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The New York Burger Appreciation Society (NYBAS): Burger Heaven

Burger number three from the New York Burger Appreciation Society (only one left!) showed up at my office recently. (For those of you who have no clue what this mysterious burger society is, check out my previous post.)

Burger Heaven – 9 East 53rd Street, Manhattan, New York

Burger number three was from Burger Heaven. From their menu, I received:

  • Cheeseburger
  • Fries
Cheeseburger and Fries
Cheeseburger and Fries

This burger came packed together in an aluminum tray with the fries, along with lettuce and tomato – your typical run-of-the-mill burger delivery.

This burger was loaded with cheese. So much so, that it was dripping off the sides of the burger. It was perfectly cooked and wasn’t overflowing with juices, something that many burgers often do. The medium/medium-rare burger melted in my mouth during each bite, but unfortunately, it didn’t have as much taste as I would have liked. It felt like something was missing. The burger reclaimed some of what it was missing with the bun. It came on a potato bun that was lightly sprinkled with salt on top. Big win for the bun.

Cheeseburger
Perfectly Cooked Cheeseburger

The fries were also just mediocre. They were slightly soggy – always a problem with delivery fries – and didn’t have a lot of crunch to them. They also didn’t have any salt on them. I don’t mind putting salt on myself, but no salt just leaves fries plain and tasteless.

The Verdict

Burger Heaven failed to live up to its name. Yes, I was eating a burger, but no, I wasn’t in heaven. The cheeseburger was average and tasted like it was missing something. The fries were soggy and didn’t have any salt/flavor to them. All in all, I wasn’t impressed by Burger Heaven and I won’t be order, or heading back, to them again.

Burger Heaven on Urbanspoon

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The New York Burger Appreciation Society (NYBAS): Black Shack Burger

Continuing to fuel my love of burgers, burger number two from the New York Burger Appreciation Society showed up at my office the other week. (For those of you who have no clue what this mysterious burger society is, check out my previous post.)

Black Shack Burger – 320 Lexington Avenue, Manhattan, New York

Burger number two was from Black Shack Burger. I received:

  • Black Shack: lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles, ketchup, mayo, mustard
  • Fries

In food delivery, presentation is almost equally as important as the food itself. Black Shack burger seems to have this down as the the burger and fries came in two nice packaged cardboard boxes. Not only did this look good, but it prevented the fries from getting soggy (one of the biggest disappointments with delivery fries).

This entire meal had me thinking I was sitting in a McDonald’s somewhere. The burger and fries looked and tasted nearly identical to their counterparts at the Golden Arches.

Black Shack Burger
Black Shack Burger

The burger consisted of a very thin patty topped with cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, chopped onion, ketchup, mustard and mayo all sitting between two toasted buns. The burger didn’t last very long because the patty was so thin, but it was cooked perfectly medium rare and was very tender. The toasted bun gave the burger a nice crunch and this was amplified by the chopped onion. The mayo and mustard are two condiments I typically don’t put on my burgers so this was different for me. However, the mayo overpowered the other condiments and the only reason I knew they were in there is from Black Shack’s description. With all these condiments and toppings, devouring this burger was a messy few minutes to say the least.

Black Shack Fries
Black Shack Fries

The fries, once again, were reminiscent of McDonald’s. They were long and thin, and very salty. They had a crisp crunch to them at each bite. Absolutely delicious, even though I felt like I was overdosing on sodium.

The Verdict

The Black Shack Burger and fries are a seemingly mirror image of McDonald’s. This isn’t a bad thing either. There’s a reason McDonald’s has been around so long. The burger was perfectly cooked and had a good overall flavor, despite it being very thing and extremely messy. The fries are what I liked the most. Heavily salted, crunchy fried deliciousness. These fries are a keeper.

Black Shack Burger on Urbanspoon

AYCD (and Eat) at Mel’s Burger Bar

Restaurant: Mel’s Burger Bar – 2850 Broadway, Manhattan, New York

When I heard there is a place in New York City that offers all you can drink beer plus all you can eat wings and sliders for $24.95, I had to check it out. That place is Mel’s Burger Bar.

