Friday, December 9, 2011

Best Burger in NYC Search: The Burger Bash

The Food Network Wine & Food Festival is a special time of the year. An unparalleled number of culinary masters descend upon NYC, flexing their flavor yielding muscles to provide some of the best fare eaters can collectively wrap their heads (mouths?) around. Among the plethora of wild events that take place, the Blue Moon Burger Bash leads the way as the hottest ticket around. Gathering some of the most prominent burger building chefs in the country to the equally great space in Brooklyn at the Tobacco Warehouse, the Burger Bash is an event unlike any other for burger lovers – especially those like us who search for the best burger in NYC.  With over twenty participating restaurants and chefs, the collection of finely tuned meat is massive.

This year’s Burger Bash included:

ABC Kitchen (Dan Kluger)
Abe & Arthur’s (Franklin Becker)
Baked (Renato Poliafito & Matt Lewis)
Bark Hot Dogs (Joshua Sharkey)
Beauty & Essex (Christopher Santos)
Benoit (Philippe Bertineau)
Bill’s Bar & Burger (Brett Reichler)
Bobby’s Burger Palace (Bobby Flay)
Burger & Barrel (Josh Capon)
Custom Burgers (Michael Coury)
DBGB Kitchen and Bar (Oliver Quignon)
Goodburger (Tom Galis)
Holsteins Shakes and Buns (Anthony Meidenbauer)
Landmarc (Marc Murphy)
Porter House New York (Michael Lomonaco)
Quality Meats (Craig Koketsu)
Restaurant Marc Forgione (Marc Forgione)
Schnipper’s Quality Kitchen (Jonathan Schnipper)
Shake Shack (Mark Rosati)
The Dram Shop (Lesley Stockton)

Quite the collection, no? It was OUR PLEASURE to attend such a lavish and well represented event. It’s essentially the one night of the year when a burger blogger feels like Burger Royalty. With no shortage of burger sustenance, below we round up a few of our favorites from the evening.  

ABC Kitchen

The Burger: Akaushi Cheeseburger with Herbed Mayo: Aged Bloomsday Cheese, Baby Argula and pickled JalapeƱos on a Sesame Bun.

Jalapeno doesn’t typically come to mind when you peak at a laundry list of burger toppings, but ABC’s burger helps make the case. Pickled to perfection with delectable tanginess, the pepper gave this entry its clout. In addition, a nicely medium rare patty draped in aged cheese and a winning soft and airy bun helped Chef Kluger make quite the impression. It’s no wonder his Union Square restaurant was one of the best new spots received in 2011.

Beauty & Essex

The Burger:  Lamb & Brisket Burger: Spicy Garlic Aioli, Vine Ripe Tomato, Goat-Feta and pickled Red Onion.

Who says Beauty & Essex is all glitz and glam in the LES? Chef Santos constructed a buzz-worthy burger for the ages with his unique combination of lamb and brisket. Supreme texture and taste, the first bite was a knockout. Feta cheese mixed with a spicy aioli? Genius. Still, the meat shined through and that, in essence, was the brilliance magnified in this burger.  Well-balanced, cooked medium rare and bearing that desirable char, Beauty & Essex’s entry was outstanding.

Burger & Barrel

The Burger: Bison Burger, Slab Bacon, Smoked Cheddar & Secret Sauce. The Bash Burger: American Cheese, Secret Sauce, Shaved Pickles, Bacon & Onion Jam on a Martin’s Potato Roll.

No secret, we love Chef Capon’s Bash Burger. And for good reason, it’s magically delicious. The guy is as consistent as one can be with his delicate preparation and equally proportioned bites. Apparently, the cooking apparatus at the Bash threw a wrench in his plans to serve bison – the result just wasn’t to his liking. So, he scrapped the bison and went with the tried and true Bash Burger which won him 2009’s People’s Choice Award. Good call. Juicy, beautifully charred and oozing at the seams with that molasses-like jam. Perfection.

The Results

Heinz Best Dressed Burger
Beauty & Essex

Judge’s Choice
Abe & Arthur

People’s Choice
Burger & Barrel

 Chef Josh Capon of Burger & Barrel

Consider us vindicated and confirmed as burger aficionados. Can we say that? We mean, let’s face it, we love the Bash Burger from Lure/Burger & Barrel and it’s now won two of the past three Burger Bash People’s Choice Awards. Coincidence? You decide. Nevertheless, jokes aside, Chef Capon deserves the praise – his burger is truly tasty. Similarly, Beauty & Essex’s win was justified, as Chef Kluger’s toppings crushed the competition.  

Overall, the 2011 Blue Moon Burger Bash, in all its glory, was an epic success. We strolled the grounds with our good buddy Rev from Burger Conquest (check his NYWFF Burger Bash review here) and couldn’t have asked for better company – the man just knows his burgers. Next year, we implore you to grab a ticket to this feast, wear your loosest fitting jeans and try every burger possible…the gluttony is worth every penny.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Best Burger in NYC Search: The Breslin Bar & Dining Room

16 W. 29th St. (Between Broadway & 5th Ave.) 
(212) 679-1939 
Burger: The Chargrilled Lamb Burger ($17) 

Consider the scene: A dimly lit British pub with rustic charm and medieval chandeliers dangling from the ceiling. Scenesters, foodies and gastrotourists sprinkled about with more filing in from an adjacent and equally trendy lobby bar. Indie rock and hip-hop beats spinning, bouncing off the walls and echoing through the dining room. All the while, diners attempt to focus on a mouth-watering menu packed with an epic array of indulgences. Can you picture it? Because that, in a nutshell, is The Breslin - April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman’s boisterous barroom attached to the uber-hip Ace Hotel. Since it’s illustrious opening in late 2009, crowds have flocked to the gastro-pub, obsessed with it’s meats, cheeses, puddings and, importantly, a best burger in nyc candidate. We’ve had the pleasure of devouring one of Bloomfield’s creations previously at her West Village joint, The Spotted Pig. Highly ranked on our list, and engrained in our minds and pasted on our palates forever, would we be wrong to expect a commensurate burger at The Breslin?

