Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Post Blais Off & TV Debut - Thank You!

As the curtain closes on what's been a whirlwind week for us at Burger Bedlam, we wanted to convey our sincere thanks to all our readers, friends and family who checked us out on Blais Off this past Friday. We had a rockin' time at Royale with some of the production crew and Royale staff while taking in our first on-screen action. A big thanks goes out to Sarah, the Manager and our Blais Off co-star, who knows just how well a shot of Jameson tastes after a burger! Another big thanks to Rev, our brother in burger pursuits, from Burger Conquest for showing up and the rest of our buddies who made it to hang with yours truly.

With all that said, it's every bit surreal as one might think to see yourself on TV.  Despite our fifteen minutes of fame, given that we try to fly under the radar when doing our reviews, we gotta think we're still safe from getting recognized (aside from the awkward stares as we take macro pictures of our burgers as we eat). Our search for the best burger in NYC will continue with a small ounce of pride in our back pockets, knowing that we did our best to represent the rest of the burger bloggers and foodies in all of us on National TV.

We leave you with the preview clip from the show, hopefully soon enough we'll be able to link the actual episode for your viewing pleasure, but for now this will have to do:

Don't forget to follow us on Twitter and friend us on Facebook for all the latest Burger Bedlam news.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Best Burger in NYC Search: Burger Bedlam's TV Debut!

Just over a year ago we at Burger Bedlam innocently started this website to document our search for the best burger in NYC. Fast forward to today, after substantial time spent blogging, countless adventures consuming burgers (good AND bad) and with your unwavering support, we have finally created a product which has allowed us to earn a reputation as...ahem...burger experts. Due to said reputation, we were contacted not too long ago by producers at the Discovery Channel's sister station, the Science Channel to take part in a show they were producing about burgers, hosted by Mr. Top Chef himself, Richard Blais. *He was runner-up, but don't sweat the important details!

So, it's with great excitement that we write today to ask you to tune in (or set your DVRs) this Friday, December 17th @ 10:30pm ET to the Science Channel HD for the 2nd episode (1st episode on pizza precedes it at 10pm) of the brand new show Blais Off with Richard Blais. We are featured quite a bit throughout the show and hopefully they didn't edit out some of our glorious commentary - the word juxtaposition was used once - or our artful bites into each burger with bacon hanging out of our mouths. Plus, we'd love to have you share in the first (and likely most non-camera ready/awkward) of our TV appearances.

For those of you in the NYC area that would like to come hang for a viewing party hosted at Royale (where filming was done) with us, below are the details. The producers have warned that it may get quite crowded, so come early. We plan on getting there by 9pm.

Friday, December 17th
Royale (our review is linked)
10th Street & Avenue C
(212) 254-6600

Thanks for all your support!

Brett & Kyle

Don't forget to follow us on Twitter and friend us on Facebook for all the latest Burger Bedlam news.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Attention: The Ridiculously Good Looking Burger Bedlam Logo

As some of you may have noticed, Burger Bedlam has a fancy new logo and banner adorned on the site, our Facebook profile and Twitter account. Thanks to our good buddy Stefan Lawrence whom we found after admiring his work on the awesome men’s style blog, Put This On, our site has taken on a more complete look. As such, we felt it necessary to dedicate a blog post to him for all his hard work. Finally able to shed a bit of the “blog” feel and turn the corner to a cleaner, more composed theme, we’re grateful to Stefan and his talents. Best of all, aside from his creative ingenuity, he’s blessed with the same love of burgers as yours truly…how fitting. So, thank you Stefan, searching for the best burger in NYC just got that much more really really ridiculously good looking!

Follow Stefan on his Twitter account here and check his other creations and contact him via his website here.

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Monday, December 6, 2010

Best Burger in NYC Search: Bill's Bar & Burger

 22 9th Avenue (cross of W. 13th St.)
(212) 414-3003
Burger: The Fat Cat Burger ($7.95) 

Since it’s auspicious opening back in October of 2009 at its Meatpacking District location (a second opened in Rockefeller Center this year), Bill’s Bar & Burger has become quite a contender on the best burger in NYC landscape. Boasting rave reviews from a multitude of authorities on the burger scene, we unquestionably had to garner a vote of the now extremely popular burger palace. Bearing a Miraclean griddle (finger point to AHT for the reference) and utilizing the “smashing technique” which Shake Shack so famously applies, it’s easy to understand how quickly Bill’s was able to manufacture a contingent of regulars. Some have gone as far as calling Bill’s burgers the answer to Shake Shack, so justifiably, we were anxious to have a bite.

Our Expectations: The Fat Cat Burger. A 5 ounce, hand-pressed secret-blend patty care of whom else – Pat LaFrieda. Toppings consist of caramelized onions, American cheese, lettuce, tomato and dill pickles all on a toasted English Muffin. We went with what our server (and many reviews) called the best of the bunch on Bill’s menu, aside from the popular Classic option.

The Burger

Meat: We sound like a broken record by now, but it’s hard to beat a Pat LaFrieda blended patty. We’ve tasted quite a few, but Bill’s deserves credit as being a quintessential world beater from the wildly popular meat purveyor. Nicely seared with a crisp edge and salty yet savory seasoning, the meat was awfully tasty. Though, with a smashed burger come some detractors. Namely, the temperature of the patty lacks accuracy and often heavily skews toward the medium to medium well side despite an order of medium rare. Still, Bill’s was able to produce enough juiciness to keep us content. However, we’d love a slightly larger patty, with 6-7 ounces consistently keeping us more satisfied.

