Friday, November 6, 2009

Burgers, an institution - New York

We do love our burgers over here in the UK. I mean, how else can you explain the constant expansions of new Gourmet Burger Kitchens, Ultimate Burgers and Burger Shacks across the capital. With the addition of Byron and Hache, and more recently, the highly researched Hawksmoor burger, burgers in London are constantly improving and appear to be moving in the right direction.

The thing is, London and the UK in general is very much behind the US in the burger stakes. Over in New York, burgers are a way of life. Here, where at the moment it seems to fulfill a purpose, out in New York, it often fulfills a passion.

I wanted to sample the best New York had to offer but the choice is vast. I mean, check this article out. It lists New Yorks 82 most notable burgers. All independent outlets, the choice is simply vast. I have been taken to JG Melons (not even mentioned in the former list) before, so chose the Shake Shack after Foodbymarks recommendation and the BLT Burger on my cousins.

Shake Shack

Shake Shack

Shake Shack are famous for three things, their burgers, their custard shakes and the often monstrous queues. Originally modelled on a "roadside" shack in the middle of Madison Square park, Shake Shack now have 3 locations spread all over New York.

The famous queue

For some unbeknownst reason, I managed to totally miss the crowd. I turned up just before 7pm and needed to queue a mere 3 minutes. I had passed by at lunchtime and the famous queue was in action, its big and never seems to go down as more and more people stream in to get their hands on one of these revered burgers. They even have a webcam to monitor the queue situation so you can plan your attack. A minute after I ordered, the famous queue had once again begun to snake its way round the park. How jammy am I!

The double Shack burger

So, was this burger any good then? Two moist and tender patties of brisket, with chuck and short rib thrown in. Not greasy, a good yielding but firm bun (an essential component of the burger) and most importantly, a well rounded and deeply beefy flavour. A fantastic example of a burger. It almost made me begin to understand why some people would queue for over an hour for one of these (but not quite).

Special mention needs to be given to the special Salted Caramel frozen custard milkshake. Pure heaven in a plastic cup. Yes, it is as good as it sounds.

Shake Shack (website) - Madison Square Park, Madison Avenue and East 23rd Street.

Shake Shack (Madison Square Park) on Urbanspoon

BLT Burger

Inside at BLT

BLT is not named after the famous sandwich of the same acronym, but stands for Bistro Laurent Tourondel, chef and proprietor. My cousin likes it as she has a 15 month old daughter and the restaurant is extremely child friendly. It seems that this is not always the case in New York and word clearly spreads. On my visit, it was full of rowdy "Football" fans out the front, whereas the main dining room was crammed with strollers and young families.

Rocky Road Milkshake

The combo's are definitely erring on the expensive side ($17 for burger, fries and a shake). In this case, I opted for a "Rocky Road" shake. This was a chocolate shake filled with bits of brownie, almond and marshmallows. The shake itself was lovely but it was a little OTT on the added extras. It felt like a whole meal on its own.

The BLT Burger

This burger is a combination of chuck, sirloin and rib eye and is again perfectly pink. Whereas the Shake Shack aim for medium rare for every burger, you get to nominate how its cooked here. Medium requested, medium received. Again, a good bun but I was rather perturbed by the massive lettuce leaf which tried to prod me in the face every time I tried to take a bite. Here, they take extra measures to keep the burger moist. They soak them in cold water and glaze with butter before cooking, indeed keeping the burger moist and succulent, but I didn't find the flavour as good as the Shake Shack burger.

BLT Burger (website) - 470 Sixth Avenue, New York

BLT Burger on Urbanspoon

So what's the verdict? The burgers in New York are clearly good and I really admire the dedication of the two burger joints I visited. I definitely favour Shake Shack but wasn't blown away by either. I still have great memories of JG Melon and am slightly sad I didn't revisit it on this trip, but I guess I will have to settle with the fond memories.


nibblescribbler said...

If you've not tried it yet, when you're back in London 'Townhouse' (a bar, not restaurant) on Beauchamp Place does a CRACKING burger for a tenner. Best one I've tracked down in Londontown so far.

It also does Porn Star Martinis, which are (almost) as naughty as they sound...

Laissez Fare said...

Oh, my god, you just made me so hungry after eating a 'healthy' lunch at my desk. Longing for NY burgerdom.

OMG - I have to have one of those Salted Caramel Frozen Custard Milkshakes!!!

Great post :)

ginandcrumpets said...

A rocky road milkshake? Good lord! You are a bold, burger eating man.

I heart cupcakes said...

We queued for about 45mins in spitting rain for Shake Shack and it was totally worth it. Possibly the best burger I've ever had -and a fantastic milkshake as well. I really wish they'd open a UK branch and show everyone what burgers should be like!

Helen said...

I've heard of Shake Shack and I've been very curious about it. I think the world of American burgers is very exciting as I've just discovered how seriously they take it after I began to research burgers in London. I must say, I think the Hawksmoor burger is the best, but then I am biased ;)

catty said...

oh my LORD look at the cheese on the Shake Shack burger! it looks crazydelicious. i totally agree with you that burgers in the states are still leagues ahead of UK (and Oz) at the moment.. but with the likes of Byron, I think the UK is slowly catching up :) yay for us!

Hollow Legs said...

Want want want. A good burger is a thing of great beauty, and us Brits are well behind on the decent burger stakes.

Kang said...

As Lizzie said, I want want want two...

Greedy Diva said...

Hi Euwan, Great to meet you at Bentley's this week for some serious burger talk! Just taking another look at your tips before I fly out to New York tomorrow. Great drool provoking snaps. Luuurrve the Shake Shack - is it disgusting to have it for breakfast...?

Greedy Diva said...

PS. I did queue for nearly an hour at Shake Shack in May and nearly missed my flight home in my desperate for a burger fix. Would have been worth it.

tehbus said...

@nibblerscribbler - Townhouse? Not heard of it before but its on the list. Especially for the martinis!

@LaissezFaire - Salted Caramel frozen custard milkshake was close to the best thing I had on the whole trip. Divine.

@ginandcrumpets - HEAVY

@Iheartcupcakes @catty @lizzie @kang - I am holding out for one. Be great, wouldn't it. Bump up burger depth in London! Maybe we should club together and open a franchise?

@Helen - Still haven't had one! Only reason why I wish I was closer to the east.

@Greedy Diva - Lovely to meet you too and hope the trip is going well. I know a friend of mine who headed into town whilst in transit just to get his hands on one of those burgers!

Andyman said...

I realize I'm late to the party here, but next time you're in Manhattan, take a trip down to the West Village, go to the Corner Bistro at 10th St. and Jane, and get the bistro burger. Dive bar, killer burger...