My expectations were extremely high as we walked into the prestigious Le Parker Meridien hotel on New York City’s fifth avenue. I had heard much about the legendary secret speakeasy burger establishment and was keen to see what all the fuss was about. From the moment we walked in the door, everything about ‘Burger Joint’ screamed ‘cool’.
As you walk into the hotel lobby, you may feel a little out of place unless you are smartly dressed in evening wear (we were there wearing shorts and t-shirts!); however, if you walk past the expensive, marbled reception and look for the red curtain at the back of the lobby, you’ll see a small neon burger sign hidden behind it. Walk down the dark walkway, behind the curtain and through the small doorway and you will be transported to the furthest thing from a five star hotel that you could ever imagine. A small, dark and dingy lit room hosts a handfull of old worn down tables, tatty leather booths and hand-drawn A4 paper menus pinned to the four old brick walls that are also covered in graffiti and signatures from previous patrons. You’ll more than likely have to wait in a rather long line as ‘Burger Joint’ is one of New York City’s most talked about burgers, despite it’s hidden location. As you wait in line, you’ll have a chance to look over the menu and instructions which are pinned to the wall:
“The Fastest Way To Get it Right:
Step 1: Hamburger or Cheeseburger.
Step 2: Tell us how you want it cooked.
Step 3: Tell us what you want on it. If you want everything, just say ‘the works’.
Be ready to order or go to the end of the line!
If you don’t see it on the menu, we don’t have it!”
Those are the instructions that are pinned to the wall for all to read while you wait in line. Quite intimidating for anyone who has never been to Burger Joint before; however, with the constant long lines and up to 30 minute wait time, it’s understandable. Despite the scary menus, once you reach the front of the line, the staff at Burger Joint couldn’t be nicer or more helpful. The guys will take your order and your name and call you when your food is ready. If you are lucky enough to snag a table, we’d recommend getting a pitcher of Sam Adams – the only beer served at Burger Joint. It’ll cost you a mere $16 and is a steal considering the fact that you are in New York City and on fifth avenue in one of the coolest burger venues in the world. Once your name is called, your burgers will be handed over wrapped in white paper and the fries in a brown bag. You won’t find any truffle mayo, brioche or sourdough buns, lamb and steak mince patties, gruyere cheese or bone-marrow infused meat here. Nothing but good old fashioned handmade beef burgers and simple, uncomplicated buns and only two options on the menu. This is as basic as it gets, but that is why it works so well.
On to the food itself, we opted for cheeseburgers cooked medium rare and topped with ‘the works’. Cutting into the burger, it was clear that the guys at Burger Joint take the quality of the meat and how it’s cooked very seriously. Our patties were perfectly pink in the middle and charred on the outside and juicy throughout. The bun was a no frills burger bun and it wasn’t the biggest burger in the world; however, we did notice throughout our trip that New Yorkers have gone back to basics when it comes to burgers. The most loved burgers in the city are the simplest ones and if you are looking for a great quality, good old fashioned cheeseburger, you’ll certainly find it at Burger Joint. Our burgers were topped with lettuce, cheese, mustard, sliced pickles, ketchup and mayo – just about everything you’d expect to find on a classic cheeseburger. The cheese was perfectly melted and stuck to the sides of the white paper wrapper and allowed the other toppings to melt together to create one of the best burgers I’ve ever tasted. As stated, the bun is a simple, no frills affair but it’s all about the patty at Burger Joint. As we chowed down on our food, we watched the guys in the kitchen take orders, hand-make the patties and cook each one with care. Between the sounds and smells coming from the kitchen, which is located directly behind the order counter and the taste of our food, we were in burger heaven.
Despite the fact that it’s always busy, eating at Burger Joint feels like you’ve discovered the best secret on earth – like you’re part of a secret club and like nobody else in the city could find you even if they tried to. If you want fancy, extravagant burgers then you should look elsewhere, but you’d be missing out on one of the best cheeseburgers you could hope to find in one of the coolest venues ever to serve up food.
The next time you are in NYC, make it your first burger stop. If you aren’t sure how to find it, look for the mysterious red curtain and the line of people spilling out from the dark, creepy corridor and you’ll be on your way to burger nirvana.
Price: $7.35 (fries $3.67 extra)
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Le Parker Meridien Hotel
119 W 56th Street
New York City
Phone: (212) 708-7414