Toppings: Nothing spectacular but we didn’t expect much with the commonly used onions, LTP (lettuce, tomato, pickles) and American cheese. Regardless, the cheese melted to our liking, coating the patty like a warm blanket. The onions were nice but quite greasy, almost to the point of overpowering the meat. A little less grease and slightly more crunch would make for a better addition.

Bun: The English Muffin is an admirable touch to Bill’s Fat Cat, and it provides unique flavor to every bite. It covers the patty naturally with great proportions and kept the juices intact as we devoured. Though, the muffins were slightly over done and a bit tough to bite through – making us question their freshness. We had the same problem with Royale during our review, and we know how that one turned out. In both cases it might have just been an off day or an aberration so we can give Bill’s the benefit of the doubt in this instance…maybe. As far as English Muffins go, they may want to check out Zaitzeff for the perfect muffin (Portuguese).

Bedlam's Bill’s Bar & Burger Judgment

Meat (47): Insane flavor and a beautiful char, the patty was the clear standout during our experience, an important factor in our rating system. LaFrieda keeps pumpin’ out the best blends around, and Bill’s blend is no joke.

Toppings (19): Just a bit above average with good cheese but fairly heavy caramelized onions. We’d like sweeter with more crunch rather than oily and somewhat too soggy.

Bun (20): Success in terms of bun to burger ratio as well as pleasant taste and functionality. The freshness and toasting execution was off though, so we hope to come back sometime for a better batch of muffins.

Ranking: 86 out of 100

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

New Burger Coupon/Promo from Burger Bedlam

Burger Bedlam is pleased to team up with our most recently reviewed best burgers in NYC competitor,  Jo's. With a fantastic brunch menu and solid burger, we're hoping everyone takes advantage of this deal!

Details are as follows:

Jo's: Mention Burger Bedlam when ordering the Burger Deluxe and get the burger and a beer of your choice from any of these three craft beers - Victory Prima, Abita Amber, or Wolaver's Pumpkin Ale (our pick for fall!) for $14 (regularly $17). *Promotion runs through October 31, 2010*  DEAL HAS EXPIRED.

Check back often to our burger coupons page for the latest deals and contact us with any comments (good or bad), ideas or suggestions you may have for us! Also don't forget to follow us on Twitter and friend us on Facebook for all the latest Burger Bedlam news.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Best Burger in NYC Search: Jo's

264 Elizabeth St. (cross of Houston St.)
(212) 966-9640
Burger: Burger Deluxe ($11) 

UPDATE: *Jo's unfortunately shuttered in May 2013.

When the weekend arrives, ask any New Yorker, and they will tell you they take their brunch VERY seriously. Eaters often feverishly plan, with reservations even, just to indulge in glorious breakfast/lunch fare at trendy or homely destinations alike. Stroll to any local favorite, regardless of the hood, and you might find lines out the door filled with foodies donning sunglasses and bearing a cup of coffee (how was last night?) or families with children anxiously dreaming of a bite into pancakes, waffles and the like. Even better to yours truly, plenty of these establishments have joined the best burger in NYC game, serving up fresh beef in the form of a delicious burger on their brunch menus. Example, our next Burger Bedlam review, Jo’s on Elizabeth St. Nestled just below Houston Street in serene Nolita, Jo’s is the product of owners Jim Chu and Johnny Santiago, who give this “casual neighborhood bistro” it’s shine. They serve a fantastic brunch menu filled with such unique dishes as buttermilk ricotta pancakes with warm cherry maple syrup or the classic Eggs Benedict. Yet, boasting a burger that dares take its chances against the best burgers in New York, we recently skipped the brunch fare and dove into the beef.

Our Expectations: Burger Deluxe. A 6 ounce patty, topped with applewood smoked onions, garlic chili mayo and your choice of cheese ($2), bacon ($2.50) or a fried egg ($2). Placed on a Tomcat Bakery semolina bun, we like the sound of brunch sans breakfast fare already. There’s a fine line between too small and too large when it comes to a burger, and 6 ounces almost always hits the nail on the head in terms of a portion. Yet, we’re skeptical on the mayo and the choice of bun.

The Burger

Meat: Appearances can often be deceiving, because as tasty as the patty looked, the first bite didn’t deliver quite the flavor we anticipated. Slightly under-seasoned and possible lacking the fat content we yearn for, the meat was juicy but not accurately cooked to the medium rare temperature we steadfastly stick to. Although Jo’s offers freshly formed patties, the burger produced the texture of something more frozen. Regardless, we enjoyed the delicate size and bite-saturating juiciness.

 Toppings: A strong deviation from the norm, the applewood smoked onions were unique and pleasantly surprising. Tantalizing our taste buds to the point of confusion, combining the onions with the garlic chili mayo was a wise choice. Applewood chips, often used in a smoker through molecular gastronomy, can add a taste and smell that amplifies any topping. In the Jo’s burger, the taste was significantly apparent, superb.

Bun: We’re often picky when it comes to this category, where a bun can make or break the overall eating experience. In this case, a semolina bun (albeit from a distinguished bakery) wouldn’t have been our first choice. Lacking the light/fluffy texture and nutty flavor of brioche and the soft texture and sweet taste of a potato roll, Jo’s bun came in at just above average. Though, it stood up to that stringent beef to bread ratio, and held it’s composure through every bite, never breaking apart.

Bedlam's Jo's Judgment

Meat (41): We hoped for a bit more fat to beef combination and a fresher taste with more seasoning. Potential to improve is apparent here, but the fact remains that the current ingredients just aren’t living up to our standards.

