I didn't eat red meat for years and years, and then one day in the late 90's, I had a craving for a burger. And I haven't looked back since.
Burgers are a contentious topic; people are loyal to their favorite burger joints, as they should be. It's a subjective medium, the burger. My personal requirement for a good burger are a seared exterior, rare interior, thick patty, zero condiments or toppings, and a toasted bun. I will occasionally add cheese to the burger, but never lettuce or tomato or (gross) onion. I'll even sometimes have what I now call a "Renee Burger," named for my friend Renee who introduced it to me -- patty, rare, with cream cheese and black olives - sliced, straight from the can - on it. I highly recommend the Renee.
Earlier today my husband and I went out for lunch at Bar Tabac, on Smith and Dean Streets, and I ordered a burger. I usually get moules frites at Bar Tabac, but I remembered their burger being really good. I'm not sure if it was my memory or today's burger that was at fault, but it was Not Good. It was tough and overcooked, and the bun was too big and bready. I'm quibbling, sure, because it was $9 and I was hungry, but it inspired me to list my favorite burgers in the city:
5. Stone Park Cafe, on 5th Ave and 3rd Street -- proves to me the tenant that a good burger starts and ends with high quality meat.
4. Fanelli Cafe, on Prince and Mercer -- my favorite greasy hangover burger
3. Waterfront Ale House's Kobe Beef burger, on Atlantic Ave, b/w Henry and Clinton Streets -- the Kobe isn't always on their menu, but if you're there (either the Brooklyn or Kips Bay location) and it's available, I cannot recommend it enough.
2. Blue Ribbon, Bedford & Downing or 5th Ave in Brooklyn -- I think this is the biggest burger of the ones I'm listing, yet I always manage to finish it without a problem.
1. The Spotted Pig, Greenwich St and w. 11th St -- My One True Burger.
What's missing from my list? Do I need to try the Luger burger? PJ Clarkes? Burger Joint? (and please don't say Shake Shack. Yes, it's good. Yes, I like the frozen custard too. But it's not an-hour-wait-in-the-heat good, and nothing you say can convince me those burgers are worth that wait.)