Category Archives: Burgers

Balthazar

In all my years in NYC, I never tried Balthazar until last night. I had heard all the great stories: awesome steaks, awesome fries, awesome bread. Only one of those is true, but there are other things worth noting.

My wife and I stopped in for a quick meal at the bar. We started with some nice stiff cocktails, and a pair of apps: escargots and steak tartare. BIG FRENCH.

The escargots were awesome. We crushed them quickly. The tartare was average to good, but the slices of toasted bread were awesome. In fact, the Balthazar bread is so good that other restaurants use Balthazar bread for their bread service.

For our mains, we had the burger and the steak frites.

The burger was really good. Nice crust, great flavor, ample cheese coverage.

The steak, however…

… was Applebees level trash. It was cooked nicely, but the quality was average at best.

I can make anything look good, but this was a 5/10 or 6/10 at best. At $42 this felt like a rip off, and I think it was either flank or flatiron. Not strip as I was kind of expecting. The fries were very good, but not quite at awesome level. Go across town to Raoul’s if a killer burger and steak frites is what you’re after. Here, I would stick to the bread, the burger, and the snails. And yes, the fries are still worth trying if you haven’t already.

BALTHAZAR
80 Spring St
New York, NY 10012

Coterie

We stopped in this joint for brunch after landing in New Orleans with an empty stomach. They offer a trio of broiled oysters with three different styles (you get two of each for $18). These were great, and if you eat here, this is what to order.

The fresh raw oysters are nice too.

I ordered a cajun burger, which was supposed to have a sausage patty, a beef patty, and some remoulade. But they gave me the “Hangover Burger” instead by mistake. It was okay, but pretty basic as far as burgers go.

COTERIE
135 Decatur St
New Orleans, LA 70130

Cochon Butcher

I stopped by this NOLA joint last time I was down in the Big Easy, but I didn’t try anything. I was too full from eating at Cochon, their sister restaurant, next door. This spot is the more casual, bar-style deli. They offer up some meaty hot and cold sandwiches. On rec from a friend, I tried the muffuletta, which he said was better than Central Grocery. I disagree. There was a noticeable lack of meat, and the olive salad and giardiniera is much better at Central Grocery. Pass on this.

I was also disappointed by the porchetta cheesesteak sandwich. This came served in a strange hybrid between a pita and an English muffin. It also lacked meat.

The saving grace at this joint, and a possible best bite of 2020, was the Pig Mac burger.

This was killer, and I highly recommend this if you make the trip over here.

COCHON BUTCHER
930 Tchoupitoulas St b
New Orleans, LA 70130

Au Cheval Diner

I finally made it over to Au Cheval Diner in Tribeca. I’ve had the bacon, the burger and the French dip prime rib sandwich at their sister restaurant, 4 Charles, so I’ll just dump some pics of those here and focus on the new items that I tried. These were all just as great as they are at 4 Charles, so if that’s what you want to get at 4 Charles, just come here and save yourself the headache of fruitlessly trying to score a reservation at 4 Charles.

The bologna sandwich with melted cheese is awesome. Simple and delicious.

The wings are great and crispy, but they were a little bit over sauced.

These hash browns with duck heart gravy were insanely good. Make sure you get these.

The fries were perfect as well, but I didn’t shoot them.

This marrow is great too, especially when smeared onto that buttery toast that comes with it.

I’ll definitely be back!

AU CHEVAL DINER
33 Cortlandt Alley
New York, NY 10013

The Consulate

My wife and I popped in here for brunch and the place was PACKED!

We had a quick, meaty meal.

“The Hangover Burger” is a thick 8oz patty that’s topped with caramelized bourbon onions, blue cheese, pickles and a fried egg.

They cooked this fucker just right.

We also tried their grilled hanger steak and eggs dish, which came with a chimichurri sauce, a mixed greens salad and some roasted potatoes.

Not bad! I’d come back to try some of their dinner menu selections, and I’d probably try one or two of the sweeter brunch items (like the cast iron blueberry pancakes or the French toast).

THE CONSULATE
519 Columbus Ave
New York, NY 10024

The Playboy Club

NOTE: THIS JOINT IS CLOSED

The Playboy club in NYC actually serves up some decent grub. The joint is not what you’d think, either. It’s not a strip club or some raunchy spot. It’s more like a classy version of Hooters with a night club in back. Hostesses near the front wear bunny outfits, similar to what you might see as a “sexy Halloween” outfit on the streets of NYC. But the restaurant part of the space is pretty much devoid of that kind of eye candy. I assume they hawk for bottle service in the club and show/stage space in back.

