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How about "Eat a burger every day for a week, to find the best burger in New York, as suggested by New Yorkers"?
Yeah, that'll do. Why not?
One reason why not is because it sounds really unhealthy. I hope the extra calories and fat and salt was offset by me cycling 15-30 miles every day.
The scientific method (kinda made up as I went along):
1. The aspects of the burgers will be rated on a scale of 1 to 5 stars, where 1 star is a MacDonalds Cheeseburger, and 5 stars is a Hot Dog World cheeseburger, as available in Berlin.
2. I'll try to make all the burgers as similar as possible, with bacon and cheese and fried/grilled onions if available.
3. I'll rate the burgers on appearance, bun, burger, other filling, overall taste, and "other factors".
Day 1: Five Guys Burger
My first burger, recommended by a few people. I chose this as the first because it was the first burger place I found from my remembered list of recommended burgers. It cost about $7.50.
It looked a bit sorry coming out of the wrapper. A bit flat, but the bun had kept its shape quite well.
All burgers come with two patties with cheese between. Any number of toppings are free, and the range is pretty good. I got onions, pickles, and bacon.
It tasted... okay, I guess. Nothing special. Nothing as special as all the newspaper reviews on the walls around me. Looking closer, I noticed that none of the five star reviews on the walls were by New York food journalists in New York publications. This might very well have been the best burger in Nowheresville, Bumkin County, but not in a big city like New York or Berlin.
Day 2: Jackson Hole
This is a sit-down restaurant, with a few branches around the city. I decided this was the right choice for day 2, mainly because I was starving, and also to have an opposite experience compared to the day before.
The whole meal cost about $17, but this included the burger, a platter of fries and a salad, coleslaw, sauces, a coke, and the tip. It was, by far, the most food per dollar of the whole week. Before the burger arrived I was given a small bowl of pickled cucumbers, with were quite sweet and refreshing.
The platter, when it arrived, was huge. I had to construct the burger myself, and then it was impossible to pick up. The bread under the burger soaked up the juices way too quick, and even flipping the burger over, so thicker top of the bun could do some work, didn't stop it from disintegrating.
The burger itself tasted great, but couldn't hold itself together. The meal became a knife and fork affair, rather than the pick up and bite style I want from a burger.
Overall, the meal was one of the best of the week, but this was due to many other factors, not just the burger. The burger, while tasting good, didn't act like a burger.
Day 3: Schnipper's Burger.
When meeting up with jugglers in Bryant Park, I mentioned I was off to get a burger for lunch. Someone said "You should try Schnippers!" I'd not heard of it before, but the people who work in that area of the city love it. Before I left the park, another two people had recommended it, so I rode my bike right there. It looked like a chain restaurant, but apparently this is the only one in the city.
I ordered the Schnipper Burger, with the special Schnipper Cheese Sauce. About 12 dollars for the burger and a coke. I was given a number card, and a few minutes later my burger arrived. I looked really good.
Bun: very good. Salad inside: fresh. Bacon: crispy. Cheese sauce: very, very tasty. The burger patty: delicious. It held together well as I picked it up, helped by a stick through the middle.
From the appearance of the restaurant, and the fact that they also served Sloppy Joes, I was surprised at just how good I found this burger. In my head I was comparing all the burgers to the Hot Dog World burger in Berlin, and this one was the most like it.
Backing up a bit, I chose this place because the burger I planned to try, at the Union Square Cafe, is only serves burgers at lunch times. Just up the street I found a Goodburger joint, and it had been mentioned by a few people. I can't remember it being mentioned in a good way, just "Some people say this is a good burger."
Flat, not that tasty, didn't hold itself together. And, with all the toppings, it cost just as much as the Schnipper's burger the day before.
Day 5: Peter Luger's Burger
Recommended by just one person, but they sold it to me well. Peter Luger's is a steak restaurant next to the Williamsburg Bridge on the Brooklyn side. They only serve burgers at lunchtime, until 3:30pm, so I made sure I got there on time.
It's a full service restaurant, and the meal was the most expensive of the week. $21 included fries, bacon, and a coke. That also includes a small tip, not as big as I expected because I didn't know they only took cash (no credit cards). I was served bread buns before my burger turned up, which were nicer than most bread I get in restaurants, especially when dipped in the Special Peter Luger Steak Sauce.
So, my food arrives, and the burger is in bits. The bread looks great, but I couldn't see how the bacon was meant to be part of the burger. The cheese was a bit too plastic-american-style for me, and the onion was a single raw slice, not fried or grilled, which means I wasn't going to eat the onion at all.
The fries seemed to be the minimal amount they could get away with, and the coke was tiny.
And then I started eating, and all my complaints faded away.
The meat of the burger was fucking awesome. By far the best tasting burger I've eaten in a looooong time, which exactly how this burger was sold to me.
The fact that the bacon was a separate over-fatty feature? No problem. The cheese was okay in the end, and the fries were good too.
But let me just mention again that the burger meat was really, really good. The bun didn't need to do any work soaking up fat and juices, as the burger itself kept them locked up perfectly. And putting the steak sauce on top really made it special.