Toppings (23): Well done with precise execution, the toppings made Jo’s burger. Applewood smoked bacon is a norm, but applewood smoked onions threw us a curveball; one we were able to catch up to quickly. Mayo normally won’t win us over, but it made up for the lack of flavor and seasoning in the meat.

Bun (20): Not our first choice for a bun as it relates to taste, but still held up well throughout and covered the patty effortlessly.

Ranking: 84 out of 100

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Best Burger in NYC Search: Blue Ribbon Bakery

 35 Downing St. (cross of Bedford St.)
(212) 337-0404
Burger: The Hamburger Deluxe ($14.50) 

From time to time along our search for the best burger in NYC, we visit what’s commonly known as “foodie establishments” in Manhattan. Evidently, most of the eateries on our “to be reviewed” list are typecast as such – and we’re not complaining. So, recently we had the opportunity to hit up one such restaurant in the form of Blue Ribbon Bakery on Downing Street in the West Village. Not to be confused with Blue Ribbon Brasserie over on Sullivan Street but bearing the same owner and family of restaurants, the Bakery serves up a healthy portion of beef that’s often on many critics’ short lists of best burgers in NYC. In doing so, they have taken an item which is plainly described on their “all over the place” menu, and made it into a must try, even after you scarf down the fresh breads they serve with your meal. Even better, doing so in an unassuming brick-walled village locale makes you feel at home as you dine – making that such an, ahem, treat.

Our Expectations: The Hamburger Deluxe. Served up with lettuce, tomato and raw onion on a house-made sesame seed topped bun. A grill marked and approximately eight-ounce patty which has been grass-fed and locally raised is what we’ve read, so a flavorful and fresh bite should be instantly recognizable. With a rich history of award-winning fare, Blue Ribbon shouldn’t fail to impress. Just ask Martha Stewart if she likes it…Yes, that was a Martha Stewart reference, your eyes aren’t deceiving you.

The Burger

Meat: Scrumptious is a word that comes to mind, as the Blue Ribbon eight-ounce robust patty is tasty and savory all in one bite. Nicely seasoned and delicately grilled, the meat looks tasty pre-bite and continues its sensory enjoyment on your palate. Though, despite the victory in taste, the freshness check is the patty’s downfall, as the meat does taste less fresh than it should. Negative points in that regard. Still, the cooking temperature was on par with our Medium Rare request, which makes us happy.

Toppings: Basic toppings and nothing out of the ordinary, but if we’re gonna be sticklers – and we are – the cheese is sloppily topped on the patty, with a less-than-melted consistency. The more you melt the cheese, the better the gooey goodness comes, so we weren’t fully pleased. Still, the raw onion is a good call as every bite deserved the crunch and sweetness to counteract the savory that is the patty.

Bun: A disappointment, the bun was slightly oversized and gave us more than we could handle in terms of bun to meat ratio. Additionally, although we enjoyed the breads provided in the table’s basket, the bun wasn’t necessarily above average, despite coming from a bakery. We expected more. A nice fluffy custom-baked bun, yes, but lacking much of the sweetness and complementary taste we’ve come to expect from most buns.

Bedlam's Blue Ribbon Bakery Judgment

Meat (44): A pleasantly seasoned patty with above average taste and coming in at a relatively larger size. Still, it lacked in the freshness department and was less juicy than we desire.

Toppings (19): Standard stuff and a bit amateurish in the melted cheese execution, it’s hard to take away too many points for simple ingredients.

Bun (20): Although it’s custom baked and noticeably fresh and fluffy, the bun was still a bit overbearing in size in comparison to the patty while also coming up short on complementary taste.

Ranking: 83 out of 100

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Announcing: New Burger Coupon from Burger Bedlam

This week, in honor of National Cheeseburger Day, Burger Bedlam teams up with SideBAR in Manhattan where readers can take part in an Interactive Burger Making Class on Wednesday, September 15th and use burger coupon code: burgerbedlam at checkout to get 15% off the per person cost.

Event details:

Interactive Burger Making Class
Wednesday, September 15th 7pm to 9pm

Prepare for National Cheeseburger Day with an interactive class that shows you how to make the best burgers you've ever had! A Chef Instructor from Hot Pot Events will demonstrate and guide you through mixing & matching from a buffet of meats, cheeses, toppings & buns to build your ultimate burger! Ticket includes a well cocktail or Bud Light draft. $35/person

118 East 15th Street (near Irving Place)
New York, NY 10003

We hope all our readers can take advantage of this deal, it's a necessity to know how to build your own burger, not to mention you can drink while doing so...the best way to enjoy a burger.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Best Burger in NYC Search: Peter Luger Steakhouse

178 Broadway - Brooklyn (Williamsburg), NY
(718) 387-7400
Burger: The Luger Burger ($8.95) 

In a city that endears itself to over-the-top cuisine, trendy ambiance and wildly popular man-about-town chefs, we as self-proclaimed foodies can always embrace a classic. Often, a divergence from the norm and a reversion to that classic American restaurant experience and fare is just what the doctor ordered. Enter Peter Luger Steakhouse – a Michelin Star winning, 24 years and running best steakhouse winner from Zagat, which not only offers a great porterhouse but an incredibly insane value of a burger. Given that most reviews we’ve written in order find the best burger in NYC have lead us to Manhattan vaunts, we relished the opportunity to venture across the East River to Williamsburg, Brooklyn in an effort to devour a burger that almost always makes its way onto the “best of” lists of esteemed food critiques around the country. From Frank Bruni of the New York Times to GQ’s Alan Richman, burger enthusiasts have showered Luger with praise and we were eager to test the ranks and hopped the L train to Brooklyn on a sweltering summer Saturday.

