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This way-downtown burger is a paragon of juiciness.
If America had a signature dish, what would it be? I think it must be the hamburger. And who doesn’t adore a juicy ground patty of beef, lamb, turkey, seafood, or vegetable substances in the mellow embrace of a good bun? In fact, the most common last meal requested by death row inmates is the cheeseburger, and it’s a favorite of office workers, too, who only feel like they’re on death row.
Here, then, are the 10 best (and often wildest) burgers I’ve eaten so far this year, from a list that includes dozens upon dozens.
10. Bacon Cheeseburger at Ulysses (shown above) — At this charming Stone Street gastropub, picnic tables spill out onto the cobbles, and a murmur goes up from the benches when one of these beauties flies by on a tray, the bacon sticking out at the sides like an unkempt mop of hair, the onions raw, crisp, and testifying to the perfection of purpleness. Finally, there’s the beef patty, nothing special except it has that ground-minutes-ago flavor and tastes as fresh as a spring meadow. 93 Pearl Street, 212-482-0400
9. Hamburg at Ootoya — Germans introduced the hamburger to the Lower West Side docks in the 1820s; eventually, it became bunned and added an “-er” to its name. Somehow, this original burger must have arrived in Japan sometime in the ’50s (my conjecture). Anyway, this historic Asian recipe floods a nicely cooked beef patty with enoki mushroom gravy. And the Japanese sides (pickles, chwanmushi, lumpy potato salad) turn out to be a boon in combating burger fatigue. 8 West 18th Street, 212-255-0018
8. Lamb Burger at Morgane — So you thought the tiny neighborhood bistro (as opposed to the big, brassy brasserie) was dead, huh? Even though it’s located on Bedford in Williamsburg, Morgane still manages to seem out of the way, doubly so in the shady backyard. There, enjoy a perfect lamb burger, pink in the middle and slabbed with goat cheese that’s coarse-textured and tart. You might hallucinate you’re standing on a hillside and talking to a shepherd. 340 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, 347-599-0699
The goat cheese makes an excellent complement to the lamb patty.
7. Peruvian Burger at Morocho — This humble cart, usually parked on the sidewalk of Union Square West, spends about 15 minutes on every burger. It’s got to sauté the sweet plantain, cook the thick ground-beef patty, and fry the egg just enough so the yolk bursts over the patty and dribbles on the bun. What a mess! But a delicious mess. 1 Union Square West, @NYCmorocho
6. Yellowfin Burger at Perry St — Sure this place’s regular burger is great (shown yesterday in a teaser post), but what really blew me away was the tuna burger, a perfect merging of yellowtail tartare and the burger ethos. The outside of the patty arrives nicely seared, while the interior is pure squish. The patty is topped with bonito mayonnaise and shiso leaf, sending it sprawling. And this being a Vongerichten joint, the homemade potato chips are perfect, too. 176 Perry Street,
5. Rendang Burger at Masak — Introduced by the Dutch centuries ago, beef is the signature meat of Sumatra and rendang its most perfect usage. In this case, Singaporean-inspired Masak turns it into a delicious burger, accompanied by “ketjap” (the original Southeast Asian ketchup) and turmeric-coated pickled vegetables. If you’re looking for a burger with all sorts of exotic flavors, this is a powerful contender. 432 East 13th Street, 212-260-6740
No babies were harmed in the making of Masak’s burger.
4. Bowery Special at Bowery Diner — The flagship burger at this agreeable updated French diner throws a stout plank of pastrami atop the ground-beef patty, then garnishes the pair with melted Swiss and grainy mustard, in a perfect conjoinment of two iconic New York foods. 241 Bowery, 212-388-0052
3. Breakfast Burger at Mile End Sandwich — Handily extending the temporal territory during which a burger can be enjoyed into the early morning, the wonderful breakfast burger features a savory veal sausage patty, runny fried egg, Quebecois muffin, and runaway slatherings of maple syrup and apple butter, touching base at “Healthy” and “Wholesome” while also being as artery-clogging as breakfast can be. 53 Bond Street, 212-529-2990
2. Cheeseburger at Peels — Grass-fed beef cooked just right, cave-aged cheddar for snap, and an assortment of hipster pickles right inside the bun to send the thing off on crazy jags of flavor. And the fries are A1, too. Tear into this one and make a mess. 325 Bowery, 646-602-7015
1. Marseille Burger at Marseille — Channeling the flavors of Provence, the thick, juicy burger comes with greenery and a slice of tomato of unsurpassed ripeness, the formidable patty — always done rare — capped with Gruyere, caramelized onions, and on top of it all, like snow on an alp, a thick mantle of homemade, way-garlicky aioli. Game, set, match. 630 Ninth Avenue, 212-333-2323
Summoning fin de siecle Paris at Marseille
And here’s what the insides look like. . . .
Follow me on Twitter — @robertsietsema