My favorite kind of burger is fast food-style (not actually from a fast food joint), but that preference doesn't dominate my Top 5 List. For a burger to stick in my mind, it should be on a squishy, appropriately-sized toasted bun whose texture doesn't interfere with the meat, and the patty should be well seasoned, have a bit of char on the outside, and be soft and preferably oozing with beef juice. That usually entails being cooked to medium rare, but if a place can cook a juicy well done burger, that's fine with me too.
1. Shake Shack: Griddled, buttered potato bun and a juicy, fat-oozing, well-salted patty with a crisp crust = by far my favorite burger in the city, or anywhere else for that matter. The four-ounce patty size is a plus; I like knowing that I can eat a Shack Burger and feel satisfied without going into a food coma. [Review] Madison Ave and East 23rd Street, New York NY 10010 (map); 212-889-6600; shakeshacknyc.com
2. Diner: This is the only place I've been to that buttered the crap out of their buns, resulting in one of my most memorable burger experiences. [Review] 85 Broadway, Brooklyn NY 11211 (map); 718-486-3077; dinernyc.com
3. Shopsins: Why the hell can't more places make sliders like Shopsins? Squishy potato roll + juicy meat plop + grilled onions + cheese ooze = the perfect burger morsel that's about 5 billion times better than White Castle. 120 Essex Street, New York NY 10002 (map); 212-924-5160; shopsins.com
4. Molly's Pub: I'd prefer that the burger weren't food coma-inducing huge (10 ounces—and I will eat it all), but I mostly remember it for its exceptional char and flavor. Definitely worth a food coma. [AHT review] 287 3rd Avenue, New York NY 10010; 212-889-3361; mollysshebeen.com
5. Veselka: The bun is an awesome uniquely airy chewy thing and the meat is an awesome fat juicy patty thing and they meld together quite harmoniously. For extra win, you can follow it up with BLINTZES! [AHT review] 144 2nd Avenue, New York NY 10003 (map); 212-228-9682; veselka.com
Recent Episodes in Extreme Shake Shack-ing
I'm sure I've talked about Shake Shack enough by now. "Shake Shack's my favorite, blah blah, delicious fat-laden bovine juices and stuff, liberal use of sodium, etc."
Way back when on August 4, I went on a Double Shack Stack mission with Lee Anne, Scott, and Nathalie. Lee Anne and I split the behemoth creation made of two cheeseburgers and a 'shroom burger topped with lettuce, tomato, and shack sauce. Result?
LIFE-CHANGINGLY AWESOME. Maybe. ...YES, DEFINITELY. It's like a regular, already-awesome Shack Burger enhanced to the 20th power with the substantial—yet at the same time delicate—crunch of deep fried portobello goodness and the gooey torrents of cheese that spurt out of the shroom's belly and smother every bite in lipid-based happiness.
August 4 was a damn good day.
The single-patty Shake Stack is another fine specimen of Shake Shack engineering. It may not reach the outermost stratosphere of moan-filled deliciousness as the double would due to the one less patty's worth of beefiness, but it gets close enough and has the plus of being a one-person meal. Not to say one person can't eat an entire double as well, but you have to draw the line somewhere.
..Hahaha what, I'm kidding; NO LINES HERE. Eat whatever the hell you want. Just not all the time.