Our Expectations: The Luger Burger. Over ½ a pound of freshly ground prime beef on a brioche bun – all for $8.95. Add cheese (which we did, American) for $1.50, and you’ve easily got one of the best values on the Luger menu. Notably, you have to head to Luger during lunch hours (until 3pm) to take a bite of their dish, so it’s easy to miss. Regardless, with a burger cooked in the same famous broilers as their steaks, a lunch-time trip to the steakhouse is an easy sell.

The Burger

 Meat: Much like the undeniable taste and flavor of their steaks, Luger hit the bulls-eye with their patty’s meat. Setting the standard for what is sure to be a hard to beat ranking for burgers, the glorious flavors immediately engulf your taste buds to the point of a taste utopia. With a perfect combination of tender juiciness and seasoning, the meat is without a doubt the stand out of the burger composition. Attentiveness in the kitchen is apparent as well, as the three burgers ordered (all medium rare) came out with a pleasant result of pinkish red in the center and lightly charred and glazed on the outside.

Toppings: Clearly, you don’t venture to Peter Luger to eat a burger and expect copious amounts of inventive toppings or fancy accoutrements. You go for the meat, period. Though the bacon is renowned (thick-cut and a must have, we ordered it on the side), in our opinion it doesn’t belong on the burger…it’s a meal in itself. Still, we ordered American cheese, which was thoroughly draped over the patty, and topped our burger with the raw onions that came on the side. Each topping was enjoyable but not entirely necessary, so we did remove each halfway through eating, just to get the true Luger burger dining experience and enjoy the meat's flavor.

Bun: With a sizable patty comes a sizable bun. Given 8 to 10 ounces of beef is provided, Luger does an admirable job of evenly slicing a nicely toasted brioche bun that comfortably holds the patty without a superfluous portion. Nutty and light, but still a bit standard and average, the bun fares well through every bite while encasing the burger juice to a T.

Bedlam's Peter Luger Steakhouse Judgment

Meat (50): Superb, magnificent, brilliant…choose your adjective and insert here. Such sumptuous beef in the best burger in NYC search deserves a perfect ranking, and we obliged.

Toppings (21): To be fair, we’ve noted that the meat is so striking, these aren’t necessary. That said, we enjoyed the American cheese and onions, but might skip them altogether on our next tasting since our bites without the toppings were remarkable.

Bun (22): Impeccably sized and cut, a well received bun that stands its ground to a formidable patty.

Ranking: 93 out of 100

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Best Burger in NYC Search: Blue Smoke

116 E. 27th St. (between Park and Lexington)
(212) 447-7733
Burger: The Blue Smoke Burger ($11.95) 

Dipping back into the Danny Meyer restaurant “well,” our latest burger tasting in the search for the best burger in NYC comes from his barbeque staple on 27th Street, Blue Smoke. Offering “regional barbeque styles from across the country” the dining spot caters to every type of carnivore out there. While Executive Chef Kenny Callaghan serves up delicious ribs, pulled pig and brisket along with a cornucopia of savory sides, we heard quite a bit of buzz about the burger. In addition to the tasty reviews we’d encountered, an almost-too-predictable influence to the allure of the burger was it's meat blend coming from who else but Pat LaFrieda. While we could easily wax poetic for days about our burger devouring history with LaFrieda's blends, we hoped to get past any positive biased opinions we may have formed and took on the Blue Smoke Burger with an open mind and empty stomach.

Our Expectations: The Blue Smoke Burger. A nine-ounce patty of Pat LaFrieda beef from Creekstone Farms. Served with your choice of cheese (American for us) and house-cured bacon, which we gladly added. Any and every review we read had incorporated the two toppings in their eating adventures, so we always follow suit. Still, our readers should note, we always break down the meat on its own by taking a few bites with purely patty alone in order to assess the taste, with the Blue Smoke Burger no exception to the rule.

The Burger

Meat: Making a bold impression from the get go, the initial bite into the burger attacks your palate with a sweet saltiness. Yet, although the meat is plenty juicy, it lacks the fresh and tender composure of many other best burger in NYC contenders. The seasoning is comparable to some of the stronger candidates on our list, but as you navigate your way through each bite and into the middle of the patty, the seasoning falls off considerably. We like a thorough mixture of seasoning in the patty blend, so points were taken from the meat in that regard.

Toppings: We expected a favorable outcome from the toppings and Blue Smoke delivered. The house cured bacon was quite tasty, providing a smoky goodness to each bite. Blending effortlessly with the simple saltiness of the patty, the bacon is a must try and adds a crispy texture. American cheese blanketed the burger with ease and was melted fully, a nice showing there.

Bun: A conventional brioche bun, it served its purpose adequately and was toasted well. Brioche always contributes a slight nuttiness to every bite, while it continues to be a popular choice amongst chefs serving a larger sized patty. Yet, in our eyes, such a bun requirement is indicative that the patty doesn’t always need such magnitude. Additionally, as we ate, the bun fell apart somewhat. We can’t help but think that a more evenly distributed slice of the bun would lend a better hand in staying together throughout the meal. The bottom half was clearly too thin.

Bedlam's Blue Smoke Judgment

Meat (44): Great taste, blended with a nice saltiness that isn’t too in your face, The juiciness is there but the tenderness is lacking. Seasoning drops off as you get through the patty and the vast size might be the contributing factor in that area.

