Thursday, May 20, 2010

I Am the Mayor of Midtown East Burgers!

Through sheer coincidence, recently I've happened to eat a lot of burgers near my apartment in Midtown East. After this week's samplings, I've eaten most every burger in my quaint neighborhood, so I figured that gives me some kind of expertise (in theory). I won't talk about every burger, since some are not worth discussing, but here's a small sampling.

Photo Courtesy of Digiart2001

"For The Cheap, Fat Bastard"
Blarney Stone is a total dive, but has a humongous, dirt cheap burger and is a Midtown Lunch favorite. Places like the Blarney Stone are too rare in NY these days (just watch for mice running around on the floors after-hours). The burger is a monster, and $6 with onion rings, fries or a salad (add 25 cents for cheese).

Blarney Stone cheeseburger.

It's cooked close to medium by default, which is fine with me (due to the obvious hygienic issues I've mentioned). But the burger is good enough that I don't really care, as are the other items on a menu full of American classics. They also have a wide selection of cheap beers so you can get sloshed with the regulars at all hours of the day. When I last ate here, I added dijon mustard and homemade salted chiles for an awesome lunch.

"Guaranteed Food Coma"
Five Guys on 3rd Avenue is probably not going to win the award for best location in the fast-growing franchise, but it does serve it's purpose for greasy, fast food. The burger itself tastes like a done-up Wendy's cheeseburger, but with thicker patties. They come tightly wrapped, so tight in fact that upon opening the foil, the burger is usually a condensed ball with all of your free toppings mashed together. My order of choice is the double cheeseburger (or regular) with bacon, mustard, grilled onions and mushrooms and jalapenos (fresh, not pickled for some reason). Just unhinge your jaw, make sucking noises and eat.

"The Meh-burger"
If Five Guys is the Wendy's of neo-fast food, Black Shack, on 38th and Lexington, might be the Burger King. Their burger tastes like a Whopper done up right. However, there's only so far you can take a Whopper, so whether you like Black Shack is going to depend a lot on your personal tastes. I found it mediocre, with the fries tasting just like Burger King fries as well (if you're into that sort of thing). The shake was good, but it was $5 dollars for a kiddy cup. I don't know if they've changed this since I went, but that's unacceptable to a milkshake lover such as myself.

"The Steve Kerr of Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls"*
 My favorite deli in town is Sarge's, which is not known for their burger. This is probably with good reason, as the burger is solid, but nothing spectacular (recalling Veselka's, though not as good). The cheeseburger comes with a mass of caramelized onions on top. Each time I've ordered the it, about 75% of the onions are blackened beyond recognition, so you have to do a little gold digging for the non-burnt pieces. My suggestion: stick with all the Michael Jordan's on the menu.

*If anyone has a better analogy I'd love to hear it, but keep in mind I hate the Yankees.

Maybe I have big hands (I don't), but the Sarge's burger pictured looks much smaller in my hand than it actually is. Regardless, it's greasy and large; with their fries it's plenty filling too.

And the winner? 
Surprisingly (for now), it's Rare Bar & Grill, which I had not tried until recently. I was skeptical, especially since a friend, who still has a Dave Matthews Band ring-tone, recommended it (so obviously I ignore about 75% of what he says). However, I will give credit where credit is due.

We split a Whiskey River Burger, which has seared shallots cooked with some whiskey, plus applewood smoked bacon and cheese. This burger was fine, but the winner (for me) was the regular cheeseburger, to which I added American cheese and double-cut bacon. The meat was thickly ground, well seared and cooked to a perfect medium rare. The double-cut bacon kicked the applewood smoked bacon's ass.

Unfortunately, the price is killer at this place. The Whiskey River Burger was $15 and the cheeseburger was $12, plus the fry basket for another $10. They also charged me $4 for a refill of iced tea, which will not stand with me.

So while I say that this is the "best" burger, it's clearly a splurge, and not the best option among the burgers I've listed. If I had to choose one, I would probably go with Blarney Stone, which has everything you could ask for (except cleanliness).

