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