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