We sat outside, but then it started pouring, so we went inside. The place was nice enough to let us put our bikes into their covered outdoor seating area to stay dry.
Anyway, I tried their burger. I wasn’t crazy about the pickled cabbage on it, but the rest was great. The waffle fries were perfectly crispy with a good spice seasoning on it, like Old Bay/cajun. The egg is unnecessary, but it didn’t make it sloppy or anything. Good crispy bacon, which I broke up a little bit for neater coverage.
I would definitely eat here again if I was in the area. The service was excellent, and the menu was unique. In particular, I’d like to try their pho and banh mi sandwich.
In my quest to try all the burgers in the lower east side, I came across another addition to the smash burger craze that’s sweeping the area: King’s Cafe.
The burger was beautiful, and well assembled. Cheddar, aioli, double patties, caramelized onions… Everything was great about it, except for the overwhelming flavor of onion water. It was as if the onions had been sitting in the bottom of a sink, just stewing there. I’m not really sure how else to put it!
Great seasoned fries, awesome bun, great ratios all over the place. Just that onion water… Odd.
A buddy of mine helped open this joint over by Bryant Park, so I had to go check it out. The food here is excellent! Check out how perfect this burger looks:
That’s a handsome fella. And it was as delicious as it looks. Certified Angus Beef smash patties, shredded lettuce, sharp American cheese, and tomato on a brioche bun. The crust on those patties was perfect!
The chicken sandwich was great as well. Great spice to it.
As a tribute to Rutt’s Hut over in NJ, they also offer this ripper hot dog. It really hit the spot with a crispy snap.
And to top it off, the fries and tots were both golden and crunchy.
I highly recommend this place. The food is better than most other joints out there slinging smash patties now.
HANDCRAFT BURGERS & BREW
110 West 40th Street
New York, NY 10018
Opening up a new restaurant during this madness takes balls. The folks from Empire Steakhouse are evidently chock full of balls. Not only have they just launched Empire Burger House, a really friggin great restaurant that delivers steakhouse quality beef burgers in smaller, more affordable sizes, but they’re really upped the game in terms of comfort and class in their outdoor dining space. I saw with some friends for a full steakhouse dinner on a very cold night, and I was wearing just a long sleeved shirt. Awesome!
Anyway I tried their single, double and spicy chicken sandwich. I was really impressed. The double was by far my favorite of the three – just the right ratio of meat to bun and toppings. And the special sauce on the burgers is incredible. It’s almost like zingy ranch of some kind, or an Alabama white sauce.
Call this place right now for delivery, or go sit outside in their warm outdoor dining space.
EMPIRE BURGER HOUSE
147 E 50th St Second Floor
New York, NY 10022
Kings of Kobe is a newly crowned burger and hot dog monarchy that rocks some royally special menu items.
They use high quality Schweid & Sons American Wagyu in all of their burger offerings, and their Snake River American Wagyu beef hot dogs are topped with things to make them international in scope, in addition to domestic.
For example, the Vietnamese sandwich inspired “Banh Mine” dog is topped with marinated cucumbers and carrots, cilantro and sriracha aioli to harness that banh mi flavor profile.
In fact, the hot dog products here are the best I’ve had in the city. They’re thick, delicious and satisfying.
In scanning the menu, my eyeballs instantly went to the King’s Standard burger: roasted tomato, white cheddar, pickles and cherry pepper aioli.
This baby was bursting with flavor. The roasted tomato is such an awesome substitute for ketchup. The patty was cooked perfectly. It had a nice crisp char on the outside. It was think enough to remain pink through the center, without being too thick that it becomes unwieldy to eat. My only gripe is that I wished there was one more slice of cheese on this baby, to satisfy my love for cheese-laden “roadside” style burgers.
We also tried The Queen Rules, which is topped with prosciutto, pepper jack cheese, frisee and sweet chili jam.
The sweet chili jam was similar to a relish. I generally dislike relish, but this one was tasty. I liked this burger a lot but I still prefer the King’s Standard over this one.
The battered fries are super crispy and nicely seasoned.
And of course, we tried a chocolate shake.