Rare Bar & Grill
303 Lexington Ave (at 38th St)
Rare Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Sarge's Deli and Restaurant
548 3rd Ave (btwn 36th and 37th)
Sarge's Deli & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Black Shack
320 Lexington Ave (at 39th St)
Black Shack Burger on Urbanspoon

Five Guys
multiple locations
Five Guys Burgers and Fries on Urbanspoon

Blarney Stone 
710 3rd Ave (btwn 44th and 45th)


  1. Wow! I cant really agree with you if you eat at,(and like food at) a place where you watch the mice run around. Just saying. Is anything really that good? The only thing I can say for Black Shack is I'd rather them then 5 Guys. Does anyone at 5 Guys give a damn about the food, they look like dazed zombies. With over 200 store I guess it's hard to find good help ..... I find it greasy and not in a good way. The 5 dollar shakes at Black Shack are 16 oz and I don't think anybody else serves bigger and or cheaper shakes for the size. Sarges I'll give a try, but my guess is, as most deli's, its hit or miss depending on how hung over you are. And you are correct on Rare, but ohh, the money! Now i'm not cheap by any measure .... but I just have a tough time with pricey burgers. It's a burger for pete's sake! It's a quick, inexpensive, shovel it down and go meal. I'm drunk need to soak up a bit ... gulp... ahhh.... better! lets go! Kinda meal.
    My winner would be Black Shack.
    1) its the opposite of white castle ( doesn't anybody get that) tounge in cheek gets a point in my book
    2) 5 guys has 200 shores, pretty soon it'll be just as fake as Burger King/McY'ds
    3) I'll pay for a better tasting Whopper. What's wrong with a Whopper?..... NOTHING!

    sorry for that rant, buy as soon as i read about the whole mouse thing, i couldn't stop myself. I've never even been on this site before.... now im going to check out the rest. Fette Sau is awesome as is Saul! so maybe we do agree on something ...hhmmm?

  2. Thanks a lot for the comment Anon. It looks like we actually do agree on the general issues. First, I'm not saying Blarney Stone is the best burger ever, but it's good for the price and served in a unique atmosphere. This is especially obvious when compared to Five Guys down the street, which I like on the whole, but the one on 3rd Ave is a pretty sorry franchisee. The five guys I've had down south are significantly better, and you're right it looks like they just don't give a shit in there.

    I also agree that Rare is waaay too expensive, but I had to admit that it was a really good burger, despite the fact that I likely won't be going back anytime soon.

    My conclusion is ultimately that midtown east is pretty weak for burgers... but you gotta take what you can get.

    As for Black Shack, everyone there was really nice, but the burger just didn't do much for me. I guess they've changed the size of the shakes since I've been, because mine was like 12 ounces.

    Ultimately, there are very few things that people argue about as much as burgers, which I love to eat and to debate.

    But trust me, besides the burger, Sarge's is awesome.

  3. Remember when someone who works for Black Shack came to your site and shilled for their store? That was nice.

  4. So anyone who likes anything is a shill? I didn't read the first comment as one at all... too much effort to be a shill.

    What burgers do you like?

  5. Yeah, I don't work for anyone but myself thanks.
    I know what i like and I know why I like it. Altho I may not agree with 100% of this blog, I find that I do like it. I will get around to something more than Anonymous another time. And thanks Chief for the return comments, I will check out Sarges soon and look forward to more burger reviews.I'm also looking for some good Thai in mid town.....

  6. Thanks for the comment, you should definitely do it again. I would hope we don't agree 100% of the time, that would be kind of boring.

    As for good Thai in Midtown, I won't even pretend to know. I hear there are some places on 9th ave though.

  7. Hey I know this post if from a while ago but I was wondering if you got a chance to try Zaitzeff. I just tried it the other day... thought it was really good. Let me know what you think

  8. You're not going to like what I have to say. I tried a few years ago and was unimpressed. I actually went back last week and I gotta say I'm still not a fan. I'll probably have a post up on it later this week (so we can spar then).

  9. hell yeah!!! is time to eat and eat burgers, this is one of my favorite activities on weekends, I like to go with my friends and taste a different burger every weekend, maybe this will be our next target.

  10. I will save Mcspicy for next review. There are less variety of side to choose from, Food Truck Catering