Our Expectations: The Chargrilled Lamb Burger. An eight ounce lamb patty, topped with feta cheese, homemade cumin-infused mayo and placed on a ciabatta roll. Our first true foray into another meat blend outside of beef (minus Resto’s pork and beef blend), Bloomfield’s offering is not necessarily for the conservative, casual eater. Lamb can be gamey at times, though we visited The Breslin with open minds and clear palates.

The Burger 

Meat: Lamb, as a burger patty, is a different animal altogether…pun intended. While it can often be gamey, it does provide a silky texture and enough fat to render it tasty. Such is the case with The Breslin’s burger. While formidable in size at a heavy eight ounces, the patty is loosely packed, which allows for optimum flavor enhancement in all it’s nooks and crannies. With great balance in seasoning and cooking temperature, the lamb provided rich flavor through and through. A delicate crust made our first bite delectable yet, unfortunately, quite salty. Nevertheless, the salt was easy to overcome care of the supreme texture and tenderness and wasn’t extremely overbearing.

As with Chef Bloomfield’s Spotted Pig offering which uses Roquefort, this came with a pungent cheese in the form of feta. While not too cumbersome, the creaminess made way for the lamb to shine, albeit adding a bit more salt to the equation. In similar fashion to the aforementioned Pig’s burger, the feta required some spreading to even out each bite but still provided an excellent contrast to the lamb and in effect, created a pleasant synergy. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the cumin-infused mayo. Innovative? Yes. Delicious? Not so much. We avoided the mayo after a few bites, choosing to enjoy the burger without it.

Bun: Ciabatta is always a pleasant option, proving to be soft, flavorful and an admirable component to the burger’s overall composition. Sweet and fluffy, it was a structural ally to all eight ounces of lamb as ratio-wise it played an effortless role. Still, as with other similarly scaled patties, chewing fatigue was an issue. Finishing the grand patty is a feat in itself and having to chow down on equal parts of bun can be challenging.

Bedlam’s The Breslin Bar & Dining Room Judgment 

Meat (47): Tender, silky and rich, lamb proved to be a spectacular choice for our – ahem – refined palates. Though, a few points off for heavy-handed saltiness and a cumbersome size.

Toppings (20): Creamy and smooth but slightly too salty, the feta was a welcome addition for the most part. The same cannot be said for the cumin-infused mayo, which lacked appeal.

Bun (21): A well-tailored suitor for such a substantial patty, deemed worthy via a fitting burger-to-bun ratio. Tasty and soft, but still a challenge to devour without feeling like a chore.

Ranking: 88 out of 100

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Burger Bedlam Bites: 8/23/11

Our curated list of culinary news from the prior week. Think we missed a must-read or there's something you gotta share? Add a comment below or drop us a line at contact [at] bestburgernyc [dot] com.
  • Peace out, King! Burger King plans on focusing on "fresh" and "healthy" ingredients. Hey, Mom - screw the Happy Meal, I want some guac! [USA Today]
  • Much love for Hamburger America author George Motz as he earned his own show on the Travel Channel this Fall. "Made in America" will explore 39 factories nationwide and premieres October 4th. Congrats, sir. [TV By The Numbers]
  • Pics of the new Veselka on Bowery (Yes, nine blocks south of the original) are out, but the space won't open for four to six weeks. Borscht martinis can't come soon enough. [The Local East Village]
  • Want a food truck to crash your wedding? How bout a big weiner-shaped one? Bet those pictures would last a lifetime! Well, it happened this past weekend in upstate New York with the Oscar Meyer Weiner-mobile. Weiner whistles got us to chuckle. [The Consumerist]
  • The Daily News features "the best" milkshakes in NYC. Gotta admit, Stand's Toasted Marshmallow shake it legit. That rhymed. [NYDN]

Monday, August 15, 2011

Burger Bedlam Bites: 8/15/11

Our curated list of culinary news from the prior week. Think we missed a must-read or there's something you gotta share? Add a comment below or drop us a line at contact [at] bestburgernyc [dot] com.

  • Hipsters rejoice! Owners of solid East Village burger spot, Royale, are opening up a new restaurant in BillyBurg - Williams & Bailey - which will serve the same Black Angus burger as the Avenue C eatery. [GrubStreet]
  • A sweet "anatomical" breakdown of some of the most iconic burgers across the nation, including some of our favorites. [NRN]
  • Anthony Bourdain got a quick profile update via the Sunday Times and we're a bit bummed we didn't make his "following" rundown. Fellas can dream, can't they? [NYT]
  • As much as we love burgers, nothing tends to go with one better than a hoppy-as-hell IPA. Stone Brewery, one of our favorites, put together an amazing 15th Anniversary brew - a delicious Black IPA. We're buying a sixer ASAP. [Stone Blog]
  • Sticking with the beer theme, on top of a new Shake Shack, Grand Central just got a new beer store run by the good folks at Brooklyn's Beer Table. Now maybe self-respecting commuters will forgo the damn Foster's. [Zagat Buzz]

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Burger Bedlam Bites: 8/9/11

Our curated list of culinary news from the prior week. Think we missed a must-read or there's something you gotta share? Add a comment below or drop us a line at contact [at] bestburgernyc [dot] com.

