"The burger is omnipotent and irresistible, it can never be weakened, it can never be slowed down, it can never stop its ever increasing growth in popularity. It is the single most powerful force in the food universe." —Josh Ozersky
My dearly departed friend Josh Ozersky, who left us far too early this year, knew the power of the hamburger better than anyone. It is the most dominant menu item in the nation and while some once argued that the ascendance of the hamburger in NYC over the last decade was a "trend" or "fad," it is clear that burgers are an indelible thread in the dining fabric of our city. A hamburger on the menu no longer defines a restaurant as strictly American, but it can define a restaurant as one from NYC. Take this year's list as an example: we have two French restaurants, a Portuguese one, a cozy East Village New American, a Brooklyn seafood shack, and a Brooklyn pizzeria all serving burgers worthy of high praise. Here then, in alphabetical order, are the best new burgers of 2015:
It has been quite a year for Black Tap, the little Soho burger bar that could. After opening the first Black Tap in March, a second location was added October, which was also the same month that the team won the People's Choice Award at the NYCWFF Burger Bash. The menu is tightly focused on burgers with a variety of options paying lip service to different regions — Texas, Mexico, etc. But the All American ($14) — the most elemental of offerings — is also the best.
529 Broome St, New York, NY 10013
Jason Atherton continues the trend of British chefs serving top-notch burgers in NYC started by April Bloomfield. At The Clocktower he serves up a plump and juicy dry-aged burger topped with stiff planks of bacon, a blanket of cheddar, a special sauce variant called "Churchill sauce," and a tangle of red onions, lettuce, and pickles ($24). It comes on a perfectly molded white bun that does a good job of corralling the copious fillings and torrent of juices that gush from the patty.
5 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10010
Although it was introduced in 2014, the burger at Emily has evolved over time and the final component (and most salient feature) — a funky dry-aged blend from DeBragga — debuted this year. The burger has developed a cult following and chef Matt Hyland has incorporated the flavor profile into pizza, dumplings (with the help on Mimi Cheng's), and even stuffing for a turkey dinner as an homage to the fabled White Castle slider recipe.[Full review.]
919 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11238
Erin Norris's Grindhaus, once a bastion of tweezer food which received a glowing two star review by Pete Wells, underwent a revamp late last year following the departure of chef Aaron Taber. The restaurant has transformed into a friendly neighborhood joint with hospitality to match — it feels almost like one is eating dinner at Norris's home. But the best change is arguably the double-stacked burger that new chef Joe Macchia developed. It is a love letter to Red Hook using meat from neighbors Fleishers Craft Butchery including a small amount of pork belly that is smoked over at Bill Durney's Hometown Bar-B-Que. Cooked in Grindhaus's impossibly small kitchen over electric burners, the burger is a study in the layering of flavors and texture. The beef has a sweetness tempered by the subtle smoke from the belly, and the buttered and griddled Big Marty's bun has plenty of crunch to match that of the patties (a double is recommend). The viscous mass of American cheese holds things together and bring a creaminess to the affair. The result is a wonderfully synergistic experience.
275 Van Brunt St, Brooklyn, NY 11231
Legendary Upper East Side watering hole J.G. Melon is of course hardly new, but when a second location sprouted downtown in August, bringing the famed cheeseburger right along with it, there was one significant difference: the burgers downtown are aggressively seasoned with salt. Any burger aficionado worth their salt knows how much a difference this can make. Of course nothing can beat the ambiance of the original, but pound for pound the downtown version wins. [Full review.]
89 Macdougal St, New York, NY 10012
I have to admit that I welcomed the fact that there was no hamburger on the menu when La Gamelle opened in April. I liked the purity of the restaurant's vision as a French brasserie, and delighted at the faithfulness of the cooking. But the reality of running a restaurant on the Bowery is another matter, and perhaps inevitably, chef Mathieu Palombino succumbed to market forces and added a burger to the lunch and brunch menus ($14). The patty is a hearty short rib blend from Pat LaFrieda topped with sautéed onions and gruyere. But the star of the show just might be the house-made potato bun that ranks as one of the best in the city.
241 Bowery, New York, NY 10002
George Mendes's Flatiron Portuguese restaurant Lupulo serves a lunch and late-night burger featuring a flame-grilled double patty stack that evokes Burger King's Whopper. The meat is cooked on a massive charcoal-powered Grillworks grill, which puts a hellacious sear on the beef and adds a pronounced smokiness to the double patty stack. [Full review.]