Atmosphere

Mel’s Burger Bar is a restaurant at heart. I was there for a birthday party and our group of about 15 people clearly stood out among the other diners eating (we weren’t the quietest group). Don’t let that make you think the place is quiet. The restaurant is definitely energetic with waiters/waitresses running around and groups of friends and families happily chowing down on food.

Mel's Burger Bar
Mel’s Burger Bar

Mel’s Burger Bar is a big place. The interior has a black and white checkered tile floor that is covered with lots of tables (for 140 people to be exact). A bar sits in the center with even more seating. The theme here is exposed brick. The interior is flanked with exposed brick and wood ceiling beams. Adding to the atmosphere is an illuminated six-foot tall sign reminding you where you are.

Food

We were here for the all you can drink beer plus all you can eat wings and sliders deal. I was unsure what this would end up looking like since some restaurants with similar deals often disappoint. However, Mel’s Burger Bar was the exact opposite.

The sliders came out three to a plate. They were individually wrapped in paper and topped with cheese, a slice of tomato, onions and pickles. The sliders were a very good size and much bigger than I was expecting. They were very tender, juicy and perfectly cooked. The buns were regular white hamburger buns so nothing special there, but overall, these sliders were delicious.

Sliders at Mel's Burger Bar
Sliders

The wings were equally as good. The presentation of the wings was what really caught my eye. They came out in a basket with chives sprinkled on top, giving the impression of gourmet wings. Once again, better than I was expecting. You had the option of getting barbecue, hot or regular wings. I opted for the hot wings and they packed a little bit of a punch. I greedily downed these wings and kept them coming.

The sliders and wings were delicious and left me extremely stuffed. After three plates of each, I felt like I was ready to explode.

Service

Our waiter kept the beer flowing and the sliders and wings coming. Our entire group never had an empty glass and as the day progressed, sliders and wings just started showing up without us even having to ask. The waiter also readily joked around with us and wasn’t shy speaking up in order to be heard among our loud group – much appreciated. The service couldn’t have been any better.

Value

You get all you can drink beer plus all you can eat sliders and wings for $24.95. Tell me what’s a better value than that? Six plates of food and many beers later, I felt disgusting, but got more than my money’s worth.

If you’re someone that likes to do the math, sliders are around $12 and wings are $11. So if you get a plate of each, you’ve already nearly met the price of this special.

The Verdict

I like to eat and I’m not shy about eating mass quantities of food. The all you can drink/all you can eat deal at Mel’s Burger Bar is an incredible deal. The food blows away your expectations and you’re left in amazement as they bring out plate after plate of unlimited food. The service is equally as good. This was some of the best money I’ve spent on food recently. I highly recommend Mel’s Burger Bar and this special. I will be back and want to try some of the other items on the menu.

Mel's Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

The ‘dam Brings Back Marist Memories

Restaurant: The ‘dam – 998 Amsterdam Avenue, Manhattan, New York

I graduated from Marist College (go Red Foxes!) back in 2007. When I heard the owner of the ‘dam was married to a Marist graduate, and there is a Marist-inspired drink on the menu, how could I not check it out?

Atmosphere

The 'dam
The ‘dam

Hailey and I visited the ‘dam on a Tuesday night looking for a relaxing meal along with a few drinks. The ‘dam was the perfect setting. The restaurant/bar is long and narrow, with a bar lining the right hand side as you walk in and tables lining the left. The fully stocked bar has a television to its right, for sports fans looking to catch the game. Exposed brick surrounds you as you take a seat at the bar or grab one of the eight or so tables lit by candlelight. Overall, the place is dimly lit but there are a few clear hanging light bulbs that help to supplement the table candles. Board games sit on one shelf nearby, and these, along with the overall atmosphere of the place, encourage you to hunker down and stay for a while. There is no rush here.