  • The New York Times profiles one of our culinary/entrepreneurial idols, Danny Meyer, in this whirlwind of an article. The man is a machine! [NYT]
  • QSR Magazine, in a special report, breaks down the fast food burger chain numbers for us. Of course, McDonald's is the monster of the space while Burger Bedlam favorites In-N-Out and Shake Shack place modestly. [QSR]
  • While we disagree with quite a few of these, Eater NY breaks down the top 15 drunk foods to eat around the city. Might we implore, where's Pomme Frites or Crif Dogs? [Eater NY]
  • A superb breakdown of NYC pizza for novices and New Yorkers alike by Slice's Adam Kuban. [Slice]
  • We like our burgers served bloody, but not moo-ing. Not like this squid in the video Eater posted showcasing a not-so-dead little guy that's raised to life once it's plated. Here's a factoid, the sodium in the soy sauce makes it twitch. [Eater]

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Monday, August 1, 2011

Burger Bedlam Bites: 8/1/11

Our curated list of culinary news from the prior week. Think we missed a must-read or there's something you gotta share? Add a comment below or drop us a line at contact [at] bestburgernyc [dot] com.

  • A little shameless self promotion, we made our second TV appearance to date (first with Richard Blais here), making it onto our buddy Rev's Cake Boss episode devoted to burgers. Check out his recap of the taping and viewing. We're the ridiculously good looking young men on the left and in the middle of this pic. [Burger Conquest Review]
  • Our #5 ranked burger and overall tasty barbecue joint, R.U.B. is expanding to East Meadow, Long Island. No word on whether they'll continue their Burger Mondays out there, but if you haven't tried the RUB Burger on a Monday from 6-9pm, get on it. [Eater]
  • In more expansion news, Corner Bistro is making moves as well, opening up a new location in Long Island City. We promise, we'll review the NYC staple soon. Well overdue. [Grub Street]
  • Over 90% of the city's restaurants have been graded by the Dept of Health, a year after the letter grading system began [WSJ]. Check your favorite spots on the DOH website here. No worries, Lure and the rest of our top burger spots are safe!
  • And in the "file under gross as hell" category, Upper West Side burger haven (?) Harriet's Kitchen got shut down last week...we won't mention why. You get the picture. [West Side Rag]
  • The A Hamburger Today Burger Lab writes up an incredibly mouth-watering recipe for a burger mashup of White Manna, Telway & In-N-Out. We're making that at home, sooooon. [AHT]

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Burger Bedlam Bites: 7/26/11

Our curated list of culinary news from the prior week. Think we missed a must-read or there's something you gotta share? Add a comment below or drop us a line at contact [at] bestburgernyc [dot] com.

  • Seems as though Danny Meyer and Shake Shack are taking over the world. First Dubai, now Westport, CT [AHT] and soon Grand Central [Eater]. Pretty soon lines for Double Shack burgers will conceive out of thin air!
  • And in even more related Shake Shack news, a Harlem burger shop, Milk Burger (nice name, dude), blatantly ripped off Mr. Meyer and his menu. The intern did it, judge. I swear. [DNAInfo]
  • Lower East Side hot spot, The Meatball Shop, is getting all hipster on us, opening a location in Williamsburg. Question: How many hipsters does it take to eat a meatball hero? Answer: It's some really obscure number, you wouldn't even understand. [The BK Paper]
  • Awesome NoLita Italian sandwich spot Torrisi is opening a small stand in Yankee Stadium. Aside from Lobel's or Carl's, that just may be where you'll find Burger Bedlam eating while the Yanks bash the Sox. [NY Post]
  • Eater NY reports a second location for Island Burgers & Shakes, this one on the UWS. Our first review will come soon. Plus, same report - IHOP in the East Village soon. Holy Rooty Tooty Fresh 'n' Fruity. [Eater]

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Burger Bedlam Bites: 7/18/11

Our curated list of culinary news from the prior week. Think we missed a must-read or there's something you gotta share? Add a comment below or drop us a line at contact [at] bestburgernyc [dot] com.

  • Indianapolis-based smashed burger chain and Burger Bedlam college favorite Steak 'n Shake is opening up it's first NYC outlet in Midtown. Drunk memories say it tastes good...sober memories say otherwise. [Eater]
  • Forbes reports that the next bubble might be burgers. Shorting burgers? Nah, we're long those suckers. [Yahoo Finance]
  • The First Lady caught some heat for taking down a 1,700 calorie meal at the D.C. Shake Shack. Not from us. If anything, she just gained significant burger street cred. [Washington Post]
  • It might be a bit dated (posted in March), but if you haven't read the AMAZING breakdown of the In-N-Out "secret menu" by A Hamburger Today, thank us now. Yes, we want a Double Double, Animal Style too. [AHT]
  • What percentage of Americans eat a burger at least once a week? 48 percent says the Burger Consumer Trend Report. It's the economy, stupid. Duh. [Technomic]

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Best Burger in NYC Search: Burger & Barrel

25 W. Houston St. (cross of Mercer St.)
(212) 334-7320
Burger: Mexico City Burger ($15)

UPDATE: *Sadly, the Mexico City Burger was retired from B&B in early 2013. Though, they still serve up fantastic burgers, including their famous and award-winning Bash Burger.

If you’re anything like us, reading about food – the latest trends, up-and-coming chefs, newest NYC hot spots – can become an obsession. Since we began our quest to find the best burger in NYC, we’ve encountered plenty of the aforementioned subject matter. That said, following our first review of a restaurant headed by Chef Josh Capon, the perpetual Soho hot spot Lure Fishbar, we’ve seen the rise of “burger madness” or “Burger Bedlam,” if you will. It appears that every big name chef is getting in on the burger game – and we can’t blame them. The trend of adding a burger to the menu seems now inherently embedded in the minds of restaurateurs when strategizing their kitchen offerings. Being no exception, since the ascension of Chef Capon’s stature among the burger world, pursuant to his 2009 Wine & Food Festival Burger Bash win (and maybe with some assistance from our praises?), it would seem he was destined to open a spin-off based on said success. Thus, Burger & Barrel was born this past October. While serving up his lauded Bash Burger was an obvious choice, Chef Capon expanded his repertoire to a veritable pantheon of burgers, often varying the selection with the seasons. Therefore, it was only natural for us to venture a stones throw from Lure on Mercer St. for a taste of one of the new burgers at Burger & Barrel.

