Summer 2008 Challenge: To Find the Best Burger in New York City

I'm on a search to find the best burger in New York City. I don't know how conducive this challenge will be to my weight loss; however, sometimes in life we have to make sacrifices - and for women those sacrifices are generally manifested through a disfiguration of the body in some way. Oh well, it's for the greater good. Here's where I've been so far (followed by a list of places I will try next). I apologize in advance for not having photos of each burger.

The Stand
Nice buns!!! crispy, large brioche buns. The first thing I noticed on my cheeseburger that I didn't like was the shredded lettuce. I HATE shredded lettuce on a burger because it doesn't have much of a taste (I'm guessing it's usually cheap iceberg lettuce) and tends to fall off more. The bottom of the bun got a little soggy, I'm not totally sure why - maybe the caramelized onion something or other, but it didn't bother me that much because the top was a little toasted I think. Overall it was an expensive okay cheeseburger. Things of note, the onion rings are fried like tempura, on certain nights after 10:00 burgers are two for the price of one, and most importantly their milkshakes bring all the boys to the yard! Their milkshakes are so thick and tasty that I'm sure Mr. Daniel Plainview from There Will Be Blood would DEFINITELY drink your milkshake. If I had a third milkshake reference I would use it, but I can't think of any more. Anyway, I chose the banana and will be back to try the toasted marshmallow.

Corner Bistro
I really like the mahogany bar atmosphere of this place, though it is really tight quarters, very loud, and a long wait. I enjoyed the burger immensely, I just wish there were a little more of it. It felt like my southern brother-in-law's tasty grilled burgers. Like I said it was slightly smaller than I had expected, but there was no shredded lettuce on this one!

Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridian
I remember the excitement the first time I went here years ago. I had heard about the famous burger joint (no exact phrase intended) located in a secret part of a nice hotel behind a curtain. Behind a curtain! It was like being Toto and spying on Oz all over again. Whatever, I just wanted to pull away enormous curtains to hopefully reveal burger Narnia if you will. I remember thinking once on the other side of the veil that the place looked kinda dumpy - a stark contrast to the pristine marble lobby of the Le Parker Meridian. Don't get me wrong, I like that whole-in-the-wall look; it didn't distract me from my real purpose in going there...the burger. I remember thinking, the burger was alright. Everyone raved about it, but you have to remember this was the first burger I had in the city since moving from the South where grilling out is pretty much a sacred ceremony. I went back a few years after that and liked the burger, but noticed it had lost some weight if you catch my drift. I'll go back. It's fun to take visitors there. I think more so because of the whole curtain, Oz, surprise thing.

Paul's is a pretty good burger and it's even better because it's a hop skip and a jump away from my doorstep. It's not the prettiest looking place, but I really like the ornaments they have hanging from the ceiling, the men grilling the burgers behind the bar, and especially the giant statues of a burger and french fries outside the front door of the restaurant. It's also nice because it's not saturated with tourists, or always a long wait to get in. If you're in the East Village you should swing by - I don't know that I would say it's a place someone living in Inwood should travel down for (unless you too are on a best burger hunt), but it's a hardy burger.

Shake Shack
We've all been there. It's a great cheap burger. The first time I went there, the burger I ordered wasn't so good, but I think it's because I didn't like their special sauce. I'm pretty sure since then I only order a regular cheeseburger. The concrete ice cream stuff is good too. I still don't totally understand the difference between concrete and regular ice cream, though. It seems like another word to describe thick ice cream. Its always a long wait, but if it's a nice day it doesn't really matter. Besides, who can resist eating a burger outside in the park with white lights strung above you and the occasional firefly around you.

Blue 9
It used to be better. Now it's a little closer to a fast food burger in my opinion.

Johnny Rockets
I know they're a chain and anyone can get one, but I have to say it's a pretty good little burger and I can't seem to shake the whole 50s nostalgia theme (nor the mini juke boxes). It's worth mentioning 'cause it's in the city.

Oh the places I'll go this summer:
J.G. Mellon
P.J. Clark's
Island Burgers
Chelsea Grill
The Stoned Crow
Better Burger
Donovan's Pub (Queens)
Dumont Burger (Brooklyn)
Burgers and Cupcakes
Five Guys

Please feel free to add restaurants to the list in the comments section as well as any additional thoughts or experiences you've had with burger hunting in the city.


The Most Unforgettable Date I've Ever Had

Can be summed up in one word, "Medjool." What is Medjool? Medjool is a type of date (the fruit) and my newest favorite food find. I can't believe I'm only now experiencing this fruit for the first time in my life. Let me share my discovery story with you.

I discovered them while babysitting at a French family's home a couple of weeks ago. They had a little FreshDirect bag of them sitting out on the counter. I would have never tried one because they look like dried, shriveled, ugly, brown, prunes (which I do like), but they were offered to me by the mom of the house so I politely accepted one. I had no idea what kind of addiction was about to surface after that first bite. It is a moment that will forever change my life. I couldn't believe how perfectly perfect this taste in my mouth was. I know that sentence is grammatically incorrect, but it is true.

The texture was a little different than I had expected - not bad - a bit chewy, slightly stringy on the inside, but filled with some sort of sugary crystalline element. It was, of course, the taste that got me - seriously, surprisingly, super good - like homemade Divinity! I thought, "how did they make these things? They must have soaked them in some sort of buttery brown sugar sauce." So I checked the back of the package for a list of ingredients. I saw no "ingredients" section and thought that's either a mistake or Fresh Direct did not want to disclose their secret ingredients. But it's illegal in America to not list ingredients, right? Well, I was pretty sure it was illegal and wondered, "could it be that something on earth grows this naturally candyesque? Could it really be just one ingredient? Could it really be some sort of fruit known to man (and woman) as a date? Could it?" It was as if mom's famous Thanksgiving sweet potatoes were cram-packed into a small, dried-looking, shriveled, ugly, brown, prune-shaped container. Only, there was no wrapper to throw away once eaten, no sodium or cholesterol added, nothing but nature's candy. Nature's candy indeed.

Ladies and gentlemen, that day changed my life and I'm 100% sure that it will change yours as well if you heed my advice and purchase Medjool dates. You may not know me, but I plead with you to trust me on this. If your doubtful, then let this piece of information about myself clear your mind: 50% of my diet consists of mouthwatering chocolate, sweet candy concoctions, and other fatty treats; therefore I am no health nut. I do not promote any food that in no way satisfies my 10,000 taste buds. So on that note, let me just say two things: I will probably be diagnosed with Diabetes by the age of 40 and may I introduce to you my favorite date: the Medjool. Now go take one out for yourself!