Burger & Lobster, the popular UK based chain, opened two weeks ago in the Flatiron district. The name describes the entire menu: diners choose between a hamburger, a one and a half pound lobster, or a six ounce lobster roll. All three options come with a salad and fries, and cost the same amount. In the UK the price is £20 ($30.19), while in NYC it is set at $20. Given that the current exchange rate is £1 to $1.51, the price is higher in the UK, even factoring tax (which is included in the UK price) and tip (which is not levied across the pond).
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But how does Burger & Lobster measure up to the competition in NYC? Below is an analysis, made purely from a price perspective. Note that this is not a qualitative review, save to note that Burger & Lobster is using quality ingredients – fresh, prime grade beef and homarus americanus, true North Atlantic lobster. So let's break down the individual menu items and see how they stack up against comparable versions of the dish around town, and then look at how the menu fares in total.
Hamburger is undoubtedly where Burger & Lobster faces its stiffest competition. London is certainly enjoying a rising popularity in burgers, even attracting some big players from NYC, and the success of Burger & Lobster over there is reflective of this trend. But the UK still has a way to go when it comes to quality burgers. That's especially compared to New York, which has been part of the hamburger renaissance since Daniel Boulud unveiled the DB Burger back in 2002, closely followed by the ascension of Shake Shack to a global brand.
While $20 is a relatively high barrier of entry, especially compared to some of the best new burgers of 2014, Burger & Lobster does offer some compelling arguments in its favor. They use a custom blend crafted by Pat LaFrieda using Hereford beef (the same blend the company uses in the UK, where they actually import it from Nebraska). The patty is 10 ounces, which is at least two ounces larger than any other patty in this survey, save the 21 Club which weighs the same amount and sells for a wallet busting $36. But whether you value a 10 ounce burger is a personal matter, and many burger aficionados generally find them to be too large to eat comfortably. It should also be noted that the burgers that are more expensive all use dry aged beef in the blends.
The burger at Burger & Lobster is served on an appropriately sized bun with lettuce, tomato, pickle, and onion along with fries and a salad. A choice of cheese and bacon are free additions, so ordering both means more value for your $20.
The real bargain at Burger & Lobster is in the whole one and a half pound lobster. Offered either steamed or grilled, the lobster comes with either clarified or garlic butter at a price that is significantly lower than the competition. In fact, many places sell a pound and a quarter lobster for more money.
Burger & Lobster also sell larger specimens of five pounds and over at just under $28 per pound. Here again that's a savings over the competition.
The Lobster Roll
The competition amongst lobster rolls in New York is less fierce than that of burgers, but only by a hair. The city has a wealth of lobster roll options these days, and Burger & Lobster comes right in the middle of the pack price-wise. But in terms of quantity it offers some of the best value around. While there are cheaper lobster rolls out there, such as Luke's Lobster ($15) and the Red Hook Lobster Pound ($16), they contain approximately four ounces of lobster meat, whereas Burger & Lobster offers six ounces in its rolls. This is comparable size-wise to the more expensive offerings in this survey.
Dinner for Three
What if you and two friends simply must have a whole lobster, a lobster roll, and a hamburger? There aren't too many places that serve all three, but in this rare case Burger & Lobster is by far the most economical option, although the competing restaurants are admittedly more upmarket.
It is fair to conclude that within its narrowly defined concept, Burger & Lobster offers very good value for money. The hamburger is probably slightly over priced, although not egregiously so, while the lobster roll and more significantly the one and a half pound lobster are under priced. Further, at $28 per pound for larger sized lobsters, Burger & Lobster is also easy to recommend, at least from a price perspective.
There is little doubt that New Yorkers love both hamburgers and lobster. They also love a bargain. Whether that is enough to fill the ambitiously large space that Burger & Lobster occupies remains to be seen. If it was situated in Times Square, success might be assured on foot traffic alone. But situated as it is on a sleepy stretch of 19th Street in the Flatiron District, with limited pedestrians, the restaurant's future seems less certain. Burger & Lobster needs to make itself a destination outside of its neighborhood, the way it has in the UK, where long lines form in the no-reservations restaurants. If it can do this, it is certainly suited to handle success, with 340 seats and room to house 4,000 lobsters.