In any case, we came here to check out the food. We started with four apps: tuna tacos, wagyu sushi, crispy fried rock shrimp and beef tartare. Of these, the wagyu sushi was probably my favorite.

For a mid-course we shared the lamb chops with pesto (a little overcooked, but delicious) and the dry aged burger with aged cheddar, black garlic aioli and bacon onion jam (topped with a slider).

We were dipping our fries into that pesto from the lamb. It was awesome.

Last up, a 34oz dry aged rib eye with spicy citrus broccoli and more fries. This was actually a delicious 8/10, and it came with a bunch of nice sauces – my favorite of which was a sweet yet savory soy garlic sauce.

We had this with sides of garlic string beans and a towering phallus of onion rings.

Safe to say we were all pleasantly surprised by the food here. I’d probably go again.

THE PLAYBOY CLUB
512 West 42nd St
New York, NY 10036

Gotham Burger Social Club

My friends at Gotham Burger Social Club have really started ramping up their presence at food festivals and charity events, offering up their delicious creations for generous revelers and hungry festival goers. If you ever get a chance to try one of their burgers, you need to do it!

They’re deceivingly simple and delicious. Lots of crispy-crusted texture from the smash on the flat top, great creamy melted cheese, perfect ratios of seasoning and toppings, and overall high quality ingredients and meat – whether it’s a Pat LaFrieda dry-aged blend, a Schweid & Son’s combo of chuck, short rib and brisket, or high end Kow domestic wagyu/angus cross.

The first time I ate one, I had the “Cafe Tappi” burger, by George “Tappi” of Booze and Burgers. It’s a double smash with dry aged beef, melted American cheese, caramelized onions and pickles on a toasted potato bun.

This has evolved a bit, sometimes showing itself as a single smash with caramelized onions, pickles, American and a special sauce.

But at most of the events where they pop up, they’re doing a delicious Oklahoma style smash, where thinly shaved onions get smushed into the burger patty and steam-cooked as the burger crisps up on the griddle. They’re topped with melted American, ketchup, mustard and pickles. Check out these videos:

They’re a delicious ode, homage and tribute to the great American roadside burgers of the past. Keep an eye out for these guys at events around NYC and even beyond. I’m hoping for a brick and mortar shop sometime in the future, since these are addictive, every day kinda burgers.

In the meantime, if you’re looking to book them for a party or an event, reach out to Mike Puma at Gotham Burger Social Club on Instagram or at GothamBurgerSocialClub@gmail.com and tell him Johnny Prime sent you.

Liberty Prime Steakhouse

Chef Chuck Troup is kicking ass over at Liberty Prime Steakhouse in Jersey City. Last night I had the pleasure of dining there with some friends from Strassburger, which supplies Chuck with a lot of his beef.

Chuck buys mostly fresh beef, which he ages himself in-house to a minimum of 42 days in most cases. However he loves the flavor of dry-aged beef, especially in the 80-120 day range; he even experiments with really old stuff. For example, when I first met Chuck at Maxwell’s Chophouse, he served me a 500 day dry-aged strip.

This time he served me a 365 day dry-aged strip.

But before I get sidetracked with all of that delicious, mad-scientist shit, let me get right down to the meal from front to back.

The night began with a dry-aged martini. Grey Goose vodka gets infused with 60 day dry-aged beef fat and rosemary. It gets mixed with a little vermouth and simple syrup before being garnished with a rosemary-skewered trio of blue-cheese stuffed castelvetrano olives. Sweet. Savory. Delicious.

While we are on the subject of drinks, the main bar here is beautiful and impressive. Easily a place you’d want to hang at after a rough day at work or even to hit up for some bar grub, like this kickass dry-aged burger.

The grind comes from Debragga since Strassburger doesn’t supply dry aged ground beef at the moment. The burger had a nice funk, was well seasoned and was perfectly cooked.

Okay so back to the rest of the meal…

We started with the house-made bacon and beef fat table bread, which was served with creamy, soft, herb butter.