Toppings (22): Bacon that can hold its own to any of our burger reviews, the smokiness and crisp texture won us over. The cheese is always a plus and was presented adequately, but is not necessarily needed with this burger.

Bun (20): Decent taste and toasted to our liking but sliced unevenly which caused for some messy eating. Not our favorite choice of bun, but necessary for the size of the patty.

Ranking: 86 out of 100

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Announcing: Burger Coupons from Burger Bedlam

Excitedly, Burger Bedlam is proud to announce the beginning of a new initiative in an effort to provide our readers with the added benefit of burger coupons and deals every now and again.

Today, we are pleased to team up with one of our recently reviewed and newly crowned Top 10 best burgers in NYC, West 3rd Common, in what we hope to be one of many future collaborations. Details are as follows:

West 3rd Common: Mention Burger Bedlam when ordering the Common Burger and receive a beer or soft drink of your choice on the house. *Promotion runs through July 31, 2010. 

Check back often to our fresh new burger coupons page for the latest deals and contact us with any comments (good or bad), ideas or suggestions you may have for us! Also don't forget to follow us on Twitter and friend us on Facebook for all the latest Burger Bedlam news.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Best Burger in NYC Search: Zaitzeff

18 Avenue B (between 2nd & 3rd St.)
(212) 477-7137
Burger: The 1/2 Pound Kobe Beef Burger ($15.50)

UPDATE: Sadly, the East Village location of Zaitzeff has closed. Though, this burger can still be found at their original FiDi location. 

With a “simple formula” and just like Mom made innate style, hailed burger spot Zaitzeff has been churning out a notoriously good burger for just under a decade. With two locations, the original on Nassau Street in the Financial District, and a younger off-shoot on Avenue B in the East Village, Zaitzeff was bound to get a Burger Bedlam visit at some point. As contenders for the title of best burger in NYC, the family-owned chain has benefited from a cult following of Wall Streeters on Nassau and a strong mix of delivery and dine-in guests on Avenue B. Regardless of locale, the burger’s praise can be attributed to two main factors: One, a focus on grass-fed American Wagyu beef from meat purveyor Dartagnan and two, the weekly delivery of a uniquely chosen Portuguese Muffin from a father and son owned Fall River, Massachusetts distributor. Also choosing to follow the ingredients policy of “organic-when-we-can,” owners Amine (the mother) and Zachary and Peter (her sons) Zaitzeff has a reputation for leaving the pretentiousness out of the kitchen and serving up savory dishes that make you go “Mmm.”

Our Expectations: The ½ pound Kobe Beef Burger. American Wagyu Beef from a Nebraska farm care of meat purveyor Dartagnan, served with lettuce, tomato and sautéed onions on a Portguese Muffin. Zaitzeff offers both a sirloin and Wagyu beef burger, each in ¼ or ½ pound servings. With the ½ Wagyu being the most lauded, we followed our research and stomachs to the choice of the ½ pound Kobe offering. Consistent with many burgers in the best burger in NYC search, the size comes as no surprise. The Portuguese Muffin is what had us scratching our heads even though it’s praised by all who devour the dish. It’s a clear deviation from the norm of a brioche bun or potato roll but we welcomed the opportunity to try something new.

The Burger

Meat: The American Wagyu, a much juicier option in comparison to the menu alternative of sirloin, was perfectly sculpted into a ½ pound patty. Bearing a delectable melt-in-your-mouth quality, the meat was spot on in terms of freshness and tender juiciness. Cooked in between medium rare and medium, the temperature was on point, though with each bite we noticed a lack of commitment to seasoning. We couldn’t help but wonder if Zaitzeff expected the patty to win us over with it’s juiciness and fresh taste alone, but our palettes always require slightly more enticement. Sometimes a little butter (a la Minetta) or salt goes a long way.

Toppings: Granted Zaitzeff’s committed to a “simple formula,” we were somewhat underwhelmed by the toppings. Still, the sautéed onions were good, adding a quality texture and quiet punch. If you’re like us, the tomato and lettuce usually maintain their position next to the sliced pickle, never leaving the plate nor making way onto our burger.

Bun: Perfect score, meet Zaitzeff. Zaitzeff, meet perfect score. An introduction we weren’t expecting, the Zaitzeff Portuguese Muffin blew us away. Solid coverage of the patty, toasted like your morning English muffin and comprised of nooks and crannies that contained and soaked up every last ounce of burger juice…we fell in love. Moreover, the sweet, savory taste of the muffin undoubtedly provided a spark to our taste buds. You don’t often, if ever, think sweet is the way to go with a burger, yet the juxtaposition of meat to muffin worked, and it worked well.

Bedlam's Zaitzeff Judgment

Meat (45): Juicy, fresh, and accurate temperature execution, the American Wagyu was a wise choice. Though, the seasoning left something to be desired, we yearned for a bit more.

Toppings (20): Simple stuff here, but the onions were sautéed and succulent enough to score points.

Bun (25): Perfection and pure bliss, the Portuguese Muffin won us over. Despite our love of potato rolls, the muffin takes the effervescent cake.

