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 entrĂ©e 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


  1. Bros,
    I like your reviews. Though mundane, finding the best burger in NY is a hobby of mine. I have read several of your reviews and they insightful and solid. However, how come you have not reviewed PJ Clarke's. Honestly, it is one of the top three burgers in town.

    I have done my own independent research reviewing some of the burgers you mention here and in my test, Pj's came out to be the best. I'd like to know how you grade it.

  2. Thanks for saving me the $19 at Beacon. As far as your comments about midtown not having some of the best burgers - i ask that you kick the tires a little harder and dive into the world of steakhouse and Gourmet burgers (of which midtown is chock full of). Bills Tavern, Bobby Vans, Bar Boulud, Old Homestead, Dylan Prime's is the new hype burger, and Gallaghers Mustard Sauce Burger has some people talking as well - all these warrant your attention and expertise. Keep up the good work - and continue to fight the good fight in the name of Beef.

  3. @ Anon: Thanks for the suggestion, but don't worry, we'll make it to PJ Clarke's in the near future! Its been on our list for quite a while. Hope you come back and check the review!

    @ The Hamburglar: Thanks for the suggestions, we plan on venturing through the midtown spots at some point...including many of the steakhouses which are among the ones you mention. Thanks for reading!