Sunday, July 19, 2009

Burger Fridays

There are so many good burgers to be had in the city. Just ask the Burger Club from the NYTimes, read one of the latest articles from NYMag or check out Grub City's list of the city's 82 most notable burgers. It seems sort of overwhelming, as I want to try them all and not compromise my recent attempts to eat healthier. I think I've found the perfect plan of attack though: Friday afternoons, one new burger spot. I have half day Fridays in the summertime so its a great time to just sit and relax. Plus, I've found a burger with lots of bacon and cheese to be a pretty good reward for eating well during the weekdays.

I had my first burger of the summer at Dumont Burger. This place is fairly well-known as Williamsburg's favorite spot for a good bun and patty, so of course I felt the need to verify this loose claim. But honestly I wasn't terribly impressed, though it was a good, high chunk of meat. The ingredients were all very fresh (I tried mine with guacamole and grilled onions) but the meat was a bit overcooked. The saving grace here was the mac 'n' cheese -- simply incredible. My favorite kind of pasta (radiatore) that perfectly holds the thick cheese and crispy bacon in its folds, saturating it with cheesy perfection. I'm not usually a fan of heavy duty mac 'n' cheeses, but this one was amazing.

Dumont Burger
314 Bedford Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211
(718) 384-6128
Next stop was Joy Burger Bar in Harlem. Rob works near here and comes here a lot for lunch, so I joined him one Friday after work. Maybe I'm a tough burger critic, but again I wasn't all that impressed. There's no table service, you just wait in line and order at the counter. Very similar to Goodburger, although I have to admit I like Goodburger more (even though its crazy overpriced). Even if its slightly crowded when you get there, you'll have to wait forever because they make each burger to order. Munch (3 oz), midi (5 oz) or maxi (8 oz), then topped with whatever sauce you want (and they do have a nice selection of those). On my first visit I got the midi with garlic mayo and sauteed onions. The garlic mayo was pretty watery, and I couldn't even detect any garlicky taste. The burger was flat and the overcooked parts were gray and dripping with grease. My stomach didn't feel so great afterwards. On my next trip I swapped the mayo for some chimichurri sauce, which definitely improved the overall taste, though the meat was still flat and grayish. I think the medium-sized patty was too slim for it to have any hope of pink after it was ordered to medium doneness. It's too bad, but my stomach fared much better this time, even with a half order of mozzerella sticks. And at about $6 for a medium sized burger, the price is right here.

Joy Burger Bar
1567 Lexington Ave
New York, NY 10029
(212) 289-6222

Well, I guess the third time's the charm, because Prune absolutely blew me away. Maybe its because Prune figured out the perfect calculations for an ideal mound of ground meat: 80% beef and 20% lamb. Maybe its because I felt confident ordering the burger the way I really like it: medium rare. Maybe its the parsley-scallion butter that pares so well with the cheddar. Or maybe it's because of the English muffin. I've never been a big fan of bready hamburger buns -- they never add much to the burger equation anyway -- and I found the English muffin to be a great bun substitute. The greasy pink juices (which squirt out every which way upon every bite) settle into the crevices nicely, and the thin halves take up minimal room, so much of your bite is straight up beef and lamb. Put a small slice of cheddar cheese on top and a strip of bacon on the bottom and I think I found my favorite NYC burger yet. Much better than Five Napkin. Better than Luger's, even. Yeah... I said it. And I'm not taking it back.

54 E. 1st St.
New York, NY 10003

Thursday, July 2, 2009

North Brooklyn Treasures -- Coffee, Ice Cream, and Movie Sets

On nice days after work, I like to take the 7 train to Vernon Jackson in Queens and then walk home over the Pulaski Bridge. Not only do I get a good 20 minutes of walking off the day, I get to explore one of my favorite areas -- the northernmost tip of Greenpoint. I'm not really sure why this place fascinates me so much. I guess it amazes me that such a very convenient area of Brooklyn has remained totally industrial, save for a few culinary gems that I've come to cherish. When walking alongside the huge warehouses and remote fish markets and who knows what else, all of a sudden you're in a neighborhood with delis and pharmacies and flowers in the window. I find it strangely inspiring.

Commercial Street looks exactly like it sounds, and stretches across Greenpoint as the last street before Newtown Creek. While there's not a whole lot going on, it has its perks. One of Commercial Street's best feature right now is the construction of an old timey Atlantic City boardwalk in one of the empty lots for HBO's upcoming show, Boardwalk Empire (exciting!). Here's a look at it had progressed the last time I wandered by:

The other, probably more important reason to visit Commercial Street: the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, which opened last November. The Nicky Hilton to its attention-loving sister at the Brooklyn Bridge, you never have to wait in line for a cone here. The ice cream is light and simple, not in the least rich or heavy tasting, probably because they don't use eggs in their recipe. I haven't tried any complex flavors yet -- only vanilla, chocolate, and coffee -- but they sure hit the mark on the traditional flavors.

Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory
97 Commercial St
Brooklyn, NY 11222
(718) 349-2506

From Commercial Street heading down, the streets are named alphabetically (Ash St., Box St., etc.). Keep in mind that my street, Greenpoint Ave, is the exception and should really be "Leanpoint" Ave (and, to confuse things further, the "G" street is of course called Green). So with that little geographical lesson in mind, I introduce Ashbox, the Japanese coffee shop on Manhattan Ave between Ash and Box, a good ten blocks away from home. Because of its distance -- and the fact that its closed on Sundays, after 6pm on weekdays and basically every other convenient time -- I don't get to visit Ashbox often. And that's unfortunate.

I don't know where all the patrons come from, but this place sure gets packed on a Saturday morning. Luckily though, it doesn't seem like it at all because everyone stays unusually hushed, often with their laptop, for some work time or quiet time, I suppose. Soft piano music plays from the speakers. People sip on homemade tea and nosh on homemade tofu salad or other healthy, semi Asian-style goodies. And where else can you find Japanese fluffy bread?

I ordered an iced coffee one morning while looking up movies for us to see at the MOMA. It was nice and strong, perfect for preventing wateryness when the ice starts to melt. Rob's hot chocolate tasted amazing, with hints of spices neither of us could even identify. The only problem was that 75% of the cup was foam. Very tasty foam, but foam nonetheless.

1154 Manhattan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11222
(718) 389-3222

If you ever feel like taking a random stroll to a quiet area in our fair borrough, this is your place. But keep in mind you have to walk all the way back to India Street for the G train's last stop in Brooklyn.