Two new burger shops with cult followings are coming to Manhattan this fall. Hamburger America, from the celebrity chef George Motz, and Gotham Burger Social Club, a pop-up that soared in popularity during the pandemic, are both on track to open permanent storefronts in the coming weeks.
The businesses are known for the same style of burger, but they have a few key differences. In Soho, Hamburger America has the feel of an old-school diner. Its signature dish, a fried onion burger, originated in Oklahoma ($7.25 for a single, $11.50 for a double). Motz sold thousands of them from a slide attached to his apartment window during the pandemic (and had been making them for at least a decade before that). They come with American cheese and pickles on the side.
The restaurant looks like it could open any day at 51 MacDougal Street, near Sixth Avenue. The retro space has booths and tables, plus seats at a counter that curves around a central grill. In addition to burgers, it will sell egg salad sandwiches, egg creams, key lime pie, and other classics.
Across town on the Lower East Side, Gotham Burger Social Club will serve burgers in a similar style ($8 for a single, $11 for a double), along with more modern inventions, like chopped cheese tacos and loaded tater tots. Owner Mike Puma has run the business as a pop-up for over a decade, but his events found new popularity during the pandemic. He serves his burgers with ketchup, mustard, pickles, and pickled jalapeno.
On Tuesday, construction was underway at its future home at 131 Essex Street, at Rivington Street, where Puma was supposed to open in October. A menu was visible through the window: Aside from burgers, it listed hot dogs, onion rings, and Aperol spritzes. The shop looks like it could open by the end of the month.
The businesses will shake up an established smash burger scene in Manhattan that includes the 7th Street Burger chain and Smashed, which opened nearby in 2021. Does it matter who opens first when the burgers are this popular? Probably not. It’s going to take more than two dining rooms to fit all of their fans.