Everything here is house-made, in fact, from the bread to the bread pudding, from the signature sauces (soon to be bottled and sold) to the signature sides. Even the microgreens are grown by Chef Chuck at his Colorado ranch, Skeleton Ridge Farms.

The first course was a 60 day dry-aged steak tataki sushi roll that was lightly fried. This was fucking amazing and crazy creative.

On deck: even more creativity and deliciousness. Chuck cranked this out of the park. This not your ordinary bone marrow:

The marrow gets roasted, folded with blue cheese to create a mousse, piped back into the marrow bone, and then brulee’d for the finish. A squeeze of charred lemon really cuts the fat with brightness, creating a beautiful and delicate balance. A taste of this will send shock waves through your tastebuds. This is a top dish of the year for me. It’s off menu though, so make sure you tell them I sent you when you ask for it – it’s different from the regular marrow on the menu.

We had a light palate cleanse with this small, refreshing salad, composed mostly of Chuck’s micro greens.

Then we had a Spanish style braised and grilled octopus dish that was garnished with potato, chickpea puree, tomato, pickled onion and greens. Tender and delicious.

The main event for the table was a huge spread of the major beef cuts. We had (counter-clockwise from the bottom right) a 60 day dry-aged porterhouse, a 60 day dry-aged tomahawk rib eye, a 40 day dry-aged bone-in tenderloin, and the 365 day dry-aged strip steak.

Here’s a closer look at that year-long aged steak.

After all the fat and bark was trimmed away from that hunk I showed you up at the top of the review, this was all that was left:

Now you understand why dry-aged steaks cost more. So much is lost in the process! The result is a somewhat vaporous and aromatic punch in the mouth that leaves you with the familiar flavors of mushrooms, truffles, aged cheese, and nuts. Just a few ounces will do fine for this, as it can more readily be identified with a cured product like bresaola or salami than a traditional steak. I like to call it “beef jet fuel,” since it almost tickles the back of your nose – like when you catch a whiff of gasoline, or take on a big blob of wasabi.

The steaks were all awesome. Every one of them was a winner, and you can really taste the care that Chuck puts into the aging process. And Chuck’s sauces really helped to elevate them.

These aren’t your average steakhouse sauces. Chuck’s chimichurri, his vinegar based steak sauce (fuck tomato based sauces), and his horseradish cream are all recipes he developed over decades in the business, from way back when he was 15yrs old and working two blocks from home in his local neighborhood fine dining restaurant,  Commander’s Palace. Hell of a place to start. Hell of a place to earn your stripes.

It should be no surprise, then, that he came up with an absolutely killer sauce made from luxardo cherries, rendered trim, drippings and reduced bone broth. This is a sauce that I might expect from an extremely high end meat-centric place like The Grill or TAK Room, to accompany a roasted prime rib or a decadent Wellington.

Insane depth of flavor in that shit. Pure gold. I would drink it.

On the side we had a nice array of creamed spinach, mashed potatoes, lobster mac & cheese, and Brussels sprouts with bacon.

And of course dessert was a blowout with key lime pie, fried cookie dough with ice cream, bread pudding, chocolate lava cake, cheese cake and creme brulee.

What a great spot. Spacious, beautifully decorated, sleek, and with top notch service and attention to detail. The place even does double duty as an event space next door for corporate events, weddings, etc.

Please don’t be dissuaded by the fact that this place is in Jersey. The PATH train to Grove Street or Exchange Place is so fast from either midtown or downtown Manhattan. And Liberty Prime is just a short five minute walk from either station in Jersey City.

I’m going to need to go back there and try some more of Chuck’s amazing cooking. I hope you get over there too!

Liberty Prime Steakhouse overall score: 91

Flavor: 9
Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 10
Portion Size & Plating: 10
Price: 8
Bar: 10
Specials and Other Meats: 8
Apps, Sides & Desserts: 9
Seafood Selection: 8
Service: 10
Ambiance: 9

My second visit was just as good as the first, only this time I was able to try some absolutely stunning A5-rated beef from  Miyazaki.

As expected this was a knockout. But so was the 60-day dry-aged strip steak that he served.

LIBERTY PRIME STEAKHOUSE
111 MONTGOMERY ST
JERSEY CITY, NJ 07302

Pastis

I stopped into Pastis yesterday to try the burger. It was fantastic!