Our Expectations: The Mexico City Burger. A six ounce patty of Pat LaFrieda blended chuck, short rib and brisket topped with mozzarella, avocado relish, pickled jalapenos, Bibb lettuce and tomato. Placed on a custom built roll deemed by Chef Capon as similar to a Parker House roll (generally buttery, soft, and slightly sweet with a crispy shell), then topped with the B&B and Lure signature staple, two big fat onion rings. Drooling yet?

The Burger

Meat: Pat LaFrieda can do no wrong. At this point along our search for NYC’s best burger it may be as obvious as calling the sky blue or the grass green, but every time we taste a LaFrieda blend, its killer. Still, the Chef has to do his part with the execution – LaFrieda can’t season and cook the meat himself. Though, Chef Capon does him justice. With just the right amount of seasoning and a successful by the book medium rare grilling, we loved the outcome. It’s juicy, tasty and texturally mouth-watering. Almost identical to the Bash Burger, if not exact, the meat isn’t overwhelmed by the toppings – it stands tall on its own. If anything, we wanted more.

Toppings: Variations on the classic cheeseburger are always easy to point to with skepticism and a Mexican style burger obviously is cause for some. Regardless, B&B put together a combination worthy of winning over any skeptics. It’s readily apparent that Chef Capon turns toppings into an art form when constructing his burgers, as this one was delicately balanced. The jalapenos provide the kick you’re looking for when Mexican comes to mind, while the avocado relish delectably counter-balances the bite from the peppers. Mozzarella was a pleasant choice as it added a touch of creaminess. Though, the cheese wasn’t as heavily cut as some other burgers we’ve had, and for that reason it didn’t pack the savory punch we so desire. Lastly, the Bibb lettuce was a good touch but next time we’d leave off the tomato, just unnecessary and we’d rather focus on the other toppings for taste.

Bun: The saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and once we heard the change in bun for the burgers at Burger & Barrel – from a Big Marty’s potato roll to a custom built Parker House style bun – admittedly, our eyes rolled a bit. Our affinity for potato rolls has been long documented, but we obviously need to trust the professionals – they do this for a living – because Chef Capon got this right. Light and buttery with a slight glaze, the bun added a harmonizing sweetness to each bite. Though, as compared to a potato roll and its soft texture, the bun did have a bit of chewiness to it. Not a terribly bad thing, but if we’re comparing apples to apples, we’d choose the Lure bun by a nose. Nevertheless, the beef to bun ratio is spot on and the customized bun remained intact throughout consumption.

Bedlam's Burger & Barrel Judgment

Meat (49): Tops marks on seasoning, temperature execution, freshness and texture. LaFrieda is a dominant force in the meat purveyor industry and The Mexico City Burger is a great example of why. A superb blend with excellent fat content made for a succulent patty – we just wanted more of it.

Toppings (23): We ended up drinking the Kool-aid with this one as the toppings came with the right amount of balance. Nice bite from the jalapenos was pleasantly countered by the rich and smooth texture of the avocado relish. The mozzarella also provided a bit of texture but didn’t do much else flavor-wise despite having a nice melt.

Bun (23): Sweet, buttery and fresh, the custom bun made us fans of the unique Parker House style. We’d prefer a touch less chewiness but still felt satisfied with the taste. Holding form as we ate and adding ample coverage of the patty as well, custom was a nice touch.

Ranking: 95 out of 100

Monday, July 11, 2011

Burger Bedlam Bites: 7/11/11

Our curated list of culinary news from the prior week. Think we missed a must-read or there's something you gotta share? Add a comment below or drop us a line at contact [at] bestburgernyc [dot] com.

  • Shake Shack opened up in Dubai and Danny Meyer tweeted a pic of the grill from Day 1, then tweeted at yours truly! [Burger Bedlam Facebook Page]
  • It's Restaurant Week here in NYC, meals can be hit or miss but you can't always eat at Telepan or Barbuto for such value. [NYC Go]
  • Foodies be warned, VH1's new reality show "Famous Food" isn't just a train wreck, it's a train wreck of EPIC proportions. Still, we'd watch Ashley Dupre on mute. Are we right, Spitz? [Zagat Buzz]
  • McDonald's is testing out a new "English Pub Burger" which comes with, wait for it... AMERICAN cheese. Uh huh, not a typo. [Burger Business]
  • The Annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest saw Joey Chestnut take the title, again. Competitive eating outcast and rouge Takeru Kobayashi claims he's the real winner in his unsanctioned takedown of 69 dogs. With so much tension we say take it to the Octagon kitchen table, dudes. [NY Daily News]

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Burger Bedlam Bites: 6/27/11

Our curated list of culinary news from the prior week. Think we missed a must-read or there's something you gotta share? Add a comment below or drop us a line at contact [at] bestburgernyc [dot] com.

  • Now that we're six months into 2011, Zagat Buzz has a list of 5 things they'd like to see happen in the second half of the year. Though, we couldn't disagree more with the need for more Chicago Deep Dish (you can keep that butter-filled pastry). Note the inclusion and subsequent letdown regarding In-N-Out in the last paragraph. Cold hearted. [Zagat Buzz]
  • Restaurant critic Alan Richman has a beef with the NYC food scene these days, calling it "predictable." Cheer up, a burger. At least that usually makes us happier. [Eater]
  • Yeezy (Kayne, people) dined in SoHo at our favorite spot, Lure Fishbar, donning gold chains the size of the Bash Burger. But he ate sushi. #BURGERFAIL. [Rap-Up]
  • Dutch scientists are playing in labs with stem cells, hoping to create test-tube burgers called "in vitro." Gag us. [Daily Mail UK]
  • Bloomberg restaurant critic Ryan Sutton has started a site dedicated to showing you the "bad restaurant deals" offered on social coupon sites like Groupon. Way to go against the grain, brotha. Some of those deals are flat out, well, bad. [The Bad Deal]

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Best Burger in NYC Search: The Smith

