By now you may have heard of Mister Dips, the roadside style burger and ice cream stand operating out of a repurposed Airstream atop a two-story structure in the William Vale Hotel in Williamsburg. Run by Andrew Carmellini and the culinary and hospitality whizzes from the Noho Hospitality Group, the conceit is like a heady hybrid of Shake Shack and Big Gay Ice Cream. The Mister Dips logo is a quirky looking ice cream cone that you might imagine could grace a hit of blotter acid. The menu is as spartan as the confines of the Airstream from which it springs — three types of burgers, waffles fries, and a small selection of ice cream.
There is an unmistakable similarity to Shake Shack in the Mister Dips burger because of the use of the potato bun, the griddle-cooking method, and the size of the patty (Shake Shack appears to be a smidgen larger). The generally whimsical nature of the venture might also remind you of Shake Shack. But Mister Dips doesn’t feel derivative; rather it feels like part of the larger narrative — that of serious restaurant operators letting down their hair and cooking comfort food. In the case of Shake Shack, it paid off in a big way of course, and certainly there is a similar potential for replication at Mister Dips. And unlike Shake Shack, of which only the original operates out of an actual shack, wouldn’t it be cool if Mister Dips launched a fleet of Airstreams perched in unexpected places?
The Single Dip is a study in simplicity and bundled joy. Wrapped in a wax paper sleeve, it emerges from the bag like a steamed dumpling: the bread warm and pliant; the cheese and sauce fused in to a glistening mass; the charred, craggy surface of the russet-hued patty poking through here and there. A Single Dip is bigger than a slider, but it has a similar feel structurally, and it is just the right size to hold in one hand. What a joy! My first bite tasted specifically like a Peter Luger porterhouse — salty, charred, swimming in beef fat and butter. But it was the crunch of the patty's crust that was most evocative of steak — it had all the bite and char and acridity of a prime porterhouse seared on a steakhouse broiler. It was fleeting. Subsequent bites where dominated by the deluge of creaminess and tang, of mild sweetness and peppery heat, from the sauce and cheese, only then followed by the brawny finish of the beef. I bet a plain hamburger sans sauce and cheese is pretty spectacular.
But so is the Single Dip! I trumpet American cheese for its lumpen charm and structural cohesion, but the aged cheddar employed here melts almost as well and has considerably more flavor. Coupled with the zippy special sauce variant, Mister Dips' burgers are far greater than the sum of their parts. And certainly they are more complex in flavor than the other fast food style burgers they resemble. Mister Dips opens up all the doors of savory perception on the palate. It's a good, strange trip.
I also sampled the Special Dip which is currently a homage to the New Mexican green chile cheeseburger. It uses the famed Hatch chiles which pack a sturdy, smoldering heat that plays nicely with the beef. All burgers are offered as doubles, but I didn’t find the need to sample them, the single is perfectly balanced in its meat-to-bread ratio. There is also a veggie burger and waffle fries, both of which I also skipped because I am generally not a fan of either. The Mister Dips soft serve on the other hand was a pretty great way to wrap up the meal.