Food

The ‘dam has daily food and drink specials. On Tuesday, the deal was 2 for 1 apps, drafts and specialty cocktails. Perfect. We took full advantage of this and went to town.

The Red Fox Drink The 'dam new york city
The Red Fox

First things first, I had to order the Red Fox cocktail (despite the fact it was bright red and I was a little embarrassed to be drinking it).

  • The Red Fox: Bacardi Silver and Myers Dark with Sprite, Grenadine, and pineapple. A Shirley Temple with a twist.

The bartender at the ‘dam must have a heavy pour because this drink was strong. It definitely did look like a Shirley Temple (once again, embarrassed) but the vodka and rum took it to another level. The Red Fox was delicious.

Mac and Cheese Tots
Mac and Cheese Tots

Onto the food. We ordered:

  • Mac and Cheese Tots
  • Bacon Wrapped Shrimp: pan roasted shrimp wrapped in bacon served with a roasted chipotle red pepper sauce
  • ‘dam Burger: 8oz of angus beef topped with cheddar cheese and a caramelized bacon onion remoulade on a toasted potato bun
  • Grilled Chicken Sandwich: grilled marinated chicken breast topped with provolone cheese, bacon, lettuce, and tomato on a toasted baguette with herb mayo
Bacon Wrapped Shrimp
Bacon Wrapped Shrimp

The Mac and Cheese Tots were delicious. Six fried balls of macaroni came out topped with tiny pieces of bacon and drizzled with a cheese sauce. Cheese exploded in your mouth upon biting into one of these and this, combined with the bacon, gave this appetizer a great flavor. The other appetizer, Bacon Wrapped Shrimp, was equally as good. Six shrimp wrapped in bacon were placed around the chipotle red pepper sauce. The shrimp were well cooked and the red pepper sauce had a slight kick to it which I loved. Lesson learned from the appetizers: everything is better with bacon.

The 'dam Burger
The ‘dam Burger

I ordered the burger for my entree. I’m a huge fan of burgers and this one didn’t disappoint. The burger was cooked exactly as ordered – medium rare – and came topped with a healthy amount of cheddar cheese, sauteed onions and bacon. This burger was very juicy and practically melted in my mouth. The ample amount of cheese, onions and bacon only enhanced the flavor of the meat, with the bacon providing a nice crunch to each bite. (Side note, the bacon was well cooked, exactly how I like my bacon – bonus points for that!) The bun was perfectly toasted and didn’t fall apart at all throughout my entire assault on this sandwich.

The burger was accompanied by a side of Parmesan truffle fries. These fries had a heavy does of Parmesan cheese on them and were very crispy. The cheese made them addictive and I greedily quickly devoured all of them.

Service

The service was great. We were some of the only people dining at the tables (everyone else was at the bar) so the waitress was quick to help. She quickly brought us our drinks, food and made sure everything was to our liking. She also joked around with me about the Red Fox drink and how, despite the girliness of it, I had to order it since I was a graduate.

Value

The food and drinks were all reasonably priced. Plus, the 2 for 1 Tuesday night special brought down the cost of the meal considerably, with our appetizers and drinks essentially half price.

The Verdict

The ‘dam was the perfect spot for a relaxing, casual and low key dinner and drinks. The food was very good and a notch higher than your typical pub fare and there are some unique drinks that give you the option of experimenting a little if you wish. The ‘dam conveys comfort. The staff doesn’t rush you out the door and makes small talk with the customers, something that really shows the character of a place. With a drink named after my alma mater, I’ll definitely be back. I recommend you give the ‘dam a try as well.

The 'dam on Urbanspoon

The New York Burger Appreciation Society (NYBAS): Blue 9 Burger

What’s the New York Burger Appreciation Society (NYBAS) you ask? Only one of the best presents ever given. (Thanks, Hailey.)

The NYBAS seeks out the best best burgers in Manhattan and delivers them straight to you once a week on the day of your choosing. Fries can also be added because what’s a burger without fries? The burger arrives fresh out of the kitchen and ready for you to scarf down. Later that afternoon, NYBAS sends out an email explaining where the burger was from and a little bit about it the burger itself or restaurant. Best yet, tax, tip, delivery and all that jazz are included so no need to bring your wallet when you greet the delivery guy.