55 3rd Ave (between 10th St. & 11th St.)
(212) 420-9800
Burger: Burger Deluxe ($15)

Nestled in the confines of what’s indelibly known to be an NYU student haven, best burger in New York contender The Smith is arguably one of our favorite dining destinations. Bearing a speakeasy, old-world feel with cascading white tile, dark wood and Victorian black and white photos on the walls, the place has a vibe similar to that of Pastis or Schiller’s, two somewhat trendy Manhattan eateries owned by famed restauranteur Keith McNally. Though, The Smith owners Glenn Harris and Jeffrey Lefcourt (also of Jane in the West Village) certainly created an equally inviting space, one that’s continuously packed to the gills and bustling. There they serve profoundly nourishing cuisine, all of which is both affordable and plentiful. While it’s the weekend brunch menu that tends to attract scores of diners, the burger frequently garners devout foodie affection as a “best of” item.

Our Expectations: Burger Deluxe. Eight ounces of grilled sirloin on a hefty brioche bun, special sauce (a combo of mayo, ketchup and pickles), cheddar and bacon. A sublime sounding offering, one we typically enjoy from top to bottom with some of our favorite ingredients. Though, the sirloin blend deviates from standard blends we regularly see including chuck (from the shoulder of the cow) or brisket (lower chest/breast of the cow). Nevertheless, we’re always open to burger reinterpretation.

The Burger

Meat: While we always take our first bite with a clean judgment slate, we’d be hard-pressed to admit that sirloin didn’t exactly have us giddy with anticipation. Given our tendencies to favor a more inviting cut of beef, the sirloin used in this burger had a lot to overcome from the get-go. And, true to our pre-conceived notions, the meat wasn’t as tender as desired. Perhaps due to the tightly formed patty (loose is much better for taste purposes), the meat flavoring was slightly above average. Conversely, it was cooked nicely and accurately to a medium rare state with a pleasant char and ample moisture. Though not as texturally satisfying as we’d like, the eight ounce burger wasn’t as imposing as many patties of the same size can be.

Toppings: Special sauces are often hit or miss, but consider this a hit. Simple, yes – but sometimes that’s best. Pleasing with each bite, it made up for any shortcomings in this department by its topping brethren. The cheddar draped the patty amply but was devoid of the creamy and sharp contrasts we enjoy – it was more of a “goop” than a slice. Similarly, more consternation came in the form of the bacon. Seemingly old (brunch leftovers?) and crusty, you’ll never win us over with a “bacon bits” sort of flavor.

Bun: Loved the flavor, freshness and proportion, hated the texture. There’s no reason to have “jaw fatigue” by the time your meal is complete. Brioche buns are common in burger world, but the majority are soft, light and airy. The Smith’s was far too dense and tough to chew through.

Bedlam's The Smith Judgment

Meat (41): Not as loosely formed as needed and a questionable blend, but still had nice char and great temperature execution. Flavor was barely above average but not devastatingly salty as with many others we’ve encountered.

Toppings (18): Tasty special sauce, decent cheese but mediocre bacon flavor and texture.

Bun (20): Exceptional flavor and proportion but too tough of a bun to bite. Our jaws were forced to work overtime.

Ranking: 79 out of 100

Monday, June 20, 2011

Burger Bedlam Bites: 6/20/11

Our curated list of culinary news from the prior week. Think we missed a must-read or there's something you gotta share? Add a comment below or drop us a line at contact [at] bestburgernyc [dot] com.

  • Owner of our very first Burger Bedlam review, Five Napkin Burger opened a new location in Miami. Ahh, memories. [Miami Herald]
  • Lady Gaga's meat dress from the MTV Video Music Awards is headed to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Wonder if she used grass or grain fed Argentinian beef? But let's be honest, a real rocker would've eaten that dress post-show. [Huff Post]
  • This year's NYC Wine & Food Festival runs from September 29 to October 2 and began selling tickets last week...the Burger Bash is sold out already. Oops. [NYCWFF]
  • West Village hot spot Kin Shop and it's Chef, Harold Dieterle, added a burger to their lunch menu. It's a ground turkey patty with chili jam, yellow bean aioli, pickled red onions, crumbled fried taro root, on a Sriracha bun for $13. We're interested. [Eater NY]
  • Grub Street asked NYC's top ten beer seller's for ten of their favorite summer beers. Ninety-nine beers in total after they decided to take one down, like the song. We chuckled. Also, should we be worried that we've collectively tried about 25% of these already? [Grub Street]

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Monday, June 13, 2011

Burger Bedlam Bites: 6/13/11

Our curated list of culinary news from the prior week. Think we missed a must-read or there's something you gotta share? Add a comment below or drop us a line at contact [at] bestburgernyc [dot] com.

  • Word is Goldman Sachs has it's very own grill at the new FiDi Shake Shack. Damn you, corporate perks. [NY Mag]
  • In what appears to be a case of copycat, The New York Times get's all scientific on burgers with Daniel Boulud and some scientist. Hmm, reminds us of our Science Channel TV appearance with Richard Blais and his mastery of the sous vide burger. Terms floated include: Maillard, Liquid Nitrogen and crenellated. Mind. Blown. [NYT
  • Kanye West's 2007 deal with Fatburger get's dissolved. At least Pharrell is still gansta'. [NY Post/Page Six]
  • Ashton Kutcher wore a straw hat to our #1 ranked burger spot, Lure Fishbar. Hey, don't go all Sheen crazy on us already, dude. [NY Post/Page Six]
  • The Daily News lists the best fries in the city. We don't rank 'em, but we agree with Pomme Frites. Get the Sweet Mango Chutney Mayo, it's dreamy. [NY Daily News]

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Best Burger in NYC Search: Back Forty

190 Avenue B (at E. 12th St.)
(212) 388-1990
Burger: The Grass Fed Burger ($11)

On a non-descript block of The East Village sits Back Forty, an atypical burger joint sitting unassumingly amongst a breeding ground for contenders in our best burger in NYC search. Offering up “high quality food at reasonable prices within a casual atmosphere,” Owner and Chef Peter Hoffman has honed a menu that screams with simplicity but has a knack for ingenuity. From oysters to pork, rosemary to ramps, the ingredients in each dish provide both a sense of freshness and familiarity. Yet, despite the collection of mouth-watering items available, many come from far and wide to try a single item and what’s often lauded as the best burger in New York, period.

