"Hello sir, I heard there is a burger shop here or am I mistaken?" Welcome to the Parker Meridien, where there's a line for the burger place, it's quite popular the security guy tells me, pointing his finger to 50 people standing in line, next to a curtain waiting to enter a tiny door with a neon light over it. I took a moment, thought wisely about the decision and decided to wait in line for an hour.
The burger joint is known around here, voted one of New York's best, and it's a hole in the wall, a tiny shop in the lobby of The Parker Meridien hotel on 119 East and 56 Street, a few meters from the Plaza Hotel and the famous boxy Apple Store.
Their website doesn't look professional, the single picture they have doesn't make you feel like trying it, but seeing the line was building my anticipation so high. I wanted to eat this burger!
Minutes, long minutes in this line without a bench or a wall to lean on, I was hoping the burger would be worth it. We approached the door... A little corridor that looks like a service door fitted between two grey painted walls with no light but this single burger-shaped neon light. There's music inside... We kept on waiting.
Arriving to the door the interior of the place appears. A burger joint with four tables next to the wall and leather benches around with another space on the right side, all organized around an open kitchen. The place is covered with wood, light wood on which is written thousands of names and signatures. Movie and concert posters decorate the walls. Dimmed lighting, no windows and lights hanging from the ceiling over each table.
Smells from the grills behind shelves of tomato jars, pickles and bread bags... The spirit around here talks of food and authenticity. You take a moment and try to understand how a hole in the wall, inside the lobby of a fancy hotel can turn out to be the most famous burger spot in the city.
How it's done:
- Burger or cheese burger?
- How do you want it cooked?
- What do you want on it?
- With everything call it "The Works".
- Be ready to order or else you go to the end of the line.
- Credit cards are accepted.
- Gluten free: Easy, no bun.
- Vegetarian: Grilled cheese is your meal.
- They have wine for $6 a glass.
The meat is grilled by the dozen, cheese is added to it, heated in the oven before the chef adds it to the burger with all the required ingredients. The menu has normal or double burgers, fries and brownies as well as a whole pickle which I ordered to try.
So I ordered everything!
Pickles, tomatoes, lettuce, ketchup, mustard and mayo without the onions.
The staff is not the most welcoming out there. They're overwhelmed, busy and know that if you're not happy others will be. Sit down, one shouts while the other runs for the order to finish his shift.
- A $9 mini burger with two flattened buns filled with lettuce, tomatoes and pickles as well as cheese with a little ketchup and mustard on top of a super thick, rich meat that's juicy but not proportional to the size of the burger. Since the meat is too thick, the burger feels dry, so adding more ketchup and mustard is a must. One can't deny the quality of ingredients and uniqueness of the meat, but as a whole the burger could have been better. More juiciness, more fat and a thinner meat is needed.
- The double meat burger is for $16. Yes, $16 for two huge pieces of meat, the same bun and the crunchy vegetables. Too much! Too think and it feels dry, so adding ketchup and mustard is a must. Those patties don't contain enough fat to soak the bun and make every bite juicy and enjoyable. I honestly felt that it's a huge deception after this long hour of waiting.
- The fries are simply ridiculous. Exactly the same you can have at McDonald's, frozen fries that become inedible when cold.
Let me make myself clear: The meat is excellent, but needs more fat, the burger tastes good, but is not worth all this hype.
One long hour for this? I'm not sure what people expect. Five Guys is way better. Or is it the waiting that makes it exciting? Next time you visit New York, try Five Guys and save the waiting for something worthwhile.