I have to be honest – part of me wanted to hate it. I know Pastis was loved by many back in the day, but I always despised the crowd of douchebags who went there. The place was (and is) beautiful. I don’t remember the food so much from back in the day, but this perfect chef’d-up Big Mac will definitely have me going back for more. I’ll try a steak frites too eventually. The fries are amazing, and they give you a lot with the burger.

PASTIS
52 Gansevoort Street
New York NY 10014

Red Hook Tavern

Red Hook Tavern is the recently opened endeavor of famed BBQ pit master Billy Durney, of Hometown BBQ. After mastering regional BBQ, he decided to take on the iconic old school NYC tavern style joint – typically featuring dimly lit wood grain interiors, a great selection of beer, wine and cocktails, a champion burger and a beefy chop or two. Think Minetta Tavern, Chumley’s or even McSorley’s. The outside even kinda pays tribute to Minetta Tavern. Similar font, coloring and shades drawn:

So did Durney achieve that iconic goal? In short, yes. There are some BIG hits here, but there are also some misses as well. Let me get into it so you know what to get and what to avoid.

We shared four starters among four people. We ordered the corn and nduja salad with radicchio cups, the wedge salad with bacon, the chicken liver pate, and the charcuterie board.

The corn and nduja was good, but it wasn’t as spicy as I had expected. In addition, the radicchio cups added a little too much bitterness into the dish. Maybe swapping out for some Bibb would be better.

The big hit for me among the starters was the wedge salad. It comes with a nicely cooked slab of Nueske’s bacon, and a surprisingly fresh pop of dill throughout. This is definitely big enough to share, so get this and share with another.

The charcuterie board was delicious, featuring lomo (my favorite – dry cured pork loin), salami and venison salami, along with a nice fresh slaw to cut the fat. I just wish there was more of everything.

The chicken liver pate was smooth, creamy and delicious. I could have easily crushed this by myself, which is what I recommend that you do. The only issue with that was that the toast was very dry and brittle. That bread needs an upgrade.

We shared four different entrees. We did the pan roasted half chicken, the 45-day dry aged strip steak, the grilled head-on spot prawns and, of course, the burger (we did two of those).

The prawns were overcooked, unfortunately, and that delicious chili, lemon and garlic sauce didn’t really get into the flesh, rendering them kind of bland unless you really dragged them through the sauce. The heads were delicious though. They come three to an order, but the waiter Ryan was awesome and asked if we wanted four pieces so that we could all get one. That’s the kind of service people will remember. Bravo, Ryan.

The Pat LaFrieda steak was very tender, nicely cooked, and had a great crust on it.

The addition of that finishing salt was essential, because it was otherwise just kind of bland in flavor. It didn’t have much punch or character to it, and certainly not much dry-aged flavor. 7/10.

One good thing about the steak is that for $49 it also comes with creamed spinach. I really liked this spinach. Finely chopped, not too creamy.

The chicken was better than both of the above entree items. It came with mashed potatoes and gravy, which was a nice touch, for just $28. The meat was juicy and tender, and the skin was crisp and well-seasoned. Get this!

But the star of the meal was this incredible burger.

Look at how perfectly cooked it is inside:

It comes with three perfectly crisped and seasoned potato wedges, and a half-sour pickle spear.

If you’re not into onions, you can remove yours from the bottom (the burger comes out sitting on top of an onion core slice). I generally don’t love raw onion on my burger, but this onion is somewhat steamed and softened, that way you don’t get that insane vaporous bite that destroys your mouth for two days. It also catches any juices that come out of the burger, making it a perfect flavor sponge that protects the bottom bun from sogging up.

It may look simple and pedestrian, but the bun is brought in fresh from a special bakery; the patty is a great mix of lean and fatty beef cuts that sport a really nice dry-aged flavor; the cheese is perfectly melted down the sides of the burger to create a lovely drape of full coverage – you never want for that melty American goodness; and the maillard sear on the outside even has a nice crunch to it for some texture. What a masterpiece. This might be a new favorite, especially at $22. While I generally prefer fries, the wedges were definitely good. I kinda wanted a couple more though.

The prices here aren’t too bad either.

I highly recommend this place. It’s tough to get a reservation, but if you get there early (or late, for that matter) you can probably score a seat at the bar pretty quickly.

RED HOOK TAVERN
329 Van Brunt St
Brooklyn, NY 11231