Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Secret Burger Joint

I was first told about the Burger Joint in the Le Parker Meridien hotel (119 W 56th Street near Sixth Ave) about four years ago by a friend of a friend who told me I'd find New York's best burger here. The best burger in a fancy hotel? Really? I was skeptical; but it incited my curiosity. I thought it was such a lofty statement before I moved here and it seemed even more lofty after living here.

Part of Burger Joint's appeal is its reputation as the burger place no one knows about. The Burger Joint is mysteriously hidden away behind maroon floor-to-ceiling curtains in the marble lobby of the Le Parker Meridien hotel.

You see the velvety curtains. It feels like there's something x-rated going on behind them.

This is how you'll find Burger Joint - with this neon sign.

You can probably also find it by the long line of people, because although it's still referred to as the secret burger joint, many people you talk to has heard about it and it's certainly received a ton of press coverage as the "best kept burger secret in New York." With that kind of press, it's almost impossible to be a secret ever again. Also, many people that know about it don't want you to know about it. When we went on a weekend at 3:30 PM, there was a line but it was tolerable and moved along pretty quickly. We were much more amazed that we got to sit and eat.

Another part of Burger Joint's appeal is the contradiction of its location (and let's be frank, very good marketing). The contradiction is that once you enter the small room behind the mysterious curtains, the place looks like a dive. There's a few wooden tables and benches, a simple grill behind a small counter where you order and return to once your name is called, writings and film posters on the walls, a small t.v., and no waiters or bussers. It's as basic as it gets. It's nothing like the upper scale hotel it's in. It's so oddly placed in this hotel - if you know anything about it - it's the hotel you can get a luxurious chocolate themed brunch, where you can supposedly get a $1,000 omelet, where the celebrity guests of Regis and Kelly stay. So, it's a bit strange and it most certainly adds to the Burger Joint's quirkiness and unique appeal. This explains the mix of its customers - casually dressed folks like us on the quest for a hidden burger gem and the Polo dressed guests of the hotel tired of room service.

Their menu is very simple: Hamburger, cheeseburger, grilled cheese sandwich, fries, brownie, pitcher of beer or Sam on tap, lemonade and milkshakes. How can you not love a menu like this (except the Sam on tap)? The menu is written on a ripped up cardboard box on the wall and it tells you how to order: 1 - hamburger or cheeseburger?, 2 - how do you want it cooked?, 3 - what do you want on it - lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo or the works? It tells you to be ready or else you will have to go back to the end of the line. Cash only.

Sorry we only have these crappy photos of this burger. We were so hungry when we got our food and it smelled so good, we took some shoddy photos with our iPhone and dived in. (Plus, the area we were seated in was not the best spot for taking photos). You'll just have to use your imagination and trust us. The cheese burger ($7.50) was terrific! We like our burger simple and this was simple fast food burger done just right. The right thickness of meat (not McDonald's skimpy but not too pub thick), with meat juice oozing out. Medium rare is the way to go for us and they cooked it perfectly to our taste. The fries ($3.50) were nice and hot with the perfect crunch. And the milkshake ($5.00)! Whoa whoa whoa, the milkshake!

The food here was so good, we almost wanted to tell you that it was bad. Don't tell anyone about this place, it's a secret.