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The ‘Worst Restaurant in New York City’ Has Closed

Nusret Gökçe’s pillar of salt is crumbling

Patrons sit at tables and at a counter at the reasonably full dining room at Salt Bae, while grill workers in the open kitchen
Salt Bae Burger has closed. A food writer once called it the worst restaurant in New York City.
Gary He/Eater NY

Raise your right hand. Touch your thumb to your pointer finger. Arch your wrist down. Now make those fingers dance. For years, that’s been the winning formula behind Nusret Gökçe’s international chain of steakhouses Nusr-Et. The Turkish butcher, known online as Salt Bae, became an internet sensation in 2017 for sprinkling salt over steaks in aviator sunglasses and form-fitting white shirts. It netted him 52 million followers on Instagram, but in one of the world’s most competitive restaurant markets, it couldn’t keep his burger chain open.

Salt Bae Burger, once called the worst restaurant in New York City, closed earlier this month. A sign on the door claims the business is “moving to a new location” at 412 West 15th Street, near Ninth Avenue, in the Meatpacking District. The address belongs to a location of Nusr-Et Steakhouse, which will continue to serve the burger chain’s menu, according to a spokesperson for the brand. The steakhouse has an additional location at 60 W. 53rd Street, near Sixth Avenue, in Midtown.

Salt Bae Burger opened at 220 Park Avenue South, near Union Square Park, a month before the pandemic first shut down restaurants for indoor dining. Eater’s critics wrote at the time that “it had all the charm of an airplane hanger,” while its menu reminded them of a more expensive, worst-tasting version of the Black Tap burger chain. Among the offenses: a wagyu beef burger wrapped in gold foil, a vegetarian “ladies burger” that was free for women, and “golden” milkshakes that cost $99 at the time of opening. A writer for Gothamist called it the city’s worst restaurant.

The burger chain was a follow-up to Nusr-Et Steakhouse, a restaurant chain with more than 20 locations worldwide that the Turkish butcher brought to Manhattan in 2018. It was surprisingly well-received, but in the months leading up to the opening of Salt Bae Burger, the tenor had started to change. The restaurant’s parent company, Nusr-Et, was hit with multiple lawsuits over allegations ranging from sexual harassment to wage theft. When asked about the complaints in 2020, its chief operating officer, Al Avci, said there was “no problem whatsoever” at the company’s restaurants.

Salt Bae Burger opened its first location in Dubai in 2019, followed by its now-closed outpost in Union Square in 2020. A Los Angeles location was set to open later year, but it never materialized.