Full coverage is important, I thought, as I slipped into a seat at the four person bar for an innocuous lunch at The Little Owl in the West Village. I was here to belatedly try the most raved about burger of 2009, an act which reeked of obligation, especially since I'd deviated from my earlier plans to eat at the Spotted Pig.
The burger had been dubbed the "best in the world" by a London Observer columnist who seems to have never visited any of the places in his article. Slightly more respectable outlets such as Saveur declared it the best burger in the city and New York Magazine was similarly gushing in its praise. Still, I'd never bothered.
In retrospect, I'm not sure why I had negative (or merely muted) expectations. I now regret my omission, since The Little Owl makes a damn good burger.
The predictable Pat LeFrieda meat is the showcase, allegedly a blend of short rib and brisket, it comes coarsely ground and cooked to a juicy medium rare. Just the way I like it. The patty is topped only with maple bacon and a sheet of nearly liquified aged cheddar. Despite the strong flavors, the meat is not overwhelmed. A deep, dark sear helped too. And while this type of bun is typically too chewy and crusty for me, it was housemade and held in the juices with only minor patty backslide. A well balanced bun.
I ate it all along with a Cigar City Brewing Co. Maduro Brown Ale. Nice beer selection! The Brown Ale tastes like a fine cigar smells (that may not sound appealing to everyone). Meanwhile the fries are well cooked and mostly crispy. Topped with an herb blend, they're also served with a fancy ketchup that has a spicy and smokey kick.
This may not be the best burger in the city, but it's in the conversation.
The Little Owl
90 Bedford Street (at Grove Street)
New York, NY 10014