Day 6: Brgr
Only two people recommended this to me, but it was sold as being all Organic-this, and Grass-fed-that. As Hot Dog World in Berlin is all organic, I thought this might make it special. It cost $14 dollars, which included fries and a coke.
Presentation... okay, I guess. I like to think a burger can stand up under its own weight, rather than being helped by a paper wrapper.
Like Goodburger, the bread on this one fell flat, but at least I could taste it. The onions were good too. And the bacon was the best bacon I had all week.
However, I was underwhelmed by the meat, even as all the posters on the wall said "Grass fed beef is WAAAAY cool, man!"
The fries were pretty good, but as I didn't have fries at every place, I can't let that sway my rating.
Day 7: Shakeshack.
This was the most hyped burger in the city. No matter who I talked to, everyone mentioned the reputation of Shakeshack, if only to say they thought it was overhyped. I saved this one until last.
There was a long queue to order the burger. Is this a good sign or a bad sign? I ordered the Double Shakeburger, or something, which came with the special Shake cheese sauce and bacon. About $15 in total.
It arrived in a bag (bad) but held its shape pretty well (good). To be honest, it didn't look amazing, and I was gearing myself for major disappointment after all the hype.
And you know what? It was pretty good!
But it paled in comparison to the Shakehack milkshake! I had a vanilla and chocolate fudge "frozen yogurt" which blew my mind.
So, that's a week of burgers. But wait... there's more! On day 8, while waiting for my delayed flight, my stomach was protesting its neglected state. I went to find some food, and found...
Day 8: New York Sports Bar
"What the hell," thought I, and my empty belly cheered. I ordered the bacon cheese burger, fries and a coke ($14.25), expecting some terrible airport food.
It arrived suspiciously quickly, but nicely set out on a plate. The jacket potato fries were the tastiest fries I ate all week, which surprised me no end. This was also the only burger outlet to toast the inside of the bun, which set it apart too.
It was let down by the burger itself, and the american (not cheddar or swiss) cheese. The bacon was okay, but the burger meat didn't really grab me.
The best two burgers were the Peter Luger burger (for the meat) and Schnipper's burger (for the taste of everything else). I'd also recommend Jackson Hole and Shakeshack burgers, but to different people for different occasions.
I'll end this review by composing my Ultimate New York Burger, using elements from the above 8 establishments.
Setting: The service of Jackson Hole, the quiet of Peter Luger, nd in the Shakeshack park (but without so many people) as I like eating outside.
Before: I want the bread and steak sauce of Peter Luger's served beforehand, with the pickled cucumber of Jackson Hole.
The burger served: On a Jackson Hole platter, with salad and coleslaw.
With: A Shakeshack Milkshake.
And: New York Sports Bar fries (I can't believe the airport fries were the nicest).
The Burger Itself: The meat and steak sauce of Peter Luger, the bacon of Brgr, the toasted bun of New York Sports Bar, the cheese sauce and salad of Schnipper's.
If someone could arrange all that, you'll have the Ultimate New York Burger, the burger angels serve in heaven.
Sorry to 5 Guys and Goodburger, as no aspect of your burgers made it into the Ultimate New York Burger. Must try harder!
Also, Peter Luger's is pretty much the fanciest steakhouse around. Not surprised their meat is so amazing.
I also would have recommended you check out Bare Burger in Queens. It's sort of a hipster place: organic, no name brand condiments, and the TV is set to classic cartoons. But they give you a choice of what meat you want in your burger (beef, elk, bison, ostrich, and lamb.) Their fries are good, their onion rings are pretty great, and their milkshakes are top class.
Also, Luke, you should have had a burger from a generic deli at least once. They can sometimes be pretty good, depending.
Also, I'll just point out that in all the debates that have raged about 5 Guys vs. Goodburger, we've never actually had an impartial observer. Here, we have an impartial observer, and he rated 5 Guys higher. Thus, I am vindicated. Slightly.
Also, that slab of bacon/ham/whatever next to the Peter Luger's burger looks very very tasty.
Algo, while Goodburger has good burgers, their fries are disastrous McDonaldsian nightmares and their milkshakes are mediocre. Schnippers (my suggestion bitches!) is a thousand times better than Five Guys, and if you consider all of the non-meat factors alone, nine-hundred times better than Goodburger.
And I've had Five Guys, it's good but it isn't mind-blowing. The main thing I don't like about Five Guys is that you have to wait, the cost, and the taste of the fries.
Corner Bistro (8th Av and 26th)
Burger Joint (Bleeker Street off 6th Av) - I couldn't find this one, it might have closed down.
Union Square Cafe - I went at the wrong time.
Paul's Burger (2nd Av at St. Marks) On the first weekend in New York I went to a diner with friends, and I ate a burger. It was okay. Three stars, maybe. Later, when I mentioned the name of the place (I forget now, but it's at Union and Metropolitan in Brooklyn) everyone said "Did you get food poisoning?" Apparently the place has a reputation.