Can’t Quit You, Bareburger
Dec 2nd, 2014 by donuts4dinner

I’ve been a pretty bad food blogger lately, in part because I’ve been a pretty bad restaurant-goer lately, in part because I’ve been a pretty great home-cooker lately. (If you’re looking for recipes involving all manner of melting cheese on things you find around the house, I’m your gal.) But my friends and I were all still off our diets on Saturday night last weekend after Thanksgiving, so we headed off to find some sloppy Brooklyn Heights Mexican food. But on the way, my boyfriend decided he wanted Bareburger, because there’s really nothing sloppier.

I only had my camera phone with me, so the pictures are crappy, but I think they give you a good idea of what Bareburger is all about, which is DEEP-FRIED STUFF on top of JUICY THINGS, with a side of BACKFAT and BELLYROLL. I got the brisket burger, which is stacked with smoky brisket, pepperjack cheese, raw red onions, smoked paprika mayonnaise, and panko-crusted butter pickle chips. They recommended bison for the burger patty (there’s also elk, ostrich, wild boar, lamb, turkey, etc.), but I said NO and took mine with beef. Of course. And I mean, it’s just sort of unfair; there are crispy fried pickles on top of the thing and in between the buns. I’m not going to not love this.

Bareburger NYC
brisket burger

Of course we split a side of onion rings and fries (the Bare Snacks size, not the Bare Sides size, because the much-larger Snacks size also comes with four dipping sauces), and then I had the Banana Fritter Sundae, which was their organic vanilla ice cream topped with caramel sauce, studded with deep-fried fritters, and served with toasted walnuts, which I asked for on the side, because nuts ruin ice cream and everyone knows it. The ice cream was pretty standard, but the fritters were super crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside and full of that special much-better-flavor that bananas have when they’re cooked.

Bareburger NYC
banana fritter sundae

And that, of course, led to GIANT BEERS, which my friend Kim is so tastefully modeling below. This is the medium size. She couldn’t actually lift the glass with one hand until the beer was half gone. But the best drink, if you ask me, is their Moscow Mule, which they pump full of tangy, spicy, legitimate ginger and then plop a piece of candied ginger in.

Bareburger NYC
Kim, ready for 600 fluid ounces of whatever this is

Sometimes I try to quit Bareburger for the sake of my wallet, because that brisket burger is $14 on its own, and I’m not a woman who’s going to forego the fries. It’s not even my favorite burger in NYC, and Shake Shack is even closer to my apartment. But sometimes I just really want the tallest, fattest, finger-lickingest burger I can get my hands on, and Bareburger has it.

149 Court Street
New York, 11201 (map)
and a bunch of other locations

California’s Umami Burger in NYC
Aug 5th, 2013 by donuts4dinner

There’s nothing a New Yorker loves more than feigning disinterest in other cities. We have everything worth having here, and Chicago can take its sparkling blue lake and shove it. But somehow, when it comes to food, New Yorkers have a fascination with everything from everywhere. Maybe it’s just that we want to say we’ve had it. Maybe it’s just that we want to be able to intelligently naysay it. Maybe it’s that we want to put it on a cronut.

In any case, I found myself at the made-famous-in-L.A. Umami Burger on its fourth day in NYC. Partly because I had planned to go to the park and it was raining, and partly because I figured not having to stand in the dinner line was one gift I could give myself as an unemployed lady. It turned out that the rain had dissuaded all of the half-hearted burger-eaters and left my friends Kim and Jack and me with a mere ten-minute wait for a table during what should have been the lunch rush.

Umami Burger NYC
The menu has salads on it. Isn’t that adorable?

We were seated in a not-quite-as-cramped-as-you-would-think booth in the corner and greeted by a super-friendly server who told us our burgers would be half-off because the buns that day weren’t as “pretty” as the Umami Burger standards would dictate. The unemployment gods were smiling upon me. Sadly, they weren’t serving the special five-spice duck burger only available at the NYC location that day, but they made up for it with a pastrami burger with an inch of spicy, smoky, herby lunchmeat on top of the hand-ground steak burger:

Umami Burger NYC

Umami Burger NYC
Not an unusually attractive bun but not offensively ugly, right?

Umami Burger NYC

You can tell these things aren’t coming off some truck frozen because of the way they fall apart when you cut into them; they’re not the homogeneous rounds of your traditional fast food burger joints. The patty was seared to a crust that was only dwarfed by the dried exterior of the pastrami. A sour relish countered the deep, rich flavors of the burger but the cheese added to them, so there was no escaping the umami. I’d heard complaints about the $12 price tag on these burgers, but I wasn’t so offended; with fries, they’re just a dollar-ish more expensive than, say, 5 Napkin Burger, and a whole lot less expensive than the burgers at The Spotted Pig and Minetta Tavern. And this was just plain delicious with that pastrami so thick and spicy it became the whole point of the burger.

