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.
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.
Bun: 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