The full spread:
The menu is really interesting, and the prices are extremely fair for these high quality offerings. My buddy Rev told me about this place and hooked up a comped press visit for me and my wife. I am eternally grateful. My burger delivery options just went bonkers.
If your taste in burgers is anything like mine, you like to keep it fairly simple but always delicious. They say “you don’t mess with perfection,” and I believe that’s vital when it comes to the outstanding combination of meat and cheese. That perfection, for me, is a classic flat top griddle burger with crispy edges and a medium center, covered all over with melted American cheese, and topped with lettuce, tomato and fresh jalapenos. It must also be slapped on a potato bun with a bit of mayo.
What started out as a meager food truck venture turned out to be one of the most sought after “roadside” style burgers in the city. Two years later, this place is consistently hailed as one of the best burgers in town by some of the most respected burger critics around. I agree with them.
I came here to celebrate their second “BURGthday” with a bunch of other NYC food scene press people. Since this was my first go at this place, I kept it simple, sticking to my favorite style, as outlined above. I was impressed! Everything was perfect – seriously.
A bunch of people were getting triples, because they do look amazing in photos, but I really wanted to experience the single in all its glory, perfectly ratio’d between bun, meat, cheese and toppings. It was so fucking good, and I wish I had more right now.
But I also got to try their bacon wrapped hot dog as well. These are not dick pics with toasted foreskin. These are delicious hot dogs.
I had this once with avocado at Crif Dogs, WAAAY back in the day, before I started reviewing restaurants. I loved it then, and I love it now. I like glorified hot dogs, and wrapping them in bacon and deep frying them is probably one of the best ways to do it. I liked it so much on that first bite, that I totally skipped any additional toppings like mustard, ketchup or onions.
Do yourselves a favor and get your asses over here ASAP.
There’s also a luncheonette spot out in Brooklyn that serves the burgers and also a nice skirt steak sandwich:
Watch the video of the steak sandwich being made:
HARD TIMES SUNDAES
At Urbanspace Vanderbilt
230 Park Ave
New York, NY 10169
My wife picked up a Gilt City deal for Le Rivage, with which we shared a 62-day dry aged, bone-in Creekstone Farms/Pat LaFrieda New York strip steak, two sides, a bottle of wine and a dessert for about $100. Pretty great deal, especially if you can use a discount when buying the flash deal.
Anyway, Le Rivage is a cozy French joint in the theater district on 46th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues.
They gave us some nice table bread with whipped butter to start:
And the wine was an 80% Merlot 20% Cabernet blend that was actually pretty good.
The long, 62-day dry aging process imparted a bit of nuttiness and funk to the flavor of the beef. This baby was masterfully prepared. It definitely can hang tough with some of the best steakhouse cuts in the city. Get your ass over here and try it, if it is still available on special. I give it a 9/10. Why not the full 10? I felt like it needed just a hint more salt, maybe just some finishing salt even, but not much.
The steak came with two sauces, so dipping into these added some of that saltiness that I was looking for from the seasoning. The sauces were a wine reduction and a peppercorn:
Our sides were actually very abundant. We ordered broccolini and fries, but they brought out two dishes of fries, one dish of broccolini and one dish of carrots. We had lots to bring home.
I’m a big fan of broccolini, and I cook a mean broccolini at home quite often. I was impressed with it here. It was simply treated with seasoning, garlic and oil. The carrots were buttered and slightly sweet-glazed, and the fries were nice and crisp.
For dessert, we went with the chef’s recommendation, which was a Jacques Torres chocolate chip cookie and a sweetened, spiked milk.
So simple, yet so tasty. After chatting with the chef for a bit, we learned that he is best friends with Pat LaFrieda, and that Jaques Torres is his godfather! That’s a serious pedigree, and it shows in Chef Paul’s abilities. He did a great job on the steak, especially.
I definitely recommend giving this place a shot, especially if you like to take advantage of Gilt City deals (not sure if this one is still available), or even just their regular three course price fix specials, which are offered daily for between $25 and $40. Very reasonable.