Umami Burger NYC

Kim is a lady and ordered the tuna burger with sprouts, avocado, ginger-flavored carrots, and a little wasabi kick. It was basically the exact opposite of my burger with its light sear and its freshness.

Umami Burger NYC

Jack took one for the team and ordered The Original, which was topped with shiitake mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, and a big round of crisp Parmesan. The Parmesan was the thing I was most excited about, but he acted like it was mainly there for texture.

Umami Burger NYC

For starters and sides, we got the complex House Pickle Plate with sesame ginger wax beans (who would think to care about beans at a burger joint?, but these were super lemony and tart), spicy green beans, smoked okra, bread and butter pickles, and beets,

Umami Burger NYC

the Truffled Beet Salad with arugula, smoked almonds, and truffled ricotta spread,

Umami Burger NYC

tater tots filled with cheese,

Umami Burger NYC

and shoestring fries served “manly” style with beer-cheddar, thick chunks of bacon, and onion strings. Aside from being supremely offended that cheese, pork, and onions are apparently for men, I loved these fries. Even more than Kim’s fries dripping with truffle cream.

Umami Burger NYC

My Mexican Coke tasted like American Coke but with less flavor,

Umami Burger NYC

but my ice cream cookie sandwich with its gigantic gingerbread rounds, vanilla ice cream, and gloopy lemon curd was the perfect spicy-bright note to end a mega rich meal.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarBlank Star

Umami Burger NYC

Owner Adam Fleischman says this isn’t a Shake Shack ripoff, and he’s right (even if there was a smashed burger a la Shake Shack’s on the daily specials menu the day I visited). Shake Shack is a fast food burger you eat in the park or squeezed in between tourists at whatever table space you can manage, and this is a leisure burger you enjoy with a beer and your friends with the biggest stomachs. Shake Shack is perfect in its simplicity, while this is the whole kitchen piled on a bun. There’s definitely room for both types in NYC and in my mouth, but which I’ll choose on a given day comes down to whether I’m in the mood for the best-tasting patty possible or a really great sit-down meal with appetizers that are just as strong as the main event.

Umami Burger
432 6th Avenue
New York, NY 10011 (map)

Bareburger is Anything But
Jul 13th, 2011 by plumpdumpling

Lately, all of my friends (and by “all” of them, I mean “two”) have been going on and on about how great Bareburger is. And even before I tasted the burger, I was pleased by the people making it and their commitment to all-natural ingredients like grass-fed beef, pastured poultry, and organic produce. As much as I love my home state of Ohio, my friends there have to hunt for grass-fed beef, while I have easy access to restaurants like this that serve nothing but tasty, tasty, vitamin-rich cowmeat.

Now, the astute reader will recognize that I have a bit of a carb problem, so on the days that I’m being a good girl, I do things like eat burgers without buns and order side salads instead of French fries. Obviously this makes for terribly boring blogging, but luckily for me, Bareburger makes it so it doesn’t have to be terribly boring eating.

Bare Burger NYC
Bacon Cheese Bareburger on a lettuce wrap – $9.95

No one should ever order a lettuce wrap if they don’t have to. There, I said it. I really appreciated how this one came contained in a paper wrapper that really did make it easier to keep everything cohesive, but the problem is that the paper held in steam and juices that made the lettuce soggy, unpalatable, and really not helpful at all as a burger vehicle. I really don’t know how to make a lettuce wrap better, though. Maybe just use two really sturdy pieces of cabbage?

Anyway, the burger itself was delicious sans lettuce. Juicy, cheesy, just-blackened on the outside, with crispy bacon and crunchy RAW red onion, which is the only way onion should ever be. Unless it’s in an onion ring. Which is just what was on my boyfriend’s version.

Bare Burger NYC
Bareburger Supreme – $10.95

Truth be told, my boyfriend was napping when I ordered these for us, so he had absolutely no say in what he got, and I basically just got him the worst thing on the menu. “Worst” meaning “worst for you” and therefore actually “best”. This was colby jack, onion rings, applewood smoked bacon, lettuce, chopped French fries and Bareburger special sauce on a multi-grain roll. See what I did there with the multi-grain roll? Makes the burger totally healthy.

