Category Archives: Burgers

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

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

Hudson Yards Grill

This week I tried out Hudson Yards Grill in my endeavor to eat at all the new joints in the mall over there. Here’s how it went down:

Fried Oysters

These were great. Super crispy outside, like you’d find on good fried chicken. Tender, perfectly cooked inside. Almost like they were just steamed open. Get them.

Burger

Great dry aged flavor without being overly aggressive. I ordered medium rare but it came out somewhere between medium and medium well. I didn’t mind much, since it tasted so good. But that should be noted. Great fries too.

Strip Steak: 7/10

I almost gave it an 8. But not quite. It had good flavor and was seasoned nicely,but the grilling process left it in dire need of a crust. Also it was just not a very impressive cut to begin with. I was hoping for something thicker and with a bone. The potato that came with it was medium rare – meaning it still needed to be cooked more.

Rib Eye: 6/10

This just didn’t have the character or flavor that the strip had. It was a little bland despite being seasoned well. Same lack of crust issue as the strip. It felt like this could’ve been an Applebees steak to be honest. In addition, it was accompanies by eight pathetic string beans, a nice tube of bone marrow and a horseradish cream sauce that would be better suited for a roasted prime rib as opposed to a grilled rib eye.

Coconut Cake

Fail. This was dry, heavy, and overly sweet. I had high hopes for this but it was a let down.

Drinks

Great white mezcal negroni, strawberry gin fizz and lavender margarita.

Summary

I’d definitely do drinks here again, along with a burger at the bar. Skip the mains and focus on the apps if you’re sitting for a bigger meal though. The steakhouse prices for the cuts of beef here just aren’t worth it.

HUDSON YARDS GRILL
Hudson Yards
4th Floor
New York, NY 10001

Intersect by Lexus

This place has some great snacks and cocktails at the bar upstairs. They’re becoming well known for their interesting cocktail glassware.

My wife and I tried a bunch of stuff so let me get right to it.

COCKTAILS

1) Elementary, My Dear

This sweet and easy to sip Japanese whisky drink comes in a glass shaped like a pipe. It’ll go down fast so nurse it a bit.

2) Nemo

This cocktail is like an Aperol spritz without the ice, and comes in a blowfish glass.

3) Smoked Rum Old Fashioned

My favorite of the four we tried, this elevates the quality aged rum with a nice smoke aroma.

4) Black Magic Woman

Probably our second favorite, this well balanced and easy to slam cocktail is beautiful

SNACKS

1) Fluke Ceviche

Absolutely awesome. The perfectly seasoned and well balanced flavors make for a refreshing, cool summer snack. A top dish of the year.

2) Paella Croquettes

Warming, comforting, salty and spicy balls contrast with the cechive in this delicious hot snack that will have you drinking your fancy cocktails faster than you anticipated.

3) Tartare Tacos

There’s beef striploin in here but it’s a bit overshadowed by the dressing and accompaniments within the tartare itself. Otherwise tasty. A bit salty though.

4) Fried Chicken

These perfectly fried bone-in nuggets of breast meat come with a jalapeno cream sauce and a drizzle of honey. The flavors balance nicely and this is a great dish, I just wish they used boneless morsels of thigh meat instead.

5) Burger

This burger “intersects” Asian and American cuisines seamlessly with a perfectly seared beef patty that’s nestled in the folds of a warm sesame seed bao bun and covered with a miso cheddar cheese sauce and topped with pickle slices, pickled chili and crispy shallots. Lovely. Another top item of the year.

6) Cheesecake Donut

To be clear, this is a small ring of cheesecake that looks like a donut – not a donut with a cheesecake filling or something like that. It’s light, fruity and tasty. They also sell them downstairs at the coffee counter sans service charge if you want to try this on the go without sitting at the bar.

7) Melon Margarita Kakigori

This flavored ice dish is a hit with the locals passing by. There’s a little booth station beside the bar where you can get them on the fly. It was delicious, and we got ours “spiked” with tequila.

I definitely recommend this place. It’s a no-tip Danny Meyer joint, so expect a little sticker shock. But find comfort in the bill being the final number you see on your credit card (they don’t accept cash).

INTERSECT BY LEXUS
412 West 14th St
New York, NY 10014

Flo’s Luncheonette

This little neighborhood roadside joint has always been a local fan favorite on Long Island.

The best thing I had here is Flo’s Puppy Dog, which is a split griddled hot dog with bacon and cheese sauce.

The waffle fries and regular fries are both pretty good as well, and if you get one of their lobster rolls, it comes with fries for $21.

Flo’s Burger is served on Martin’s potato bread with Canadian bacon and American cheese. LTOP come on the side.

Really tasty but it can get messy.

But the sleeper here is the Big EZ wrap, with shrimp, lettuce and avocado. Absolutely delicious and refreshing.

This place is a must try, especially in the nice weather. They even have ice cream on one side and a full service bar on the other.

FLO’S LUNCHEONETTE
302 Middle Rd
Blue Point, NY 11715

Cliff’s Rendezvous

I used to hit this place way back, about 20 years ago or more. It’s out in Riverhead, Long Island.

This place is known for their special marinade, which they apply to both their steaks and burgers upon request. I always liked the flavor they got with it – definitely some soy and worcestershire happening. The sugars in it make for a really charred crust.

And a delicious puddle of juices at the bottom.

I really like it. For $15 (lunch portion, about 12-14oz), you can’t go wrong. What would be a 7/10 gets bumped to an 8/10 due to the value here.

The patty melt is a pass, however. Unless you switch it up from Swiss to something like American. The cheese was just too overboard.

I loved the 5-olive martini though.

Next time you’re out this way, give Cliff’s a shot.

CLIFF’S RENDEZVOUS
313 E Main St
Riverhead, NY 11901

Queensyard

From the makers of Bluebird London NYC (which now has a new chef, so I need to go back) comes Queensyard. This Hudson Yards joint serves up comfort food in a fancy setting with awesome views of the “Vessel” structure.

They have an impressive gin and tonic list, along with some other nice cocktails.

On this quick visit, I tried four items:

1) Fried Chicken Sandwich

This beauty was really tasty. It had a great crunch and the meat was juicy and flavorful. Nice pickles on top as well. I liked it a lot. But I would love it even more with a spicier sauce.

2) Dry Aged Burger

Make sure you add the cheese and crispy bacon when you order. This baby is delicious, and almost tastes like an elevated but refined Big Mac.

3) Mac & Cheese

This definitely eats more like a nice pasta dish than what comes to mind when someone says “mac & cheese.” The addition of shaved aged cheese and mushrooms really makes this an earthy dish worth ordering again.

4) Sticky Toffee Pudding

This spiced and sauced bread pudding came with a spiced ginger ice cream and “Rocky Road” crumble. It is definitely interesting and different, and at some points leans on the savory side.

I’ll definitely be back here for another, larger meal. I’d like to try some steaks!

QUEENSYARD
20 Hudson Yards
4th Floor
New York, NY 10001