Our Expectations: The Grass Fed Burger. As the menu states, a grass-fed blend topped with heritage bacon, farmhouse cheddar, served with homemade spicy ketchup and sliced pickles all on a hefty brioche bun. Grass-fed can often lack the same “wow” factor in flavor profile compared to grain-fed beef, but we’ve heard too much acclaim for the burger to be worried.

The Burger

Meat: Contrary to our initial worries, the patty tasted freshly ground and was loaded with beefy flavor. Chef Hoffman obviously paid attention in burger class as experts know a loosely formed patty, such as this one, is best for optimal flavor and texture, packing taste in all the nooks and crannies. Though, while the un-taut patty fulfilled our palates, the cooking execution needed a tweak as our medium rare, while mostly juicy, was a touch dry. Regardless, the burger redeemed itself with a nice char that crammed in the supreme flavor we mentioned.

Toppings: Contradictory results in this category. Working for the toppings was the nicely sharp and pungent farmhouse cheddar, draped delectably across the entire patty. Working against the toppings were the puny strips of bacon which surprisingly still managed to add too much salt to the equation. Lastly, the house made "spicy" ketchup wasn't all that spicy although it was quite the deviant from any we had tasted and not overwhelmingly sugary like Heinz tends to be. Points for originality there.

Bun: Brioche won’t do if the stuff ain’t fresh, but this certainly was. A pleasantly soft bun with rich, nutty flavor, we appreciated the good measure on beef to bun ratio. Though, a clear flaw came in the form of consistency as the bun deteriorated somewhat as the juices began to flow. Being left with half a bottom bun three quarters of the way through eating is no fun.

Bedlam's Back Forty Judgment

Meat (46): Immense flavor and a well-formed composition with solid char, we loved the patty.

Toppings (20): Too much salt from a paltry piece or two of bacon but excellent, decadent taste from the plentiful helping of cheddar and admirable unique notes from the ketchup.

Bun (23): Freshly baked and full of rich flavor with one small flaw. A bun should withstand the anticipated burger juice.

Ranking: 89 out of 100

Monday, June 6, 2011

Burger Bedlam Bites: 6/6/11

Our curated list of culinary news from the prior week. Think we missed a must-read or there's something you gotta share? Add a comment below or drop us a line at contact [at] bestburgernyc [dot] com.

  • Burger King axed their creepy icon, The King and plans healthier options and a revamped image. Commence music from the world's smallest violin. [Miami Herald]
  • Similarly, Esquire has some ideas for Burger King with the ladies in mind. [Esquire]
  • Shake Shack seems to be popping up everywhere these days, and their newest location hits FiDi in Battery Park City. Eater NY gives you a tour. [Eater NY]
  • The Wall Street journal rounds up five flavorful (questionable) burgers to try cooking at home with popular recipes from some well-known chefs around the nation. That Schlow Burger from Boston sounds good. But the Celtics, Pats and Red Sox still suck. [WSJ]
  • First Lady Michelle Obama dumped the food pyramid for a plate, but our favorite Twitterer Ruth Bourdain devised a better one. Much better. [Ruth Bourdain]

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Monday, May 30, 2011

Burger Bedlam Bites: 5/30/11

Our curated list of culinary news from the prior week. Think we missed a must-read or there's something you gotta share? Add a comment below or drop us a line at contact [at] bestburgernyc [dot] com.

  • Burger maven George Motz (author of Hamburger America) put together an excellent free Burger App to help locate the best in your vicinity (his rankings, not ours!). [iTunes]
  • Something for the ladies. You like to get your nails done? Yeah. You like your burgers? Yeah. Well maybe you'll like this new Tumblr blog. Tell 'em we sent you. We might even start up our own, Burgers and Beards. [Burgers & Nails]
  • Eater arranged the best YouTube barbecue/grilling FAILS. Warning, #1 is not for those with weak stomachs. [Eater]
  • Hardee's is now serving turkey burgers. Don't do it. [AHT]
  • Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg vows to only eat what he kills. Good luck with that one, dude. Guess you won't be trying any lamb burgers? Or bison? Or...well you get the point. [CNN]

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Burger Bedlam Bites: 5/22/11

We're serving up a new weekly segment to keep you acquainted with the news and stories we deem worthy from the prior week. A small, curated list. Think we missed a must-read? Drop us a line at contact [at] bestburgernyc [dot] com.

  • Burger Bedlam favorite Burger & Barrel has new lunch and dinner menus while also launching a happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. with $5 wine and beer on tap. Aside from the always amazing burgers, try the fried chicken, short rib tacos and chicken lollipops. Trust us. 
  • An epic column from A Hamburger Today on their bi-coastal taste-test between In-N-Out, Shake Shack and Five Guys. We approve of the outcome. [AHT]
  • Gilt Groupe has launched it's latest site, Gilt Taste with former Gourmet Editor-In-Chief Ruth Reichl at the helm. [NY Mag Grub Street]
  • If you're not following @ruthbourdain on Twitter, you're missing one of the most hilarious tweet profiles around. Case in point, the still anonymous creator just won the James Beard Foundation award for humor writing. With that, he/she took a satirical play on Gilt Taste last week called...Guilt Taste. [Ruth Bourdain Tumblr]
  • McDonald's is feeling the pressure to fire Ronald McDonald. As long as they don't axe the Hamburglar, we're good. [WSJ]

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Best Burger in NYC Search: P.J. Clarke's