UPDATE – 6/30/16
I went back to Le Rivage to try Chef Denamiel’s award winning French Onion Soup Burger today. Holy fuck, people. This thing is absolutely amazing. It’s not a surprise that he won the “Judge’s Choice” award in New York City Wine & Food Festival’s 2013 “Burger Bash” with this baby, beating out the likes of burger master Chef Capon in the process.
His patty grind is usually between 60/40 and 70/30 lean/fat, and the beef also comes from Pat LaFrieda, just like the steak I reviewed up above. He seasons the patty with salt, pepper, drawn butter and brown sugar before it hits the grill. After the first flip, he puts on a slice of a Swiss gruyere type cheese called Emmenthal, which melts around the patty to seal in the medium rare juices. This then gets placed onto a butter-toasted sandwich-sized English muffin, and then topped with cognac-reduced confit onions, and then a bechamel cheese sauce for good measure. The top bun is placed on top, and then the French flag toothpick with roasted cocktail onion and gherkin gets popped on. Viola – perfection.
This is definitely one of my new favorite burgers; it really is unique. I walked out with a full belly, but I was still craving another one. Pretty sure I will be back again very soon, especially because the place is close to both work and home.
Burger still on point:
Even my maniac food photographer homies agree:
Croque Madame is stellar!
Quiche is the best I’ve ever had in my life:
You can even buy it frozen, to go, to fire up at home!
And the escargot is executed with perfection:
Garlic bacon frisee salad: amazing. Tangy and delicious.
Beef Bourguignon: hearty and soul-warming.
DECKLE FOR FOUR
This is probably the greatest thing you can eat. The deckle for four is the spinalis part of the rib eye, wrapped and rolled into a pinwheel. It gets quickly seared for crust on the outside, and then finished low and slow like a roast. Call two days ahead for this to reserve it.
My wife paid a little under $50 for a Gilt City flash deal that got us two drinks each, an app to share, two entrees and a side to share at The Ainsworth. Pretty great deal if you ask me.
We started with these crab tacos. These are $21 regular price, so I thought that was a bit high considering that these are small and the plate comes with four pieces. Do these look like they’re worth $5.25 each (before tax and tip)? I don’t think so.
They were tasty – good crunch on the shell, though I wasn’t sure if the crab meat was actual lump crab or some kind of crab substitute. Either way, I wouldn’t pay that kind of money for them.
For a nominal upcharge ($12), I went with the 20oz bone-in, 28-day dry-aged rib eye.
This was spectacular. The aged flavor really popped for just a 28-day stint in the aging box. I could taste the nutty and funky qualities with ease. While it was grilled instead of seared, didn’t have much of a spinalis (fat cap), and there was a bit of hard gristle in the meat, the cook temperature was a perfect medium rare and the flavor in the eye was excellent. 8/10.
As you can see, the steak was topped with some crispy fried shallots. Nice touch!
At $42, this is a great deal, especially considering that the flavors of this thing can easily rival some of the best steakhouses in town. I guess it was just a bummer that I got a cut with little fat cap and a few bites of gristle.
My wife went with the famous mac and cheese burger.
That’s a fried mac and cheese patty on the bottom, a cheeseburger patty on top of that, and then mac and cheese on top of the burger.
While that is all totally unnecessary and probably only done for Instagram fodder, it was indeed a fun item to eat. Here’s a little animated image for you to ogle:
It didn’t taste that special to me, but it sure did make for some handsome photos.
French fries came with that burger, as if there wasn’t enough to fill you up with the burger itself.
These could use some work. Some were a little bit un-crisped and heavy, but otherwise decent.
On the side, we shared the asparagus with a fried egg on top. Both the asparagus and the egg were cooked perfectly and had good flavor. Look – it was either this or more fries, so give me a break.
This place slings a decent fast food style burger, but the bacon was rubbery on both my and my wife’s burgers, and the fries were soggy and dense. Stick to the basics here and you should be fine. Don’t waste money on the extras. And it’s still not on the level with places like Smashburger, Shake Shack or Lucky’s Famous.
The good thing is that my wife paid about $10 for $30 worth of food and drink here through a flash deal. So all in, this was not too bad.
NEW YORK BURGER CO
678 Ave of the Americas
New York, NY 10010