I recently recommended the burger at Veselka to a friend as a good burger in the East Village. Unfortunately, after eating it he didn't feel the same way.
My first reaction: NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
My second reaction after allowing my blood pressure to normalize: I can't be giving people crappy burger recs. I'll have to try it again.
Left without dinner plans last Sunday night, I went to Veselka to give it a go. In conclusion: Still good. Really good.
But before I go on, I should note that I'm not sure if the burger had succeeded merely on gustatory merits or if the mélange of unrelated demoralizing happenings coupled with low expectations had something to do with it. Maybe it was the gloomy, wet weather; maybe it was the unexpected MTA WTF-ery (aka subway rerouting); maybe it was the attempt to find a dining companion and coming up empty handed; maybe it was the lunch comprised mostly of pretzels and clementines (although that didn't make me sad, just hungry).
Or maybe I just got lucky and ended up with just the right patty at just the right doneness in just the right bun. That's how it felt.
Pink juices slowly dribbled out of the medium rare cheeseburger ($8; $7.50 without cheese) as I took photos of it. Good sign. It got better when I took my first bite: grilled smoky beef 'splosion. The flavor managed to blast through the barrier than is my perpetually mucus-blocked nose.
The bun, a brioche bun heavily coated in sesame seeds, is uniquely airy and soft, perhaps the lightest burger bun I've ever had and easily one of my favorites. But instead of being insubstantial, the sponge-like structure holds up to the patty and soaks in the juices without disintegrating. The sesame seeds add a hint of toasted nuttiness and a welcome layer of crunch around the edge, which helped make up for the lack of crust on the patty. And while the burger may not have needed the double slices of American cheese, an extra layer of semi-gooey fat never hurts.
Although I usually find eight-ounce burgers too large for one meal, I had no problem scarfing this one down—the patty was well seasoned and nearly every bite was juicy. My whole meal was shorter than the 45-ish minutes I spent on the subway to get there (yes, I need to chew more). I wasn't in a rush; I just really liked the burger. (If it means anything, for once I exercised restraint and didn't get the requisite burger side of french fries. In Robyn-land, that's eating in moderation.) The simple burger managed to lift my spirits on what would've otherwise been a wasted day.
For a more in depth review of this burger, read Nick's review on A Hamburger Today. Not everyone agrees with the praise—there are reports of inconsistencies, and I know Adam isn't a fan and Kathy isn't into the bun—but I'm definitely going back for another burger. (Veselka is primarily known for being a Ukrainian restaurant and understandably doesn't scream, "GET A BURGER," but if I want pierogies / goulash / stuffed cabbage / etc. I'd rather go to Lomzynianka in Greenpoint.)