Just as Bareburger put some thought into buying and serving all sorts of sustainable meats in interesting combinations, they also put some thought into their side salad. Can you imagine? Our Caesar salads were fresh and crunchy, with huge slivers of Parmesan all over the place. (And tomatoes and croutons, but of course I didn’t eat those.) Definitely a win, as far as salads go.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarBlank Star

One star for quality ingredients. One star for awesome combinations of ingredients. One star for caring about carb addicts and the gluten-allergic (tapioca buns!). And one star for just plain yummy food.

514 3rd Avenue
New York, NY 10016 (map)

The Sightz of Social Eatz – Korean/Burgers – Midtown East
Jun 22nd, 2011 by plumpdumpling

I’ve been sick for a week now. Thanks to all the cold medicine I’ve been hitting or the immense amounts of godknowswhat up my nose, I haven’t been able to taste anything since last Wednesday. But my little cousin was in town from Ohio, and I couldn’t not take the poor kid somewhere cool.

So we went to “Top Chef” contestant and should-have-been-the-winner Angelo Sosa’s new casual burger joint, Social Eatz. If you can get past the fact that a Z has been added to every item on the menu–BURGER’Z! TACO’Z! SIDE’Z and SWEET’Z!–it’s actually a really cute, neighborhoody kind of place with what I understand is pretty tasty food.

I, of course, couldn’t verify the tastiness for myself thanks to my cold, but here are some photos to get your mouth to watering:

Social Eatz NYC
crispy spring rolls: shrimp, ground chicken, diced jicama, shredded cabbage, mushrooms, scallions, cilantro, duck sauce made from calamansi (“a citrusy Filipino fruit with a sweet and sour essence”)

Social Eatz NYC
smoked ribs: St. Louis pork ribs, mesquite-smoked tamarind, pineapple BBQ sauce with gochujang (“an aged Korean pepper sauce”)

Social Eatz NYC
Bibimbap Burger: ground beef, slow-cooked egg, lettuce, pickled carrot, cucumber

None of us could resist ordering this burger after seeing the giant banner proclaiming that it won’s Greatest Burger in America competition, and while I think the New Yorkers in the bunch still walked away with our Shake Shack and Blue 9 bias still intact, the Ohio kids really thought it was the best they’d tasted, and nobody argued that it was one fine burger.

For me, it was a little too small when compared to the half-pounders you get at places like Cozy and Jackson Hole. For my boyfriend, it was a little too juicy, which is totally a not-real complaint when it comes to burgers. And for my cousin and his friends, the fact that they won’t add cheese to the burger was a major blow.

Social Eatz NYC

But why would you need cheese when the soft egg bursts all over the burger and then solidifies into this?

Social Eatz NYC
chicken, corn, and coconut tacos: organic chicken, sweet corn, coconut relish in lime, cumin, and chipotle, onion, avocado, cilantro, jalapeno

Social Eatz NYC
Imperialist Hot Dog: organic chicken, sweet and spicy pickle relish

Hot dogs in this town always let me down. I know I’m the only one left, but I’ve never been to Crif Dogs in the East Village or Bark Hot Dogs in Prospect Heights. Yet I somehow expect that the hot dogs elsewhere will compare to my expectations of those places. I want a hot dog PILED with crap. I shouldn’t be able to pick it up unless I want to lick it off my shirt later. The diner in my hometown in Ohio serves hot dogs with chili, cheese, and onions for $1. ONE DOLLAR.

This was a sausage lounging on a thin bed of relish for $8. I won’t judge it, having not been able to taste it, but the look of it did not bowl me over.

Social Eatz NYC
yuzu cream puffs

Even with all of my sickness, I got a hint of citrus when I bit into one of these guys. That, I think, is a very good sign.


I’d be a terrible food blogger if I rated the place on presentation alone, but certainly everything looked good enough to entice me to try again when my cold subsides. And I don’t think I’ll have a problem getting in again: the place was nearly empty at 8 p.m. on a Saturday night. Maybe it’s the out-of-the-way location or the way it seems caught between wanting to be a sports bar and wanting to be a trendy Asian joint along the lines of Sea in Williamsburg or Spice Market in the Meatpacking District. I never mind not having to wait in line for a seat, though, and just hope the eatz are better than the socializing.

Social Eatz
232 East 53rd Street
New York, NY 10022 (map)

goodburger – Burgers – Midtown East
Mar 16th, 2011 by plumpdumpling

The only time I’d tried goodburger, my boyfriend and I had ordered it for delivery, and while we didn’t exactly have any complaints other than a half-melted shake, it wasn’t the sort of burger we’d seek out repeatedly.