915 Third Avenue (cross of 55th St.)
(212) 317-1616
Burger: "The Cadillac" ($13.25)

When it comes to New York dining, there are plenty of staples and classic establishments that one might consider “required eating” for an out-of-town guest who’s never set foot in the big city. You’ve got your steakhouses (Peter Luger, The Palm), delis (Katz’s, Carnegie), pizzerias (Grimaldi’s, Lombardi’s), bagel shops (Ess-A-Bagel, H&H) and dessert destinations (Junior’s, Magnolia). Certainly not an all encompassing list, the preceding locales are just a few of the notorious names that echo across the country. Each has their reason for being lauded, although in our minds they might not be the best of breed in their specific category. Likewise, there are a few burger joints that resonate with tourists – namely, Corner Bistro and P.J. Clarke’s. Both have long-standing histories in the city, dating back to the late 19th and early 20th century, respectively. Of course, we may have neglected the two to this point in our search, but we’ve finally arrived at our day of reckoning for P.J. Clarke’s. Opened in 1884 and soon after purchased by Irish immigrant Patrick J. Clarke, the bar/pub has donned the title of best burger in NYC from celebrities and critics alike. As with any review, we come from a position of neutrality and recently made our way to 55th and 3rd like those household names before us.

Our Expectations: "The Cadillac" Smoked Country Bacon & American Cheese. About a 5-6 ounce patty, served on a Pandoro Bakery bun. “The Cadillac” is likely an ode to the love of P.J. Clarke’s shown by Nat King Cole, who according to history, proclaimed the bacon cheeseburger to be “The Cadillac of Burgers!” As our brother from AHT, Nick Solares pointed out in his review, the Red Angus Beef is sourced from Meyer Ranch and the burger offering is quite different than what it used to be. In 2010 the restaurant hired Larry Forgione, the “Godfather of American cuisine” to give the menu a controversial tweak. Nick wasn’t a fan of the revamping.

The Burger

Meat: The first bite revealed plenty as the meat lacked flavor and seasoning, providing little in the way of savory satisfaction. Somewhat grainy or gritty, the freshness wasn’t really there. Moreover, the inside juices, or lack thereof, left something to be desired. Typically, we find a pool of juice on our plate as we eat – during this experience, not so. Though, in contrast, the temperature composition was done well, with a nicely executed medium rare serving and an outer edge or salty crust noticeable, albeit not supplying the crunch or char we are accustomed to.

Toppings: Excellent smoky flavor in the bacon and yummy gooeyness from the American cheese helped give “The Cadillac” memorable qualities. With a healthy portion of bacon and delectably draped cheese, we were happy to have both components accompany the underwhelming patty.

Bun: By far the worst element of the burger, the mediocre bun was painfully sopping wet from the moment we picked it up. Likely a direct correlation to uneven cutting, the bottom half felt like a wet napkin in our hands, giving us fits as we ate. The condensation from heat and not the burger juice seemed to take a toll on the bun before it even got out of the kitchen. The flavor was also below average, lacking sweetness and baring a odd staleness. The only redeeming quality was its size as it covered the patty convincingly – still, not an earth-shattering achievement.

Bedlam's P.J. Clarke’s Judgment

Meat (38): Absent of overall flavor or seasoning with a low amount of juiciness, the patty was unfulfilling. The temperature execution was its saving grace.

Toppings (22): Both components provided the only standout qualities of the burger, with a rich smokiness from the bacon and salty scrumptiousness from the cheese.

Bun (14): Soggy and stale, the bun needs a major overhaul. Texture and taste were way off.

Ranking: 74 out of 100

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Best Burger in NYC Search: Station Identification

We know what you're thinking, "It's been too damn long since Burger Bedlam's last review!" Yes, we agree. You may have grown despondent about that, so we're gonna hit you with a handful of new reviews over the next few weeks. Even better, we're working on some cool partnerships with local business and restaurants to get you, our awesome readers, some savings on our favorite destinations...and those won't be limited to just burgers.

So, while you're waiting for our latest review (coming soon, we promise), you might as well make sure you're following us socially, in all ways possible. Hence, a little bit of shameless social media self promotion a.k.a. Station Identification:

Burger Bedlam on Facebook (like us!)
Burger Bedlam on Foursquare (stalk us!)
Burger Bedlam on Twitter (tweet at us!)
Burger Bedlam E-Mail Subscription

As always, feel free to drop us a line using old fashioned e-mail at contact [at] bestburgernyc [dot] com with any comments (good or bad!) questions or suggestions.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Best Burger in NYC Search: The Little Owl

90 Bedford St. (corner of Bedford St. & Grove St.)
(212) 741-4695
Burger: The Bacon Cheeseburger ($16) 

Eating out in Manhattan as we have along our search for the best burger in NYC, we’ve run through our share of “hot-spot” dining destinations. From the “of-the-moment” sort to the “secret menu” type, you can take a twist around a corner, turn down an alley, or step through a telephone booth, and you’re in the latest restaurant carrying proverbial buzz. Among those that have resonated such chatter is our latest review, The Little Owl. Set in Greenwich Village and serving up quintessential American plates created by Chef and Owner Joey Campanaro, the unassuming 28-seat eatery is known for, among other things, its tasty burger. When we first started Burger Bedlam, The Little Owl was on our initial list of “places to review,” yet the wait (typically 1-1.5 hours) and hard to come by reservations kept us from making our way to Bedford St. Nevertheless, after enduring the 90 minute wait on a recent Sunday morning, our dreams became reality.

Our Expectations: The Bacon Cheeseburger. An eight ounce short rib and brisket blend topped with aged cheddar and maple-cured bacon all on a house-made bun. Chef Campanaro chose to pack quite a lot of potential taste with both a hefty serving of fat and grand size of the patty. Our cohorts among the “burger expert” community rave about this one – and with apparently good reason – but we’re happy to take a “bite” at contributing some analysis.

