In fueling up for the NYC marathon, I felt it was my duty to treat myself to a burger more often than usual. While my favorite burger is typically the one made by mom on our own charcoal grill in the backyard, I will not deny that New York City can serve up some pretty great patties. Since there are so many to choose from, I am going to spotlight three burgers that I have most recently discovered - all very different in price, taste, and presentation. What they do have in common is they are well worth your time and consumption.
The Shake Shack has been around since 2004. Despite its appealing outdoor location in the middle of Madison Square Park, it has taken me four years to actually make it there. I will admit that the never ending line which seems to be present no matter the day or the hour that you walk by can definitely be intimidating. Since warm nights are starting to become numbered, I decided it was time to make a night out of a trip to this overly talked about burger joint - and see what all the hype has been about. While the line was its typical length when we arrived, it actually only took about fifteen minutes to get to the head of it. And, we had our food in front of us within thirty minutes of our arrival - the normal amount of time it would take if we were dining at a normal sit-down restaurant. I ordered the Shackburger which consists of American cheese, lettuce, tomato, and shack sauce. While I normally prefer a burger to be medium-rare, all burgers here are prepared medium. This was not a problem for me since the flavors of the meat and the secret sauce were so good. I normally like to add ketchup and mustard to my burgers, but did not feel the need to for this one. The final element that I really liked about their burger is the size. It is not massive like so many of the burgers served these days. I actually felt nice and full after one shackburger and of course, more than a handful of fries. It was a treat to be able to actually bite into the burger without being overwhelmed while also paying under $6 for it.
My next stop was at the year and a half old Resto, located on 29th between Park and Lexington. While this is not an area that I often frequent, I will definitely be returning for their burger. This is actually my very favorite hamburger at the moment. While it is not the cheapest ($15), it is worth the splurge and the trek. I actually want to return to this Belgian beer bar to try out more menu items, but I will only focus on the burger right now. The burger is served with gruyere, red onion, pickles, mayo, and fries. I will be honest in saying that I was extremely skeptical of their burger from the moment I ordered until my first bite. They actually only prepare it one way- medium-well- a preparation I would never normally choose. And, when it arrived in front of me, the only thing that was actually visually pleasing was the small size - similar to that of the shackburger. It was on an untoasted, soft white bun - again, something I would not normally choose. However, the flavor and texture of the hamburger immediately wiped away all misconceptions. The combination of beef cheek, hanger steak, and fatback (the reason for the medium-well preparation) created delicious flavor. And while it was far from dry, my biggest fear of well-cooked burgers, there was actually a crispiness to the outside of the moist meat that was also full of flavor.
My final stop and reward was on the actual night of the marathon. Thankfully, going to Cafe Cluny is almost as close to home as I can get without actually being in my own kitchen. On nearly every trip I have made to my local favorite, I have always been tempted by the burger, but ended up ordering other dishes - trying to be as adventuresome as possible. After two years of frequenting Cafe Cluny, I finally discovered the Cluny burger. It is actually only available on the lunch, brunch, and supper (9 pm to close) menus. But, I was lucky enough to use my accomplishment from earlier in the day as leverage and they kindly served me one of their signature dishes. This was a burger where I was finally able to order it medium-rare. And, it was perfectly cooked. While this was (similar to Resto) on the pricier end, the predictability of this burger is worth it. Served on a grilled sesame bun with your choice of swiss, blue, or cheddar cheese with tomatoes and onions, this generously sized burger guarantees great flavors and reminded me immediately of a traditionally delicious, backyard patty. Based on location alone, Cafe Cluny is nearly my backyard!
While marathon training may have come to a close this year, I will admit that I still plan to treat myself to burgers as days and nights get colder. There is just something so comforting about red meat served on a bun. Although my burger intake may not (or rather, should not) be as often as in the past few months, there really is no denying how great consuming a hamburger can truly be. So, don't be shy - try out these three burgers and just try to tell me that you can live this winter without them!