What’s my idea of a great burger? For the most part, I’m a purist. Usually, I like my burger simple, with sautéed or raw onions, ketchup, and sometimes a slice of cheese if I’m in the mood, and always medium rare. I’m not one to do a crazy burger thing with a melange of toppings coating a perfectly cooked piece of beef. Since I don’t eat red meat that often, I want to taste it, if not revel in it. But one thing I’ve learned as I’ve ventured around town to sample what I’ve heard are some of the best New York City burgers, is that it’s a good idea to order a hamburger as the chef intended it to be eaten. If that means accepting a shred of romaine lettuce on a burger, then so be it.
What I discovered recently at two restaurants rumored to serve some of the city’s finest, is that this theory sometimes works, while other times it’s best to stick with your gut instincts and order a burger the way you prefer it.
“The Burger” at Jones Wood Foundry, 401 E 76th St, Upper East Side
Recommended in the Thrillist article, “33 Best Burgers,” I had the urge to give it a shot, and I’m so glad I did. Mike and I shared an order a fish and chips (also delicious!), and the burger and chips (fries).
First off, a server brought the burger to our table, and we cut into it only to discover that it was more medium than medium-rare. Mike and I are both sticklers for medium rare, and so reluctantly (I hate sending food back), we asked them to cook another burger. When the second burger came out, the runner, who may have been the manager or one of the partners, apologized. I cut it in half, and this one was perfection! Here’s what Mike and I loved about the Jones Wood Foundry burger.
The meat was rich, juicy, and even though the sandwich came with cheddar (you can also choose stilton), lettuce, sour pickles, red onions, and bacon (I chose to eat the bacon separately), it didn’t taste over-garnished. Rather, the ratios were correct, and every condiment seemed to complement the thick, tender pattie. The sesame bun was fresh and the ideal thickness for the burger too. At times, bread can take away from my burger experience, but in this case, the bun added something wonderful, hugging the meat and encasing that burger goodness. The presentation was also creative, on a miniature cutting board, and let’s just say the fries rocked. Hot, and no salt needed.
Service was warm, friendly, and overall, just outstanding. Beverages were excellent. Loved the rosé and the pinot noir. I can’t think of anything negative about JWF, except that it’s not on the West Side! Oh, and it was a little pricey at $19 for the burger. But the quality was superb, and we felt it was a good value considering how much we enjoyed everything. If I’m straight up, I can’t wait to return to Jones Wood Foundry to partake in another one of the best New York City burgers I’ve eaten thus far.
“Sebastian’s Steakhouse Burger” at the Brindle Room, 277 E 10th St, East Village
Admittedly, when I hear that a burger is one of the best in the country, I expect a lot, as I did here at the Brindle Room.
Recognized for its comfort food, the Brindle is narrow and dimly lit, and the atmosphere is casual. The famous burger was our reason for booking a reservation, but we decided to try a few other dishes –– the beets, oysters, and salmon tartare, all of which were super tasty. I would order all again.
Our server was adamant about ordering the burger medium and not medium rare. He explained that the fat content was high, and the chef recommends it medium because it’s so juicy, so we agreed to go with the chef’s suggestion, and we wished we hadn’t. The small burger (6 oz) was more modest than we expected so not ideal for sharing, and cooked to a firm medium. Although the flavor was good, the meat was dry. If we’d ordered it medium rare, I’d be writing this blog post differently.
“Sebastian’s Steakhouse Burger” did have a wonderful crust and was dressed nicely with American cheese and caramelized onions. I slathered ketchup on top and was set. The fries, however, were the stars of the plate. Skin on, crunchy on the outside, moist and tender on the inside, with the right amount of salt. Yum.
If I had to do it again, I’d have listened to my husband and ordered my own burger, medium rare. The gentleman seated next to us ordered his medium rare despite the menu and server recommendations and reported that temperature as spot on.
I didn’t find either of the wines memorable, and service was passable. The big bonus came at the end of our meal when our waiter delivered a surprise plate of salted caramel donut holes, apparently made from mashed potatoes. I took a bite or two but felt far too guilty after the fries. Mike, however, experienced no guilt at all and polished them off along with his Hefeweizen.
Would I return to the Brindle Room? Yes, for my very own medium rare burger with fries and a plate of oysters, which happened to be some of the best I’ve eaten anywhere. But next time, I’ll leave space for the donut holes.
The winner of this burger battle is most definitely Jones Wood Foundry. If you haven’t been, GO.