The Burger

Meat: Right off the bat, we can exclaim that the taste of this burger’s blend is glorious…but with one MAJOR caveat – holy salt Batman! Pardon the superhero reference, but we weren’t sure how to phrase the overwhelming amount of saltiness we had to deal with. As we bit, chewed, and devoured, the need for water refills became more and more grandiose. But, in spite of the “saltlick” attack, the char was excellent, the meat was supremely fresh, and the cooking execution was perfect. The juices were flowing and outside of the salt, we enjoyed what we ate. In a word, we’d have a major “beef’ with this patty if those redeeming qualities didn’t exist.

Toppings: The maple-cured bacon warmed our hearts with a sugary and savory blend of goodness while the aged Cheddar smothered the burger like a Snuggy – just the right amount and touching every edge. Though, we were disappointed with the minimal use of the scrumptious bacon, a rather paltry serving.

Bun: While we can’t claim it to be “magical” as our counterpart Ed Levine exalted in his review, the best part of The Little Owl’s burger may have been this house-made bun. Great texture, fresh and slightly sweet, the juices were captured artfully as we ate. Too often the buns of a sizable burger succumb to the forces of physics and fall apart instantaneously. Yet, Chef Campanaro applied great vision to construct a worthy ally to his patty. However, the one negative we point out is the extreme amount of bun you need to consume in order to take down the eight ounce patty. It’s far too much.

Bedlam's The Little Owl Judgment

Meat (41): Fresh, flavorful but salty as hell. Dial it down and you’ve got a better rating here. A clear casing and nice char, but the incessant need for water was too much to overcome.

Toppings (23): Delectable bacon, but not enough of it. Cheddar was draped masterfully but not overdone with too copious of a serving.

Bun (24): Hard to beat the construction of their house-made bun, despite its size. Had we eaten a slightly smaller patty, the score might reflect perfection. Regardless, it was the best part of the experience.

Ranking: 88 out of 100

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Best Burger in NYC Search: Whitmans

406 E. 9th St. (b/w 1st Ave. and Ave. A)
(212) 228-8011
Burger: "Our Juicy Lucy" ($10) 

Throughout our nearly two year search for the best burger in NYC, we’ve come across a variety of ingenious reinterpretations of the classic American hamburger. Countless combinations of beef blends have passed through our palates, along with a vast plethora of toppings and buns. Good or bad, each choice continues to tweak our carnivorous opinions and strikes a chord with our taste buds. We undoubtedly can’t complain that we’ve had the opportunity to try so many burgers, the experiences alone are worth their weight in gold, err, beef. Still, while each new dining adventure brings us to a fresh variant on burger composition, our next competitor, Whitmans, pays homage to both a Midwestern staple and a Southern tradition. Offering up a six ounce “Juicy Lucy,” Whitman’s seeks to capture the Minneapolis style popularized by Matt’s Bar and 5-8 Club, while also incorporating the pimento cheeseburger made so famous in the south. It’s a unique style, one we’ve yet to encounter along our burger blazing trail, and we were awfully anxious to make our way to East 9th Street for a taste.

Our Expectations: “Our Juicy Lucy” burger. A six ounce short rib blend griddle cooked, stuffed with pimento cheese and topped with caramelized onions, Bibb lettuce, tomato, spicy pickles and homemade special sauce, all placed on a Big Marty’s potato roll. One of Whitmans owners, James, informed us that he uses three different meat purveyors to source their beef. Their variation of the Juicy Lucy uses two 3 ounces patties formed together to encompass the also homemade pimento cheese. Typically a blend of shredded cheddar, pimentos, mayo and various spices, we had yet to taste pimento in our burger eating spectrum.

The Burger

Meat: Based on our outing, a quick word of caution regarding the burger: you have to take the initial bite carefully when devouring the Juicy Lucy. The pimento cheese oozes out like molten lava, but was just hot enough to handle. Still, while that first bite is tricky, we quickly realized the superior taste and texture of the meat at Whitmans. With short rib comes great fat and with great fat comes delectable taste. The beef was well balanced with seasoning and the griddle provided a substantial char on the outer crust of the burger, in a good way. That char gave us somewhat of an actual crunch, with a thin casing created, and we loved it. Conversely, despite a juicy patty, our burgers came out a bit overdone – likely correlated to the center being filled with cheese which might create a quicker cook than a non-stuffed burger. It’s apparent that Whitmans might not be able to execute as we’d hope in regard to temperature as the cheese can be a hindrance.

Toppings: Pimento was new to us, but we quickly learned to love it. A creamy blend with nice kick, it wasn’t the overpowering cheese we thought it might be. Slightly gooey and also somewhat messy (it falls out of the burger while eating), it was a nice change of pace to the typically American or cheddar coated cheeseburgers we’ve consumed. The caramelized onions were a little too flimsy but did provide a pleasant smokiness, while the spicy pickles were a crunchy addition but weren't so spicy or even necessary. Though, they did create a decent balance of textures. Finally, the special sauce listed didn’t do much to enhance the burger – somewhat lost and almost unnecessary with such a pungent cheese.

Bun: Burger Bedlam loves us some potato rolls, so a Big Marty’s choice had us licking our chops. Also used by Josh Capon and Lure Fishbar, the bun balances out a burger with a complementary sweetness and soft texture. Toasted nicely and, importantly, its size was perfect in relation to the six ounce patty as it maintained its composure as we ate.

Bedlam's Whitmans Judgment

Meat (46): Great flavor and fresh juicy texture, but a bit overdone. The char was fantastic and the well formed casing with a crunch had us hooked.

Toppings (20): A pleasant change of pace on the Pimento as the texture differentiates itself from the ubiquity of American or cheddar. The onions were a standout in terms of flavor but the pickles were "meh" and the special sauce was unnecessary while barely showing up to the party.

Bun (24): Soft and sweet with a fresh taste, we were pleased. A strong choice that structurally was what the patty required.

Ranking: 90 out of 100