18 Avenue B (between 2nd & 3rd St.)
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.
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