264 Elizabeth St. (cross of Houston St.)
Burger: Burger Deluxe ($11)
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.
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