So I was admittedly pleased when I received an e-mail from goodburger’s PR firm asking me to try out their revamped menu and offering up a list of reasons why the new goodburger is a better goodburger: a tastier bun, the freshest toppings, and a burger made with Pat LaFreida beef and cooked on a open flame in a green-certified restaurant.

One of their six locations is just down the street from my boyfriend’s apartment, so we piled on our winter wear last weekend and went out for what turned out to be a pretty darn good burger experience.

goodburger burger and fries

Despite the restaurant’s novelty name, this is a serious burger. The fact that the patty is grilled instead of griddled hits you immediately, both in the lightly charred taste and in the way the outside is slightly crunchy to contrast the extremely juicy pink center. The restaurant doesn’t offer American cheese, to my horror, but the mix of white and yellow cheddar was clearly superior. All of the toppings–I got “the works”–couldn’t have been more fresh, and both my boyfriend and I absolutely loved the grilled bun.

The shoestring fries were your typical fast food type. I’m more of a steak fry girl, but I know some people like ’em small and crunchy. Next time, I’m absolutely getting the cheese fries or chili cheese fries.

goodburger shakes

After tasting this, I made a mental note to never order a shake for delivery again. My Black Cow was real vanilla ice cream with nice big squirts of chocolate syrup down the sides, and my boyfriend’s Cookies & Cream was chock full of chocolate bits. They were both so thick it was hard to drink them through their straws, which is just what I like in a shake.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarZero Stars

goodburger logo

The big picture is that this is a really, really good burger. This is the kind of burger that satisfies that specific better-than-fast-food burger craving that all New Yorkers seem to have and try to fight. And the great thing about goodburger is that, at least in my experience, it’s never too crowded. It’s not a big to-do to go there. It’s the kind of neighborhood joint you can pop into

Here’s the fine print: goodburger isn’t Shake Shack. The goodburger is a couple dollars more expensive than the ShackBurger, the fries are a few cents cheaper, and the shakes are about the same price. But a lot of the reason Shake Shack is NYC’s most talked-about burger has nothing to do with the food itself. The goodburger is as good as the ShackBurger, and it’s probably better for people who like grill marks and something other than super-processed American cheese on their patty. But Shake Shack has the power of marketing on their side. If I’m going out for burgers with my friends, it’s more likely that I’d choose to sit outdoors at the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park or to enjoy the sights outside the Times Square Shake Shack while I munch. The goodburger in my neighborhood looks more like a generic diner than some interior designer’s modern magnus opus.

The thing goodburger has on Shake Shack, though, is that you’re never going to have to stand in line in the sun or the rain for an hour for goodburger. There aren’t throngs of tourists taking up the sidewalk outside the door of goodburger, and no one’s making websites with a dedicated webcam showing how long the line is. I’m sure that’s not goodburger’s favourite thing about itself, but none of its customers are complaining.

800 2nd Avenue
New York, NY 10017 (map)

The Shackenstein and Doughnut-Custard at Shake Shack – Theater District – American
Oct 6th, 2010 by plumpdumpling

I went to Shake Shack twice on Sunday. And not, like, for lunch and dinner, which would be totally acceptable. No, I went for dinner and then for a midnight snack. Except that it wasn’t actually midnight yet; it was more like 10:30. Anyway.

Shake Shack Cheeseburger and Vanilla Custard Concrete with Doughnut Plant Doughnut

The first time around, I had a cheeseburger with mayo and a vanilla custard with a Doughnut Plant doughnut mixed in. (My friend Sylvan added her fries to the photo to make me look at it later and think about how dumb I was not to have ordered some myself.)

For me, the burger was decidedly less-good than the ones from the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. It just didn’t seem as juicy nor as flavorful. And at first I was like, “Nah, that’s not possible,” but then I remembered that the Joe’s Shanghai in Midtown is universally declared worse than the Joe’s a couple of miles downtown in Chinatown. It’s still the burger I most want to eat in NYC, though.

And the Concrete with the doughnut mixed in was a treat. Sugary cake doughnut chunks of various sizes were swirled into their thick, sweet vanilla custard. Next time, I’d probably get hot fudge or another sauce added in just to make the doughnut more moist, but it wasn’t necessary by any means.

Shake Shack Shackenstein

A couple of hours later, after our bowling match, I came back with Sylvan and our other team member, Chris, and got the Shackenstein, this month’s special Sunday custard flavor. I’d seen so many “what is Shackenstein?” and “I almost want to go into the city on a Sunday sometime just to find out what Shackenstein is” blog posts that I felt like I had to try it.

