Finally, I will round off our recent short trip to New York with this place. Check it out next time you’re in mid-town Manhattan (as you do).
In the Parker Meridien Hotel on West 56th Street is a “secret” burger joint, (called “Burger Joint”, got that?..). It is so secret that we had stayed there a few days before we discovered it. I kind of knew it was there, but we just wondered why hordes of tourists and bus-loads of visitors were turning up to queue just at the back of the pristine lobby of the hotel next to a floor-length red velvet curtain. We thought it was some sort of Theatre or Puppet Show or maybe a bit of clandestine pole-dancing. Must be a good show, whatever it is, we thought, as the queues were enormous and seemed to be there most of the day.
Eventually we asked at the desk, and yes, you guessed it, behind the red curtain is the burger bar. Okaaaaay.
Reviews say this is one of the best burgers in New York. I haven’t eaten enough to say, but this is one for the tourists, and I would say definitely worth a punt for the novelty. We popped by when there was no queue, although the tiny, dark, windowless room with a definite “speakeasy” feel about it, was still rammed. I managed to grab a (slightly grubby) table by the bins (I know it is summer but the bins stank – not really forgivable in any restaurant, guys, but especially one so small), but the alternative was to queue/wait or stand.
What makes this place special and worth a go, in the end, is the setting, and the complete contrast with the cool, marble air-conditioned hotel lobby that you pass through. Burger Joint is not table service, you queue at the counter to order and get your food in a bag. It is loud, very dark and every inch of the wall is covered in graffiti. It feels like you imagine a New York burger joint should be. There used to be a TV programme here called “Goodnight Sweetheart” where the main character walked through his rear garden wall in contemporary London and into 1940s Britain? Well, walking in from the Parker Meridien to the Burger Joint is a bit like that.
These are not “gourmet” burgers like the huge things we are increasingly coming to expect in the 5 Guys, Reds True BBQ style, and the choice of toppings seems limited – or perhaps I should say “traditional” – lettuce, tomato, cheese, mayo, ketchup, pickle, onions (no chillies which surprised me), but the burgers are cooked fresh and to order and are very filling. Finally, a medium-rare burger, thank you God. It seems to me that it is virtually impossible to get anything other than well-done burgers in the UK anymore (I know why, health & Safety, food hygiene, contamination blah blah), so this was a real treat.
Burger Joint is a bit mad, but on balance, if you want a kind of New York burger baptism that is hidden in a rather lovely mid-town hotel, this is your gig.