835 Ave of the Americas, New York, NY 10001
The Polo Bar
Eater NY Editor Greg Morabito recently described the soon-to-move Union Square Cafe as a "country club restaurant," one that occupies a different, and broader, cultural space than the ones we at Eater tend to obsess over in 2015. I think the same is true of The Polo Bar, a restaurant that might be dismissively thought of as a vanity project, but that actually serves food that is really rather good. Take the cheeseburger. This eight-ounce patty is fabricated from a bespoke beef blend from DeBragga, and it's classically attired with Nueske's bacon, lettuce, tomato, and red onion. The stylish golden domed bun is lavishly studded with sesame seeds. The result is a flavor profile as classic as the Polo label, and it's arguably the best country club burger there is. Membership has its privileges, and also its expenses — it costs $28.
1 E 55th St, New York, NY 10022
Porter House NY
Double patty stacks are apparently "in" this year among NYC chefs (look at George Mendes's Lupulo above and Justin Smillie's Upland below). Michael Lomonaco's Double Stack Burger on the Porter House NY lounge menu ($14, available after 3 p.m.) is one of my personal favorites, and not just of 2015. This is a double stack of the Lomonaco dry-aged blend with American cheese and a superb blend of pickled jalapeño, cornichons, and red onions. It's lovingly embraced in a Martin's potato bun. This one has all the funk and tang of the bigger Porter House burger, by virtue of the beef blend, but adds more crunchy surface area, maximizing the pleasing effects of the Maillard reaction. The velvety blanket of American cheese adds the right amount of creaminess to match the picante heat from the relish.
10 Columbus Cir, New York, NY 10019
Red Hook Lobster Pound
When Red Hook Lobster Pound— widely credited with serving the finest lobster rolls in NYC — reopened as a full fledged restaurant back in April, it did so with a concession to the land lubber by offering a burger on the menu ($15). Featuring a hefty dry aged patty and, inspired by the split top bread of a lobster roll, it is served on a potato bun that has had the crown lopped off before being buttered and griddled. The result is an extra layer of crunch. [Full review.]
284 Van Brunt St, Brooklyn
Rose's Bar & Grill
The burger at Rose's Bar & Grill really lives up to the establishment's moniker: it is cooked over real wood, giving it the appeal of a backyard cook-out in a city where flattop burgers are the norm. The all natural beef is sourced from a farming cooperative in Pennsylvania and features a blend of chuck and brisket that receives a serious charring on the grill. It is topped with gruyere and Hellman's mayonnaise, and slipped between a sesame studded roll from Orwasher's that Rose's chef Jerome Skaggs settled on after trying out a "disgusting amount of buns." The resulting decision was a good one. The bun is sturdy enough to contain the beef and cheese but gets out of the way by being so light and airy, allowing the flavor of the beef with its pronounced smokiness to really shine. $16.
295 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217
It has been a big year for Shake Shack, what with the reopening of the original location after several months of renovations, the roll-out of numerous new shops around the globe, and of course going public at the beginning of the year. To celebrate the renovations, the Shack debuted the Park Burger exclusively at the Madison Square Park location. It was topped with bacon and a cheddar cheese sauce that melted as well as American. Sadly, it was yanked from the menu in late October, robbing the original Shack of a unique item. Bring it back Danny!
Madison Ave & E.23rd St, New York, NY 10010
California kid chef Justin Smillie serves up an homage to the Golden State fast food style burger at Upland, replete with special sauce, a double patty stack, and a state flag perched atop. It is what President Obama ordered when he ate there. [Full review.]
345 Park Ave S, New York, NY 10010
As with La Gamelle, I took umbrage when Vaucluse opened with a burger menu, and at least Palombino attempted a purely French restaurant. But my cultural sensibilities aside, it's pretty hard to argue with the results. The burger uses the dry-aged White Label beef blend developed for Michael White by Pat LaFrieda. It comes as a hefty eight-ounce patty that is grilled, rather than griddled like White's prior efforts, giving it a sweet smokiness that plays well against the funk of the beef. It is topped with fontina cheese, mayonnaise, and whole grain dijon mustard, and served on a house-made pain de mie along with some of the best fries in the city ($24)
100 E 63rd St, New York, NY 10065
East Village hot spot Virginia's recently added a burger to the bar menu and it is actually the first one that Christian Ramos has ever cooked professionally. It's an impressive effort, but I suppose that is expected considering his fine dining background. Fabricated from a blend of hanger steak and short rib, and larded with fat cap, it comes served under a molten mass of clothbound cheddar and it sits atop caramelized onions cooked in beef fat. Because that isn't unctuous enough, the meat comes with a dollop of bone marrow mayonnaise, and it's nestled in a buttery brioche from She Wolf bakery. The bar-only burger cost $16 and is a limited availability item.
647 E 11th St, New York, NY 10009