Saturday, May 5, 2007

National Burger Month Day 5 - The Burger Joint 3rd Ave.

Not to be confused with the celebrated Burger Joint at the Parker Meridian, this downtown hole in the wall caters to students, police cadets and people that work for a living. I wanted to like the Burger Joint as soon as I walked in. There are no Plasma TV screens, no faux designer furniture, no Formica cabinetry, no pretension, no gimmicks. There is just a modestly sized grill, a long wooden counter, raw brick walls, a couple of black and white photos and a quick and dirty coat of black paint. The menu is equally Spartan - Burgers, fries, shakes, cola and pie of the day. A gruff elderly gentleman, with a thick mop of silver hair and an equally thick New York accent takes your order. The Burgers are of the slider variety meaning that they are small little pucks of which three or four would equal a regular 7 or 8oz burger. Served on soft puffy potato rolls you can get cheese, onions and pickles on your burger but if you want lettuce or tomatoes or avocado or portabella mushrooms or Foi Gras you are probably in the wrong place. This is pure unabashed greasy American comfort food.

The burgers are cooked to order on a smoky, cramped, grill littered with onions, steam and grease vapors billow off the burgers as they sizzle and splatter under the heavy hand of the spatula operator. Being so small the burgers cook quite rapidly yet they are none the less quite thick for their size, resembling a small meatball as much a burger. The buns are perhaps a trifle over sized but do a good job of holding the little ball securely. I ordered three cheese burgers, all rare, one with pickles one with onions and one plain, fries and a vanilla shake. Unfortunately, and despite the relative thickness of the burgers, they where over cooked to beyond medium, the cheese however was completely unmelted, so at least that was rare. The outside of the patty was admittedly nicely browned but aside from being over cooked the quality of the meat was disappointing. It was rather grisly and seemed to lack fat content, although this may have been a product of being over cooked. Using pure sirloin, as they do, does not help as it tends to lack enough fat content. Perhaps most offensively there was a dark garlic/allspice like flavor to the burger that may have suggested it was spiced but more likely it is the result of flavoring from the charred onions strewn on the grill. The burger had a rather mealy consistency and was excessively dry, again not unlike a meatball. The potato bun was also little cold, it could have benefited from a little grill time. The whole experience can best be summed up as stogy.

Quite frankly I think you could easily replicate this burger at home with cheap supermarket ingredient, and be equally disappointed. Considering the price I suppose that the burgers at The Burger Joint could be considered a bargain on some level, but only if price is your bottom line. I really wanted to like this place, its basic formula could work so well, it is unpretentious and in many ways a throwback to the lunch counters of yore, but ultimately the burgers are stogy and generic. Regretfully, not recommended.

Burger Joint
241 Third Ave.
(bet. 19th & 20th Sts.)
Manhattan, NY

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