Sunday, September 23, 2012

Best Burger in NYC Search: Sweetwolf's

Sweetwolf's Park Slope

492 Sixth Avenue Brooklyn, NY
(718) 788-4926 
Burger: Bacon Fat Infused Wagyu Burger ($18) 

Park Slope. Home to sprawling Prospect Park, Mom’s and Mommy Bloggers, the uber-wealthy and up-and-coming, but most importantly – filled from Fourth to Flatbush with great eats and booming with burgers. Through the past few years, in tandem with the expansive gentrification of the neighborhood, we’ve seen notable best burger in New York contenders in 67 Burger (a 2011 NYWFF Burger Bash entrant), Burger Bistro, and the ever-popular Bonnie’s Grill grace the pages of our favorite burger publications and forums. While regrettably to date we’ve yet to venture to Park Slope for enough tastings at the preceding locales, we were fortunate to mosey over to a more recent contender in Sweetwolf’s. Situated on a subdued corner of Sixth Avenue, brick-walled and warm, we got a chance to find out what owner Eric Wolf was made of after hearing the swirling sounds of supremacy from various readers. Serving up a mature menu chalk full of comfort food, draft beers, and a staple burger, our carnivorous appetites pre-approved.

Sweetwolf's Menu

Our Expectations: Bacon Fat Infused Burger? Yes please. Nine ounces of bacon fat infused Wagyu beef, Jameson soaked sweet chili onions, and aged Gouda – all on an Amy’s Bakery Brioche bun. Accompanied by house made ketchup and a Brooklyn Brine whiskey sour pickle – Mr. Wolf is nothing if not a menu-wielding poet. Certainly a few firsts in and on this burger that tantalized our taste-buds via literary prowess.

The Burger 
Sweetwolf's Burger

Meat: Bad news first. The meat was a bit overcooked, with a medium rare order coming out slightly above medium – that’s a little hard to forgive. Maybe with such a large hunk of meat the task is a bit tough? Moreover, taking a bite consisting of just beef uncovered a somewhat under-seasoned patty, lacking salt. Now, the good news. While the preceding flaws existed, one can only imagine what a medium rare cook would have yielded as the patty was STILL juicy and tender. Must have been the bacon fat – pure gluttony and almost a show-stopper. We loved every damn bit of the composition and the outer char provided an additional layer of smokiness from the wood-fire oven Sweetwolf’s is home to.

Toppings: Jameson usually tops our whiskey rocks on weekends, not our burgers. Alas, Sweetwolf’s douses their onions in the 80 proof Irish original. Sounds like a win, no? You won’t hear us complain, much, as it made for a sweet and tasty topping. That sweetness though, a touch overpowering. Regardless, when paired with creamy aged Gouda hailing from Netherlands, it was solidly counterbalanced. The Gouda itself was a little under-prepared as only half of the cheese wrapped the patty, while the other half wasn’t yet melted. Sticking points, we know. Nevertheless, when’s the last time the Dutch and Irish got together for a burger? Maybe it didn’t go as perfectly either.

Bun: Amy’s Bakery doesn’t dare disappoint with a fluffy and fresh resting place for the 9 ounce burger. Quite sweet but not distracting, we enjoyed it so much we could’ve eaten it solo, toasted it, and slathered some butter on there.

Bedlam’s Sweetwolf’s Judgment

Meat (43): Steady that cook and we’ve got more points. The overdone center irked us but the amazement of the bacon fat goodness and wood-fire smoke won us over.

Toppings (21): Whiskey on rocks, yes. Whiskey on onions? We’re fans as well. Gouda is a newcomer to our best burger in NYC search but we welcomed it with open mouths. Though, we missed a bit of “crunch” from this section.

Bun (23): Perfect ratio, beautiful glaze, and while a tad too sweet it was legitimately tasty. We’d take some to go.

Ranking: 87 out of 100 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Best Burger in NYC Search: Social Eatz

Social Eatz

Social Eatz
232 53rd St. (between 2nd and 3rd Ave.)
(212) 207-3339
Burger: Bibimbap Burger ($13)

UPDATE: *Social Eatz shuttered in March of 2013.

“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” We don’t mean to get all Shakespearean on you, but it’s a fitting opening to portray the notoriety which accompanies an “Best Burger in America” title. Chef Angelo Sosa, a two-time Top-Chef contestant and Jean-George protégé can point to his crowning achievement in burgerdom as a 2011 victory of Eater’s nationally held poll seeking the ultimate burger in all the land. Sosa and his Midtown spot, Social Eatz, sport a few burgers on the menu, from Traditional to Bulgogi with the famous Bibimbap in the middle. An “Asian-American” menu doesn’t exactly scream “find great burgers here!” but we can’t fight the masses nor resist the urge to weigh in on the Bibimbap Burger’s place in burger lore. Poetic, no?

