Since McHale's closed it's doors in early 2006, my friends and I have been on a search for a hamburger that could help fill the hole in hearts and stomachs left by it's loss. McHale's burger was well over half a pound, served with big, hearty and crispy fries and, if desired, a mound of bacon nearly as large as the burger itself. But even more impressive than it's size was it's taste. Pure, juicy, simple and straightforward - just a perfectly a cooked patty of ground beef. Maybe it was their chef, maybe it was their grill. Maybe a lei line ran directly through their kitchen, infusing their creations with mystical energies, only to be released on the taste buds of their loyal customers.
I wish I were exaggerating, but I'm not. McHale's was the best. I can't walk by the preposterous luxury condominium complex they tore it down to build without my blood boiling a little.
As a result, I'm VERY hard on those burger joints which remain (see previous posts). But why shouldn't I be? No one wants to pay good money for a mediocre or even crappy meal, so we, as diners, need to weed out the inferior hunks of overcooked, under-sized, tasteless nonsense being passed off as hamburgers these days.
That said, I hate to be ALL negative, so here, now, is a list of places in New York where a decent burger can still be had. They're not McHale's, but perhaps the second coming is still yet to come...
This former speak-easy, hidden away on a side street of the West Village, serves... wait, what? What do you mean their retaining wall collapsed while they were trying to renovate? They're closed?! SON OF A $!%@#!!!
Nevermind... moving on.
I had eaten here over a year ago and forgotten what a rather nice burger experience I had eaten here. They have a very clean and minimalist decor and menu, which manages to stick to the basics while at the same time adding nice, light touches which serve to accentuate the food rather than overpower it. Their Eatery Sirloin Burger is decent in size and flavor, and comes with crispy fries and garlic pickles, for only $9.95 at lunch (Though it's $11.95 at dinner... I HATE that.) The rest of their menu is incredibly intriguing as well. They're at the corner of 9th Avenue and West 53rd Street. If you need an upscale venue for a date or some such, this is your place.
THE SHAKE SHACK
Located inside Madison Square Park at 23rd Street and Broadway, this cool shake stand serves great frozen custard ice cream and shakes, as well as very good quarter pound burgers and portobello mushroom burgers. In terms of burger greatness, however, it really shines when you order their "Shack Stack," which consists of two cheeseburgers AND the mushroom burger on top, sandwiched between buns with their special sauce, lettuce and tomato. I normally wouldn't go on about a "novelty" burger, but this thing is just a taste explosion in your mouth, and for $8.75. Fries are separate, at $2.75, so it's not too bad. For those of you with smaller appetites, the individual burgers are still good and they also have a great variety of hot dogs and brats available. Don't forget to treat yourself to a frozen custard shake too!
During the warmer months it's hard to beat the combination of good food and sitting under lights strung amongst towering trees in the park.
A neighborhood fixture, this is an old school diner-style eatery, meaning that you can order pretty much everything and the kitchen sink: soups, salads, steaks, Middle Eastern, Italian, Greek, Mexican, sandwiches, pizzas, breakfast, lunch and dinner. 24 hours a day! But we're here to talk about burgers, and Nick's doesn't disappoint. A dizzying array of burgers awaits you here, and they're big, juicy, grilled and reasonably priced. A basic, 1/2 lb. cheeseburger with fries and fixings comes to a modest (for NYC) $8.25. Even crazier, for $9.25 you can get the ONE POUND Sumo Burger. There are far too many toppings and combinations to go into here; suffice it to say you'll find something to tickle your palate.
Cheap beer ($2.50 for McSorley's), cheap burger ($6.75 for a maybe 5-6 oz. burger, $2 for fries), good taste all around. 'Nuff Said.
Well, okay, the service is a bit slow.
There may be more, but until I find McHale's reincarnate, these will have to do.