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


  1. Maybe a good slice of cheese would have increased your total score of the burger.

  2. Had this tonight, 100x better than RUB BBQ. Get a slice of cheese with it, they gave it to me for free.