Ranking: 90 out of 100

Monday, May 24, 2010

Best Burger in NYC Search: West 3rd Common

West 3rd Common
1 W. 3rd St. (b/w Broadway & Mercer)
(212) 529-2059
Burger: The Common Burger ($12) 

Considering the commotion made with regularity about the hot new burger spots in NYC, it’s a bit surprising that our next review, West 3rd Common Bar & Restaurant, happens to fall under the radar of most foodie blogs and professional critic reviews. Nestled in the chic NoHo area of Manhattan, boasting an equally chic “gastropub” label and New American fare courtesy of FCI grad Chef David Walker, West 3rd Common offers a unique burger experience. Not only do you dine in a cozy 19th Century library styled ambiance, but you get to taste what promises to be a competitor in the best burger in NYC category. Owner Dan Warren opened this “sister” restaurant following the success of his Alphabet City locale, Common Ground, with hopes that West 3rd could provide a quality and more upscale counterpart across town. Curious to see where Chef Walker’s creation stands in the Burger Bedlam court of judgment, we headed downtown anxious to get our hands on the “Common Burger.”

Our Expectations: The Common Burger. An eight ounce Pat LaFrieda blended patty with cheddar, tomato, rockets, sautéed onions, and herbed aioli served on a brioche bun. Differing from many of the ubiquitous burger joints in the city, West 3rd Common chooses to steam their burger rather than using the conventional grilling technique. Verbatim from Chef Walker, “Steaming it makes it super juicy, even when it’s cooked well done.” A steamed burger can perplex our palates now and again, as we’re used to the grilled flavors of beef accompanied by a crusty or glazed outer edge. With a steamed burger, a technique which famously began in Connecticut, the result is often a juicier burger that lacks the cloddishness that can coincide with an eight ounce patty. Still, poor execution can strip the burger of flavor. Given Chef Walker’s culinary background, successful execution is unquestionably an expectation of ours.

The Burger

Meat: We at Burger Bedlam always approach a larger patty with cautiousness. From time to time, we encounter one that is so massive and monstrous that the size has consumed the chef’s efforts to add flavor and maintain juiciness. Fear not, burger enthusiasts, for the steaming technique that Chef Walker implements results in a juicy and flavorful bite. Combining a fresh taste and undeniably rich seasoning, you’re bound to lick your fingers clean and give an attempt to catch the grease that drips down your hands. That, is a quality in which all best burger in NYC contenders should possess.

Toppings: Provided the comfort food nature of the menu at West 3rd Common, the toppings which accompany the Common Burger are rather expected. Herbed aioli and sautéed onions make for a pleasing combination, one we can truly get behind. Sans ketchup, the toppings add a nice punch to our pallets, but not enough to overtake the beef as the winner in the taste category. They were complementary and done well, with the cheddar draped nicely and all the rest being a more standard and traditional accoutrement.

Soft brioche, with fine coverage of the patty which also withstood the juiciness of the steamed results. Not as sweet as we would’ve liked, but it did its job admirably.


Bedlam's West 3rd Common Judgment

Meat (46): Despite our fears, the steaming technique was implemented quite well, with a flavor and juiciness that should be cheered. Moreover, although the size of the patty was a bit more than we tend to hope for, it didn’t bog us down or disrupt the pleasant and tasty eating

Toppings (21): Not overly done or contrived, the toppings added plenty of value to the taste of every bite. The aioli was well received and sautéed onions were sweet but not soggy.

Bun (20): Great proportional size, held up to the juiciness and tasted fresh. No complaints.

Ranking: 87 out of 100

Monday, May 3, 2010

Best Burger in NYC Search: Beacon Restaurant & Bar

Beacon Restaurant & Bar
25 W. 56th Street (between 5th & 6th)
(212) 332-0500
Burger: The Beacon Burger ($19) 

UPDATE: *Beacon has now shuttered.

Few notable restaurants in Midtown Manhattan cater to burger loving New Yorkers, and even fewer have a reputation of serving up one of the best burgers in NYC. That’s what makes Beacon Restaurant & Bar a standout in the bustling area of Gotham. Featuring a “quick and casual” Burger Bar, compliments of Chef Waldy Malouf, Beacon has earned rave reviews for a handful of years for their eight ounce entrée of beef. Largely a favorite of food critics (Robin Raisfeld of NY Mag here and co-founder Stephen A. Shaw here), The Beacon Burger was an obvious choice for one of our reviews. Given that we also work in the area, taking an easy stroll to the establishment during our lunch hour was a pleasure in itself. The demand for the six seats at the bar tends to be high at lunch time, and, unfortunately, we were with a large group during our visit so the full experience of the Burger Bar wasn’t happening this time around. Yet, as compelled as we are to try every “experience” at our burger destinations, we come for one thing, the contending burger. It may be kitsch and happening at the bar, but the menu (as confirmed by the maitre d’) is the same at both bar and dining table. We vow to make it back for the real thing, but we take solace in the fact that we’re trying and reviewing the same burger.

Our Expectations: The Beacon Burger. An eight ounce Niman Ranch Certified Natural Black Angus patty, grilled red onion, lettuce, tomato all on a soft onion roll. Cheese is $0.95 more, but worth it for added flavor so long as you can still taste the meat. With that, we expected to add some Cheddar. If you’re familiar with this burger and have read prior reviews in addition to the links we provided above, you might be wondering, “What happened to the country toast on which this burger was once served?” Well, some time ago, Beacon switched the toast for a soft onion roll. We had hoped to give the new variation of a burger served on country toast a try, but onion rolls seemingly provide a more competent complement of taste to a burger. Country toast often dries out and break down during your burger consumption. As for the meat, Niman Ranch is a very reputable name and with “beef, raised traditionally, humanely and sustainably with no hormones or antibiotics on family-owned ranches,” we were anticipating a tasty patty.