Social Eatz Menu

Our Expectations: Bibimbap Burger. Proprietary all-natural beef, slow cooked egg, Korean pickles, and a bit of mayo-based sauce on a buttered brioche bun. The patty is, as our sources tell us, coated in Sriracha and griddled. Conventional it’s not, delicious it sounds.

The Burger

Bibimbap Burger

Meat: Structurally, the patty shined. Loosely formed on the inside and well-seared on the outside, juices flowed with each bite. That said, our medium rare temperature was noticeably overshot as the center was more pink than red and more firm than soft. Still, flavor profile exceeded our expectations as the tang of Sriracha was strong and savory. Combining with the aforementioned sear to deliver the definition of umami, we can easily endorse a Sriracha-cooked burger.

Bibimbap Burger

Toppings: We’re all for new, different, exciting and we love us some pickled veggies at our favorite Korean haunts, yet those that come with the burger reminded us more of salad than scrumptious. They’re somewhat drowned in sesame-oil and the helping is too heavy-handed. Additionally, the dose of mayo-based sauce is spread a little too thin to make a mark, yet its flavorful when found. Conversely, the slow-cooked egg is superb. Delicately garnished on top of the patty, the runny yolk is heavenly and the true champion of the toppings.

Bun: Buttery brioche is a typical choice for a larger patty, and for good reason. As demonstrated by the Bibimbap Burger, a 7-8 ounce patty needs support from a sturdy bun. We appreciate the accounting for size by Chef Sosa, as it’s far too often underestimated in our adventures in burger eating. One must prepare for a combination of uneven bites, sogginess created by accompanying juices, and the likely overwhelming heft of the patty. Chef Sosa’s brioche delivered in all areas of need in that regard while also contributing a buttery flavor bomb. Still, we were disappointed by an overly dry composition with a lack of soft and airy qualities. Flaking as we ate, freshness was questionable.

Bedlam’s Social Eatz Judgment

Meat (44): Solid structure and ideal sear but mostly overcooked. Though the Sriracha coated and griddled patty was quite flavorful nevertheless.

Toppings (20): Pickled veggies could’ve been executed better with a smaller portion and a little more subtlety using the sesame oil. Conversely, that egg, pure joy.

Bun (17): Points for size, composition, and buttered goodness but not enough to overcome a fairly porous, dry bun.

Ranking: 81 out of 100

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Best Burger in NYC Search: The Dutch

The Dutch
The Dutch 
131 Sullivan St.
(212) 677-6200 
Burger: $17

Sam Sifton’s restaurant of the year. Adam Platt’s best new restaurant of 2011.’s restaurant of the year. Just a few of the accolades showered upon Andrew Carmellini’s All-American Soho eatery this past year. Along with hype comes demand, forcing hip New Yorkers to fight over reservations akin to Patrick Bateman’s obsessive tendencies in American Psycho – “A table at The Dutch? Saturday night? 8:30? No problem.” Diverging from his Italian cooking roots at A Voce and Locanda Verde, Mr. Carmellini’s collection of Michelin and James Beard awards lend credence to the notion that the man can do no wrong. And while patrons flock for the tiny fried oyster sandwich, chicken (smoked or fried) and scores of fresh pies made daily, the exuberant menu also includes a prolific patty known to many as one of the best burgers in NYC.

 Our Expectations

Burger. Cheddar. Orwasher’s Bun. Secret Sauce. Simple enough. More details include a 7 ounce patty from New York’s leading meat man, Pat LaFrieda, and a bun care of New York’s oldest artisan bakery – Orwasher's – all served only at brunch, lunch and late-night.

The Dutch Menu

The Burger

Meat: Extreme juiciness from a pleasantly plump patty, we’re never disappointed by a proprietary blend from Pat LaFrieda’s team. With texture screaming freshness and an exceedingly consistent char around every edge, it was a joy to consume. That said, points off for a slightly overdone medium rare…less rare and much more medium.

The Dutch Burger

Toppings: Placement was the name of the game. Secret sauce, slathered on the bottom half of the bun, was sublimely tangy while also yielding a touch of smokiness. Onions on top drove home the sweet factor with just enough firmness to not hinder our chewing. Conversely, the cheddar, also on top, wasn’t much of a standout while the odd bottom placement of the typical tomato had us scratching our collective heads.