So without further ado, onto burger number one from Blue 9 Burger.

Restaurant: Blue 9 Burger – 92 3rd Avenue, Manhattan, New York

Triple Decker Burger and Fries
Triple Decker Burger and Fries

The burger from Blue 9 Burger was its Triple Decker Burger. Talk about a way to kick off four weeks of burger delivery.

  • Triple Decker Burger: three patties with melted American cheese, grilled onions, lettuce, pickles and mustard

Blue 9 Burger can be considered somewhat of a fast food place and it showed. This burger was greasy, with the paper wrapping soaking up a good amount of it. Three patties were layered on top of each other with each one receiving a generous and nicely melted portion of American cheese. Caramelized onions and mustard topped the burger and a perfectly toasted bun rounded out this concoction. It’s important to note that the patties weren’t incredibly thick (think slightly larger than McDonald’s size) so the burger wasn’t too big to bite into.

Triple Decker Burger
Triple Decker Burger

The burger was very cheesy and very juicy. The meat was definitely fresh and tender, basically melting in my mouth after each bite. Kudos to Blue 9 Burger on that. There was also a strong flavor of mustard in each bite which I typically don’t get on burgers so that was something new – I didn’t hate it. The bun was just a regular white bun but the fact that it was toasted brought it up a notch. As a whole, the sandwich was pretty sloppy but that’s to be expected when you pile three patties on top of each other and load them with cheese.

A side of fries accompanied the burger. Despite being delivery, they were still somewhat crunchy which was a huge plus. Similar to the burger, the fries were very greasy but they weren’t overly salted so they get points for that.

The Verdict

Blue 9 Burger is on the same level as Five Guys Burgers and Fries. The burger was perfectly cooked and hit the spot. Despite it being greasy and sloppy, the cheese and mustard really kicked in and gave it a good overall flavor. The bun was also perfectly toasted which provided a nice crunch to contrast the tender meat. If I had a choice between Five Guys or Blue 9 Burger, the choice is easily Five Guys, however, I won’t hesitate to hit up Blue 9 Burger again if I come across it.

Blue 9 Burger on Urbanspoon

The Second Time Around: 5 Napkin Burger

5 Napkin Burger – Various Locations

5 Napkin Burger Astoria New Menu
New Menu at 5 Napkin Burger in Astoria

Earlier this year I shared my thoughts on what I consider to be one of the best burgers around, 5 Napkin Burger. I recently headed back to their Astoria location and lo and behold, they have a new menu! It doesn’t look like the new menu has been changed online yet but you can check out a picture of it here. The real changes are the additions of various ‘small plates’ and flatbreads.

I of course wasn’t going to pass up trying some of these new ‘small plates’ which now include fried calamari, deviled eggs, and cocktail shrimp.

Off the new menu I ordered:

  • Warm Bavarian Pretzel Stick: beer and cheese fondue
  • Pimento Cheese Potato Skins: bacon and sour cream
Small Plates at 5 Napkin Burger Astoria
Warm Bavarian Pretzel Stick and Pimento Cheese Potato Skins

In typical 5 Napkin Burger fashion, these were both delicious. The pretzel stick came out piping hot and had a crispy outer shell with a soft inside. The beer and cheese fondue had a kick to it which I did not expect but definitely welcomed. The fondue was not as smooth as I had hoped it to be and hopefully that will be something they iron out in the coming weeks – nobody likes a chunky fondue. The potato skins were very good as well. They come out five on a plate and are small, so don’t expect to fill up on them, but deliver a lot of flavor. I half expected these to be your typical frozen potato skins you pop in the oven. However, they were more than that. The pimento cheese, similar to the beer and cheese fondue, gave them a slight kick and the cold sour cream offset this nicely.