The Burger

Meat: Undoubtedly, we anticipated a stellar combination of freshness and flavor with considerable mention of the Niman Ranch meat sourcing. Though the meat was fresh and juicy, the taste was lacking. Bereft of adequate seasoning, the burger’s taste was mediocre. We give kudos for the presentation, a slice down the middle of the burger to make eating easier, something we enjoy about the Lure Bash Burger as well. Such a decision makes for clear notice of the cooking temperature, which was disappointingly done at Beacon. The inside was notably medium rare which we like, but the outside was overcooked and almost charred. We can’t let such mishaps slide. What makes for great eating is a consistently cooked burger throughout the patty, something Beacon’s burger lacked.

Toppings: No frills on The Beacon Burger, it comes with what you might consider the standard accoutrements. Our grilled onions were just OK, slightly sweet and not soggy, but there were sparse. The Cheddar was layered and draped but got lost in most bites as it was a thin slice of cheese. Hard to make a case for any of the toppings – all small portions and lacking significant flavor.

Bun: Curiously, Beacon threw us a curveball with the onion roll. We read many accounts of the Beacon Burger coming on two pieces of country toast, yet the onion roll graced our plates. Nevertheless, it’s hard to argue that the country toast could’ve served us better than the onion roll. We enjoyed the slightly sweet and significantly fluffy roll, it made up for plenty of the burger’s misgivings. Glazed with a nice buttery croissant-esque coat, it was well received and soaked up plenty of the burger’s juice while providing a slight crunch from it's toasting.

Bedlam's Beacon Restaurant & Bar Judgment

Meat (38): Flavor and seasoning were missing. The fresh meat could’ve provided more star power but failed to deliver on our taste buds. A good sized patty but with inconsistent cooking.

Toppings (17): A burger purest may like such minimalism, yet the beef needed to carry more weight if the toppings were to be served as such. Small flavor points from the toppings, which were lost in the eating experience.

Bun (22): Top billing in the burger experience, the bun became the most noteworthy item. A wise choice for the juicy burger that added some flavor and texture, we’re happy it wasn’t the possibly dry and weak country toast.

Ranking: 77 out of 100

Friday, April 16, 2010

Best Burger in NYC Search: Minetta Tavern

Minetta Tavern Restaurant
113 MacDougal St. (cross st: Minetta Lane)
(212) 475-3850
Burger: The Black Label Burger ($26) 

From the start of our search for the best burger in NYC, Minetta Tavern has been acclaimed, lauded, worshiped and whatever other adjective you care to fill in the blanks with, to us. People come from far and wide to try the notorious Black Label Burger, a collaboration between the blend of Pat LaFrieda Wholesalers (care of Creekstone Farms ) and preparation by Chefs Nasr and Hanson of Minetta. The unrelenting praise for the Black Label Burger from many distinguished publications and websites can be overwhelming at times. A negative review or account is extremely hard to come by, almost as eluding as a vaunted 8pm Saturday night reservation at the Tavern. Moreover, every detail of preparation, ingredient sourcing and cooking process has been noted in many eating instances - our friends at A Hamburger Today have the best breakdown here. As for us at Burger Bedlam, the anticipation of taking a bite of the Black Label Burger might be as high as any we can recollect. With a dinner reservation booked A MONTH in advance, we took a trip the MacDougal St. to enjoy what has become our most eagerly anticipated eating experience.

Our Expectations: The Black Label Burger. Featuring an eight-ounce patty, caramelized onions and a custom sesame seed covered brioche style bun. As noted previously, the burger is famous for its secret blend by meat wholesaler Pat LaFrieda and with meat from the highly regarded Creekstone Farm in Arkansas City, Kansas. Recently, there were a couple of fantastic write-ups in both the New York Times and New York Magazine regarding Creekstone Farms and Pat LaFrieda, respectively. Those should emphasize what diligent and concentrated efforts go into making the Black Label Burger. We’ve read countless reviews of the burger, with the majority of them claiming it’s the best burger in NYC. So, naturally, we hoped to add our two cents.

The Burger

Meat: Much can be argued, both positively and negatively, regarding the meat flavoring and seasoning of prior burger’s we’ve tried on our search for the best NYC burger. That topic is quite subjective. Yet, when it comes to the meat of the Black Label Burger, there should be no discussion, it’s near flawless. From the copious amount of dry-aged Ribeye (as well as Skirt and Brisket) packed within to the clarified butter drizzled throughout, the meat is as tasty as it sounds. Encompassed in a glazed crust, every bite is magnificent. Though, the butter magnitude is not for the faint of heart, it’s heavy and often too powerful. Regardless, the fact that you’re eating a heaping amount of muscular Ribeye that normally goes for $90 on the menu as an entrée, it can be characterized as a steal of a deal. The cooked temperature is perfect and the juiciness lasts to the last bite. It’s a freshly made patty that deserves all the praise thrown its way.

Toppings: Sometimes they say less is more, but in this instance, less might need to be even less. As much as the meat deserves its due, the single topping of caramelized onions failed to impress. We’ve had plenty of crunchy, sweet onions but these were quite soggy. Tasty, sure, but much too soggy. Our guests for the review even mentioned how much they wished the burger came without onions so one could enjoy the overwhelming star that was the patty. We agree. Not to say that the onions were bad, because they were obviously meticulously prepared and generously draped on the burger, but they didn’t win us over.

Bun: With a considerable size, the eight ounces of meat in the Black Label Burger require a bun that can withstand the entire eating experience. With that in mind, it was clear to us that potato rolls might not make an appearance with such an entrée. Thus, Minetta and their chefs decided on a custom sesame seed brioche bun with a fluffy interior and dark coloring. Notably, the bun did have that greasy, glazed feel on the bottom half as noted in A Hamburger Today’s article linked earlier. Though, we can’t help but imagine what the burger would have tasted like with a sweeter flavoring rather than the “nuttiness” of the brioche. It held up well as we ate, but added nothing to our taste buds.

