napkin's website lists Comte as the cheese used with the Original Five Napkin Burger. Gruyere, as listed in our picture of the menu, is also known as Gruyere de Comte.

The Burger

Meat: Close to being the perfect combination of flavor, texture and juiciness. Surprisingly, the outside of the patty throws you a curveball with the first bite, providing what we termed "crispy" but what most culinary experts would probably call "seared." The crust leads to a tender, juicy center....yeah its dirty, deal with it. It's that damn good. We don't know how else to explain it. Yet, as pleased as we were with the flavor and texture, that's how unhappy we were with the heat and finishing temperature. We ordered our burgers medium-rare. And medium-rare should always be that, medium-rare! Both our burgers came more like a medium to medium-well finish. Not cool. Still, we couldn't deny the awesomeness of the flavor. On a side note, no excuses if you order a medium-well burger. If you do, we can't be friends.

Toppings: Here's where we differ. Brett, totally cool with the Gruyere cheese. In his eyes, the cheese blended extremely well with the burger's flavors and other toppings. Specifically, considering they use a rosemary aioli, the cheese just fits...but more on that aioli in a minute. Kyle, on the other hand, wished they could throw some Blue Cheese or maybe White Cheddar on the patty. Mainly because Gruyere reminds him of french onion soup... thanks Mom. Still, we both agree, the cheese melted fantastically well on the meat, smothered to perfection. In addition, the caramelized onions offer a nice sweetness to every bite. Solid stuff for sure. Now, back to that aioli. A bit much. Maybe it was just a heavy hand of the chef at the time we sat down. Yet, if you love rosemary, you might want to get to Five Napkin fast, before he eases off the rosemary gas pedal. Don't get us wrong, it also fit well on the burger, but we'd rather have the meat as the star, rosemary should be the understudy.

Bun: Not much to say here except...soft white roll, awesome. Perfect choice and size. It held up well with the weight of the burger and didn't get soggy or sloppy. It threw in some added value, always something we look for.

Bedlam's Five Napkin Burger Judgment

Meat (42):
Superb flavor and texture, but a little overcooked.

Toppings (20):
Creates a unique flavor, but the rosemary was a little overpowering.

Bun (21):
Couldn't ask for a more solid choice....use these at home!

83 out of 100


  1. Thanks for the review Bedlam; long time listener, first time caller.

    Regarding the complete disregard for your cooking instructions, would you advise readers to send the burger back? I know this opens the door to having spit on your burger, but why do they ask how cooked you want it if they aren't going to follow your instructions?

    I am quite the persnickety eater, so the Gruyere cheese and the caramelized onions would be excluded on my burger. Would this decrease the Burger Bedlam rating of 4 out of 5 NYC street meat carts?

    Thanks in advance for your response and keep those burger reviews coming.

  2. Great site and pretty intense and comprehensive review! I'm impressed.

    Curious if you guys put any condiments on your burgers or it you feel it takes away from tasting the actauly meat.

    Obama is a well documented Five Guys fan - but he puts mustard on his burger which has me questioning his judgement as commmander in chief. Your thoughts?

  3. Drew, interesting questions you raise. As for returning the burger, Id say its more likely that they will start from scratch if you happen to ask for a better temperature, and that may be best. If you order a Medium burger and it comes out Well Done, you gotta start fresh. Under-cooking is a different story. Yet, with such a well-designed burger, they cant just throw the meat back on the grill, they'd probably start over as well. Just be cordial and friendly and Id say your chances of a spit burger are slim.

    In regard to choice of toppings, stick with what you love! Its your dollar and your taste buds! Dont settle. Then again, at Five Napkin, the Bacon Cheeseburger is an option as well. They cook the meat similarly and Id say its a great burger as well, just not quite at the Originals level.

    Thanks for reading and your continued support!

  4. Hamburglar, thanks for the praise! We hope you continue to come back.

    As for your question. For me, condiments should be minimal. Because, as you said, they can take away from the taste of what you're there for. I dont want to be overwhelmed with tastes. A splash of ketchup, a crisp pickle and maybe some arugula or romaine on top. Onions are always nice as well. Mustard, thats a tough call. In my memory, a bit more Euro than anything else I can remember. I wouldnt say its out of the question entirely, maybe Ill get crazy one day. But, Id rather have it on a McDonalds Burger than a restaurant burger...this isnt Grade D meat!

    Obama's use of Dijon created quite the stir. Yet, hes entitled to his toppings of choice, I just wouldnt do it. Maybe on some high end burgers it could work...those that have a unique taste or different type of preparation. Id say the majority of what we review will go mustard-less, if mustard is even an option at all! Ive heard of steak recipes calling for mustard glazes or marinades, but not on my burger please.

    Finally, heres another snazzy take on Dijon and Obama:

  5. How many street meat cars would you local street meat cart score on this scale you've come up with.

    Just a suggestion... after you've run through the best places... you should do a "slumming it" special where you rate the best "worst" burger.

  6. Bedlams, been a fan for years - it's time for me to come out with it.

    i look forward to continued reviews before i make the journey out to the ol' NYC for a tasting. Five Guys sounded good, but we do have the Laurel Tavern over here in LA, well, Studio City to be exact. and, given that your next venture out here will include a stay at 605, we'll hit up Simmzy's - a solid burger i wouldn't be ashamed to show you...

    burger on, bedlams.