In case you don’t know, Bob’s Burgers is a Fox cartoon series with a huge fanbase that features a greasy spoon of the same name in a rundown part of what is reputed to be a Jersey Shore town. Every day this week at Chefs Club Counter, at the corner of Spring and Lafayette, there was to be a special burger created by L.A. chef Alvin Cailan based on the chalkboard burger special seen on nearly every episode of the show. Monday’s was the Baby You Can Chive My Car Burger (sour cream mustard, chives, fried pickles), while Tuesday featured the Don't You Four Cheddar 'bout Me Burger (four cheddars, bacon, and onion), and so on.
My editor had assigned me to try one of the hamburgers and see how I liked it, so I set out on the first day of the pop-up to do so. Ultimately I failed the assignment, but fumbling the ball proved to be half the fun.
I zoomed up on my bike in front of Chefs Club at the Puck Building on the first day of the Bob’s Burgers pop-up, only to discover it was being held at the other branch of the Chefs Club, the one geared to entertain the masses at the corner of Spring and Lafayette, called Chefs Club Counter.
By the time I reached the real location, it was already 11:45 a.m., and a line stretched out the door and down the block. Even though it was a cold Monday morning, all the outdoor tables were occupied with bundled-up diners enjoying their burgers and fries. I was informed the wait would be at least an hour. So I left.
I had a plan to avoid the lines on Tuesday by arriving midafternoon for the four-cheddar burger. I was dying to find out if you can even tell the difference between four cheddars on a burger. Indeed, when I stepped into the space, the room that seats around 70 was half-empty, and the line at the register was short. I’d expected a little joyful decoration based on the cartoon, but nobody had bothered, and there was only a banner or two and a choking poster featuring the cartoon characters.
But my spirits sank when I read the sign that said “Sold Out.” Which seems ridiculous unless you cynically believe that the whole point of this pop-up is to generate a frenzy among fans by severely limiting the supply. The guy at the counter told me, “We start selling the special burger at 11:30 a.m. and run out by 1:30 p.m.” Which means, I suppose, you could stand in line for an hour beginning at half past noon and still miss out. Shame on you, Bob’s Burger pop-up.
Nevertheless, there is a list of other burgers devised by Cailan — as well as Daniel Humm, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and George Mendes, presumably all members in good standing of the illusory Chefs Club — available all afternoon, based on the same patty and repertoire of buns, all priced at $14 including fries. (Note: The special burgers in the cartoon are all $5.95.) Three of the four burgers on the menu devised by Cailin have goofy toppings. In my case I picked the “big burger,” which came with some kind of greenish sauce on top that tasted like a mutant pimento cheese, flavored with truffle oil and flecked with purple pickled onion. Not bad, but halfway through you might just wish you were eating the burger without the sauce. I did, and scraped the toppings off.
The next day I cruised by to see what was happening and discovered that a line had already formed just before 10:30 a.m. So that’s when you should arrive if you’re really, really determined to get a Bob’s Burger, still available for the next three days.
Friday brings the Hit Me with Your Best Shallot Burger (caramelized shallots, chèvre spread, arugula), Saturday is the We're Here, We're Gruyère, Get Used to it Burger (sweet pickles, Gruyère, caramelized onions, jus-dipped bun), and Sunday has the Bet it all on Black Garlic Burger (mozzarella, spinach, black garlic spread). Just be prepared to wait — or leave empty-handed.