It’s vanilla custard colored green and mixed with chocolate cake bits and chocolate what-tasted-like-cookie-dough-to-me. And hey, the mix-ins were pretty awesome and all, but when I get green desserts, I expect them to taste like mint or pistachio, and I don’t like to be played for a fool.

I’m coming back for the concord grape or pumpkin pie custard days to make this right.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarZero Stars

Shake Shack
300 West 44th Street
New York, NY 10036 (map)

Mark (St. Mark’s Burger) – Burgers – East Village
May 11th, 2010 by plumpdumpling

Mark is cheap, delicious, and comfortable. The menu is tiny: sliders, fries, chili, pie, milkshakes, beer. Hidden away under a staircase on St. Mark’s between 2nd and 3rd Aves., it’s a long, skinny place that looks like a bar but feels like a café, with an open front wall, little ottomans to sit on, and no crowd at all when I was there with my friends Meredith and Jordan.

St. Mark's Burger

Our waitress described these as “like White Castle but better”, which is an understatement. They do taste a bit like White Castle’s, but they’re at least twice the size, meaning you don’t need a sack of 10 to get full, and they don’t leave you feeling bad about yourself after you eat them.

The sliders come “regular”, covered with cheese and onions, or “bacon”, which means bacon is chopped and mixed into the ground beef. Meredith and I both agreed that the regular one was actually better, surprisingly. I don’t even generally love grilled onions so much (I prefer raw), but these perfectly blended with the juicy beef and soft bread.

St. Mark's Burger

The tables come equipped with four different fry-dipping sauces: chipotle ketchup, jalapeno, barbeque, and regular ketchup. The chipotle just hinted at chili flavor, but it was my favourite. Our fries were saturated with oil but still managed to be crispy on the outside with potato-y centers.

St. Mark's Burger

Don’t let the looks on these ladies’ faces confuse you–we all agreed that Mark is one of our best finds for NYC cheap eats.

33 Saint Marks Place
New York, NY 10003 (map)

Restaurant Review: Fresh-N-Fast Burgers
Dec 15th, 2009 by plumpdumpling

I was skeptical at first, but like many New Yorkers, I call the burger from Shake Shack in Madison Square Park my favourite in the city (and maybe tie it with the burger from Cozy Soup ‘n’ Burger in the West Village). So naturally when I heard the burgers from the new Fresh-N-Fast on 23rd St. compared to the ones at Shake Shack, I had to go. I also heard them called blatant ripoffs of California’s famous In-N-Out burgers, so I had to bring along my San Franciscan friend Beth to act as judge.

The problem was, um, that Beth had never actually eaten an In-N-Out burger, something which I probably should have cleared up before I, you know, invited her along to test the burger for me. Instead, she apparently always orders the grilled cheese, which is what she ordered from Fresh-N-Fast. I always used to order the grilled cheese from Sonic back in the day, so I won’t make fun of her, but I should mention that I was doing that during the eight years in which I was a VEGETARIAN and that NORMAL PEOPLE should not be ordering cheese sandwiches at a burger joint.

Aside from the grilled cheese, Fresh-N-Fast has the sparsest menu possible (burgers, fries, shakes) and decor to match (counter space along one wall but no chairs). The staff was very cheerful, which helped us excuse the unnaturally long time I had to wait for my burger. But oh, was it a burger worth waiting for: thick and juicy and sloppy with sauce with melted cheese oozing out of the sides of the bun. The overly-greasy (in a good way) fries reminded me of a county fair, but the cheese sauce wasn’t your usual processed nacho nastiness.

As much as I loved the burger, it was definitely hurt by the lack of the signature Shake Shack sauce, and there’s just no comparing the accouterments at the two places. The cheddar on the fries at Fresh-N-Fast is delicious, but the blend on the Shake Shack fries is special. The shakes at Fresh-n-Fast are thick and flavorful, but Shake Shack has the best shakes ever in flavors like Candy Cane Crunch and Figgy Pudding. Plus, Fresh-N-Fast is way overpriced, especially for the shake, which has already decreased in size since opening just a few weeks ago.

However, there’s exactly one reason to go to Fresh-N-Fast: it’s indoor, which means no waiting outside in the elements for a half an hour in the always-insane Shake Shack line. But that’s only if you think having your skin eaten away by the cold isn’t worth it for a superior burger. And I hope you don’t.

Fresh-N-Fast Burgers
111 East 23rd Street
New York, NY 10010 (map)

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