The Dutch Burger

Bun: Orwasher's is known for their broad spectrum of artisanal breads, and flavor-wise, they delivered. Yet, we can’t place blame on them for what appeared to be a somewhat dry bun that lacked the power to withstand the immense juices of the patty. Additionally, as we mentioned in the toppings breakdown, the tomato and secret sauce are on the bottom half of the bun. There lies the problem. Add in sauce, tomato and resulting juices and the bottom half crumbles quickly. Result – top-heavy bun and soggy hand.

Bedlam’s The Dutch Judgment

Meat (48): Well-balanced and nearly unblemished. Temperature needed a tweak, but it’s hard to find many flaws in this patty.

Toppings (21): Questionable order of placement. Superior special sauce and excellent delivery of the onions. Underwhelming tomato and cheese.

Bun (19): Perfect flavor but dry. Solid ratio of bun to beef but not built strong enough to withstand the questionable toppings placement.

Ranking 88 out of 100

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Best Burger in NYC Search: Beauty & Essex

146 Essex St. 
(212) 614-0146 
Burger: Beauty & Essex Burger ($17)

The Lower East Side – don't be fooled, this ain't your grandparent’s LES. Gone are the days of the full-blown working class community, replaced by trendy shops, indie rock clubs and upscale fine dining establishments. Gentrified and glamorized, the neighborhood has become a destination for what’s cool in cuisine and clubbing. With help from developers and real estate agents, the former ‘hood encompassed what’s now known as the East Village and a post-2005 split provided Generation Y with its current understanding of the Lower East Side. Historically a lower-class worker and immigrant neighborhood, the LES is now home to a hip restaurant row on Clinton Street and scores of food trucks lined up near the relatively fresh Hester Street Fair. Predictably, it has also become a common area to post up a best burger in NYC contender – bringing us such gems as Beauty & Essex. Gaudy signage, a faux pawn shop storefront and an epically detailed glitzy 10,000 square foot interior make up what’s home to one of our favorite entries from the 2011 Wine & Food Festival Burger Bash care of Chef Chris Santos. Drawing praise from far and wide, we visited recently for a bit of sustenance and subterfuge.

Our Expectations: An eight ounce patty of lamb and brisket topped with spicy roasted garlic aioli, goat’s milk feta cheese, lettuce, onions and a beefsteak vine ripened tomato all on a ciabatta bun. The same burger we encountered in sample size at the 2011 Burger Bash, this time in full form, still sounds delightful.

The Burger

Meat: Cooking a larger patty comes with risks - that of overcooking the outside and undercooking the inside. Frankly, getting it right is an art form. Our burgers came out just a tad overdone to our always medium rare request. That said, it was the only misstep. Still juicy and slightly salted, bearing a unique balance of fresh texture and beautiful crusty char, bite after bite was consistently savory – Umami at its finest.

Toppings: Feta was a fine touch, not too powerful but packing a combination of both tangy and salt while also providing a creamy texture. Garlic roasted aioli yielded another dash of tang and it’s placement on the top bun helped spread an even distribution per bite. Onions were sweet and slightly crunchy, another texture boost. Though, failure came in the form of the poorly placed lettuce. With juices flowing, eaters should expect the bottom half of the bun to catch the remains. Yet, lettuce acted as a barrier to entry and said juices ended up on our hands or sadly, our plates.

Bun: Ciabatta isn’t a terrible choice, but it won't be mistaken for our favorite. The wheat flour based bun is a popular option with rather large and gourmet burgers such as Chef Santos’. While a bit dry, the taste is spot on, but the ratio of bun to patty is off. The bottom half needs to be cut thicker in order to handle the remnant juices, much like it was at our recent review of The Breslin. At Beauty & Essex we were left with a top heavy bun halfway through eating our entrée.

Bedlam’s Beauty & Essex Judgment

Meat (47): Slightly overcooked, so a few points off there, but supreme Umami - tender, fresh, scrumptious and bearing a delicate char.

Toppings (22): Finely tuned feta provided a creaminess to savor while combining with the aioli to give a kick of tang. The lettuce, while not normally a hindrance and more of an afterthought on most burgers, was the detractor. 

Bun (19): Somewhat dry and an uneven cut provided the disappointment along with a questionable choice for maximum juice retention. Nice taste, just too topsy turvy.

Ranking: 88 out of 100