Bedlam's Minetta Tavern Judgment

Meat (49): As near flawless as you can get but we deducted one point for the overwhelming taste of butter with every bite. Yes, there is more muscle than marbled fat in the patty and the flavoring needs a boost, but the butter could be lessened slightly.

Toppings (19): An average showing from the caramelized onions, we wish they had more crunch and less moisture.

Bun (20): A great bun to burger ratio and a solid texture. Yet, the bland nutty flavor was a bit disappointing.

Ranking: 88 out of 100

Friday, April 2, 2010

Best Burger in NYC Search: Black Iron Burger Shop

540 E. 5th Street (between Avenue A & Avenue B)
(212) 677-6067
Burger: The Iron Horse Burger ($10) 

Continuing the predictable theme of a pilgrimage to the East Village (they have tons of burger joints!), up next on our best NYC burger “to eat and review” list comes Black Iron Burger Shop. Somewhat hidden in Alphabet City from the majority of locals and almost all tourists – because who really visits Manhattan to see that part of town? – Black Iron Burger has developed a solid reputation amongst burger connoisseurs. Boasting a Keating Miraclean $3,000 grill, craft beers on tap, dive atmosphere with a “cleaned-up” feel, and best of all sublime burgers, we had to stop by. Though, given we don’t always like to come out of a burger dining experience smelling of burger “cologne” if you will, we had reservations about the grill location as its right behind the bar, not in an enclosed kitchen. Moreover, with a small space and limited seating you’ve got to expect some increasingly potent burger smells taking over the joint. Nevertheless, as it’s all about the burger on our reviews, we’re always willing to sacrifice our bodies for the Burger Bedlam quest. With that, we liked reading a previous quote from the Black Iron owner regarding the grill: “The griddle gives the hamburgers a unique flavor because the smooth chrome surface locks flavor and freshness in.” Amen, lock it in Black Iron.

Our Expectations: The Iron Horse Burger. Two six-ounce patties on a sesame seed bun with grilled onions and horseradish cheddar. Sounds like a winning combination. No frills, no special sauces, but lettuce and tomato if you want ‘em. With no fancy toppings in play, the meat better rise to the occasion and deliver. It’s a bold move but done well with fresh and flavorful meat, it can make all the difference. The double patty idea throws a little Shake Shack style into the fray, while the horseradish cheddar has us wondering if we’re in for a sensory overload akin to the blue cheese of The Spotted Pig burger. Based on our research, much like Shack and Pig, Black Iron originally opened up using a Pat LaFrieda beef mixture. Yet, we’ve come to find out that has since changed to a lesser known supplier.

The Burger

Meat: Noticeably fresh and cooked with care, the Iron Horse patties were quite impressive. Seasoned, savory and satisfying, the beef quickly made its mark on our palettes. We wonder though, how much grease one person can handle. The well-documented griddle absolutely delivered a tasty burger, but we’re thinking the grease was a consequence of either heavy-handed oil/butter by the chef or the grilled onions (but we’ll get to those in the next section). Don’t get us wrong, burgers are often messy and that’s how they should be, but at times our bites were overwhelming. No matter, it very well could have been the onions and the meat was well above average and outdid many other best NYC burger contenders, even if the blend isn’t from Pat LaFrieda care of Creekstone Farms.

Toppings: Simple is often the way to go, but in Black Iron’s case, they might need to tweak the formula. We had high hopes for the horseradish cheddar as expectations were for the cheese to yield a slight bite that contrasted the beef. Yet, the cheese had more bark than bite. It could have been any other cheddar and we wouldn’t have known the difference. As for the grilled onions which we previously mentioned, they fell flat. These onions were full of grease and despite our love of a good grease-fest now and again, messing with our taste buds is a recipe for disaster.

Often an overlooked component of the burger tasting experience, buns at many establishments tend to add little value to a burger. Many come on a standard white bun, maybe some sesame seeds on top or even on a brioche bun (not big fans). The Iron Horse comes on a fresh sesame seed bun, one that actually complements the burger. It’s sizing, in terms of width, was spot on, though we could make an argument that the bottom half was sliced too thin. As the grease and juice engulfed the bun, it became slightly soggy, but that’s ok as buns often need to catch the tasty goodness that could tragically hit our plates. Still, we’ve seen some decidedly negative reviews of the Black Iron’s bun, yet we were quite pleased. Slightly sweet and without chewiness, the bun is well above average. Important to mention that our visit took place on a very slow weekend, at the early part of the day, so the buns could have been as fresh as can be.

Bedlam's Black Iron Burger Shop Judgment

Meat (45): All the makings of a satisfying patty: Seasoning on point, passing the freshness test, juiciness flowing and cooked temperature accuracy. A nice blend of tender beef but slightly greasy to the point of distraction.

Toppings (18): Simple? Yes. Tasty? Debatable. The horseradish cheddar was disappointing although still flavorful cheese. The onions were the true burger killer. Although they were sweet, the greasiness engulfed the burger, the bun, and our hands.

Bun (23): Fresh and fluffy and in the top tier of the burger buns we’ve tasted. Bun-to-burger ratio was precise but could’ve been sliced thicker to help the bottom half stay dry to the touch. Providing a simple sweetness to every bite, we were awfully pleased.

Ranking: 86 out of 100