The Verdict

From what we were told, the new menu is only at the Astoria 5 Napkin Burger location right now. I’m not sure if they’re planning on expanding it to the other locations but the new additions give eaters a lot more options for appetizers before diving into their incredible burgers. Come on out to Astoria and try them out!

Five Napkin Burger on Urbanspoon

Merchants River House Delivers Down in the Financial District

Merchants River House – 375 South End Avenue, Manhattan, New York

Merchants River House is an American bistro situated right on the Hudson River down in the Financial District. Looking for lunch the weekend my family was visiting New York City, we wandered in to check it out.

I’ll admit, I was initially a little skeptical about Merchants River House and thought that we may be walking right into a tourist trap – with it being right on the water and all. However, I was completely wrong. The atmosphere, service and food were all incredibly well done and we had a great extended lunch as we enjoyed buckets of beer and a pitcher of Firefly Sweet Tea spiked lemonade.

Warm Spinach and Artichoke Dip
Warm Spinach and Artichoke Dip

The restaurant has both outdoor and indoor seating areas. Luckily, it was a perfect end-of-summer day so my family and I decided to sit outside. The views from the outdoor area of this restaurant are incredible. You have clear views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and New Jersey across the Hudson. There are also plenty of oversized umbrellas to provide shade from the sun should you need it and to help keep you comfortable. Our waiter, whose name I can’t remember, also set the right atmosphere with a great demeanor, ensuring we had an overall good time.

For food, I ordered:

  • Warm Spinach and Artichoke Dip: with corn tortilla chips
  • Merchant’s Signature Burger: vermont white cheddar, apple wood bacon, caramelized onions, spicy bbq sauce
  • Pitcher of Firefly Sweet Tea Spiked Lemonade and buckets of beer (no, I’m not an alcoholic, we shared these)

Starting with the appetizer, the spinach and artichoke dip was delicious. When it first came out there was unmelted cheese on top giving the appearance that it may have been cold.

Merchant's Signature Burger
Merchant’s Signature Burger

However, after digging in, it was piping hot. The highlight of this appetizer was the corn tortilla chips. There weren’t the traditional chips you expect. Instead, they seemed to be homemade, fried tortilla strips. They had such a great flavor to them you could have easily eaten them alone, without the spinach and artichoke dip.

Now onto the best part of the meal, the burger. When I read the description of the Merchant’s Signature Burger I immediately knew I was ordering it. This burger has everything I ideally want on a burger and was screaming my name. It came out perfectly cooked-to-order and had ample amounts of bacon, cheddar and onions which gave it an incredible flavor. The bbq sauce added a nice spiciness to the overall flavor. The roll also complemented the sandwich. It wasn’t crunchy or hard and the perfect size for the burger, allowing you to easily get an entire bite in without it falling apart.

The Verdict

Merchants River House completely surprised me. What I thought was a possible tourist trap turned into one of the better meals I’ve had down in the financial district. The Merchant’s Signature Burger is the epitome of my ideal burger and the fact that I didn’t need to go about adding additional toppings to get this combination makes it a winner in my book. On top of it all, the service and atmosphere was perfect. They let us enjoy the incredible view of the Hudson and New York City landmarks while taking the time to enjoy our meal and hang around after for some additional drinks. I definitely will be coming back and recommend this restaurant to anyone looking for a meal down in FiDI.

Merchants River House on Urbanspoon

5 Napkin Burger

5 Napkin Burger – Various Locations

One of my favorite burger places in New York City, or anywhere for that matter, is 5 Napkin Burger. This is a small chain restaurant with locations throughout New York City as well as Boston, Miami and Atlanta. While a burger from a place with a bunch of locations may not be immediately thought of as something you’ll remember, I encourage you to give 5 Napkin Burger a try. You won’t be disappointed.

Original 5 Napkin Burger and Sweet Potato Fries
Original 5 Napkin Burger and Sweet Potato Fries

I’ve been to the 5 Napkin Burger locations in Manhattan but most recently I checked out their location in Astoria, Queens. If you live around the Astoria area this is the location to go to. You avoid all the lines, crowds and tough Friday/Saturday night reservations that are a commonplace at the Manhattan locations and can stroll right in any night and there will be a table welcoming you.

The interior of the restaurant in Astoria is similar to its Manhattan counterparts. The floor is made of tile and there is a long bar sparsely filled with people enjoying either a drink, meal or some combination of both. There are also meat hooks hanging from the ceiling which adds to the look and feel of the restaurant. In the Astoria restaurant there is also a lot of space between tables and booths. You aren’t squashed next to another table trying to carefully navigate your way between spaces when you get up or sit down. Open space is key and they embrace it.

Now the best part, the food. I ordered:

  • Original 5 Napkin Burger: 10 oz. fresh ground beef, gruyere cheese, caramelized onions, rosemary aioli
  • Sweet Potato Fries
Original 5 Napkin Burger
Original 5 Napkin Burger

When it comes to what I order at this place, I’ll admit, I’m pretty boring. I always order the same burger and fries. But why would I change? The Original 5 Napkin Burger is consistently incredible, to say the least. The gruyere cheese, caramelized onions and rosemary aioli sit atop the burger and as soon as you bite in they run together with the juices of the meat. The burger is always perfectly cooked to your liking and the bun only adds to the experience as it challenges you to try to fit everything in your mouth at once. You truly do need five napkins to wipe off your hands after you’re done. Not to be outdone, the sweet potato fries are perfectly cooked with just the right amount of crispiness. They also are nicely salted, bringing you back each time for another handful.

The Verdict

After reading this review, it should be no surprise that I rate 5 Napkin Burger as one of my top go-to burger joints in New York City. I have never had a bad experience at any location and the food continues to impress. I highly recommend giving 5 Napkin Burger a try, but if you’re in Manhattan, book a reservation early because they fill up fast! I definitely will be back (many times).

Five Napkin Burger on Urbanspoon

Now That’s What I Call A Burger

Dakota Roadhouse – 43 Park Place, Manhattan, NY

Move over burger joints in New York City, I think I may have found my new love.

For my friend Kim’s birthday last month she picked Dakota Roadhouse in the Financial District for some celebratory drinks. Dakota Roadhouse is a dive bar at its finest. The bar is outfitted with a pool table, darts, projection screen showing everything from sports to cartoons, and random decorations that just don’t seem to have a place. Even better, there are some great deals:

  • Mondays from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. the bartender flips a coin for whether you have to pay for your drink
  • Thursdays you can get a bucket of beers for $13

Luckily, Kim decided to have her drinks on a Thursday. Coincidence? I think not.

Dakota Roadhouse
Cheeseburger at Dakota Roadhouse

I wasn’t expecting on getting any food but I’m glad I did. Dakota Roadhouse has a small kitchen outfitted on one side of the bar where you can get some of the most unhealthy bar food you want. I immediately jumped on a cheeseburger and onion rings.

The cheeseburger was out of this world! It was enormous and perfectly cooked, with juices overflowing. It was also loaded with lots of cheese expertly melted over the entire burger. Dakota Roadhouse also put its burgers on English muffins. This gave it a nice crunch when you bit into it which a traditional hamburger bun wouldn’t have provided – I’m a fan. The onion rings were also delicious. They were a good size and the fried coating was very flaky, something I love about onion rings at certain places. While the burger probably wasn’t the healthiest thing I could have eaten, the onion rings most certainly were not. When I finished them there was a clear puddle of oil and grease at the bottom of the basket they came in. Slightly off-putting but some more $13 buckets of beer quickly helped me forget about it.

The Verdict

If you consider yourself a burger connoisseur or just plain love burgers, go to Dakota Roadhouse, now. This burger was delicious and definitely has entered the ranks as one of my favorites. Next time I’m down in the Financial District and looking for a place for a quick, inexpensive (around $8) bite to eat, Dakota Roadhouse will be on my list. I definitely will be back.

Dakota Roadhouse on Urbanspoon

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