This universally enjoyable spot from Chef Justin Smillie launched its lunch earlier this year and on it is a burger that speaks to the general California-ness of the restaurant; it uses a Pat LaFrieda grass-fed brisket-chuck blend with clothbound cheddar, cilantro, gem lettuce, Peppadew peppers, avocado, tomato, and herb aioli.
Tropicália meets California at The Happiest Hour where pink flamingoes on the wall provide the backdrop for daily Tiki drinks on tap (a Mai Tai was the choice on a recent visit) in the West Village. You should make its burger meet your face at your earliest convenience. It’s two small-ish all-beef patties stacked up with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, confit onions, and special sauce. It’s incredibly tempting to eat this way too fast.
From the owners of Franny’s (and housed in Franny's original location), this new bar & grill exudes "neighborhood spot" and it has the simple-yet-excellent cheese-smothered burger to match.
This dry-aged patty has the earthy funk you want from this style of burger, plus a noteworthy mashup of complementary flavors achieved with raclette cheese, griddled onions, and tomato aioli.
It was one of our favorite restaurants of all of 2014, and that was mostly because of the top-notch Italian/Asian stylings of dishes like the briny, smoky, creamy Uni Bucatini. Around October, though, it dropped a burger (topped with sottocenere truffled cheese, Treviso, and caramelized onions) on its lunch and brunch menus, and it lived up to the already high standards set here.
Who doesn’t love a burger that offers a veil of mystery and scarcity, the kind that makes you feel like you're in some elite burger club for geniuses, amirite?? This dry-aged, funkified, beer cheese- and bourbon onion-topped bastard is only served at the bar at American Cut, and only in very limited quantities each day, and AC announces how many it'll be serving at 4:20pm every day on Twitter. You may be annoyed by the hoops you have to jump through for this, but it’s delicious, and you’re intrigued.
Based off the burger that has inspired devotion from the West Coast’s teeming cult of secret menu-loving, mustard-cooked patty fanatics, this burger (which remains a constant on its lunch menu despite changing styles/most menu items seasonally) tops a brisket, chuck, and short rib mix with American cheese and a trade secret sauce that's got a "little something" the In-N-Out version doesn't. Oh, and they come two to an order. Hell yeah they do.
Get it single, or double, or get two singles, or get two doubles, or a single with bacon, and then later, a double because you’re a big guy and you’re not quite full but then afterwards you realized maybe you’ve overdone it a bit with a second bigger burger. Whatever you do, just get at least one of the burgers designed by Miguel Trinidad of nearby Jeepney with pickled vegetables, fig aioli, L, T, & O.
Among Wylie Dufresne’s many, many culinary triumphs, there’s never been a burger before they launched one at his take on a pub on 2nd Ave. It, of course, has all kinds of interesting gastronomical magic going on including shio kombu cooked in sake and tamari that’s added to the chuck/brisket mix and a top layer of house-made beer cheese.
We’re putting this last, because there’s a chance this Rockaway Beach burger was around last summer and we just didn’t get a chance to eat it, but, the burger at this pizza spot (side note: you need to get the fucking pizza here, too) is excellent and worthy of some respect. Its time in the wood-burning oven gives it a killer meaty crust, the cheese is tangy and elastic, and the hot pepper jam offers a welcome hit of sweet and spicy. Also, be warned, they’ll probably curse at you and give you the finger here, but unless you’re an asshole, it’s all pretty good-natured and you’ll be fine.
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Andrew Zimmer is Thrillist’s NYC editor and he thinks burgers are an essential part of a balanced diet and he will plug his ears with his fingers while singing "Unbreak My Heart" if you try to tell him different. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram.
1. Upland 345 Park Ave S, New York, NY 10010 (Murray Hill)
Stephen Starr, a Philly-based restaurateur who entered the New York scene with splashy hits like Morimoto and Buddakan, is behind this airy brasserie on Park Avenue South that takes its name from the California town where chef Justin Smillie grew up. The menu, which rallies around the seasonal themes of California cuisine, features oval-shaped pizzas topped with vegetables and flavorful cheeses; pasta dishes ranging from the traditional cacio e pepe to the entirely unique chicken liver estrella; grilled, smoked, and roasted meat and seafood plates; and a fairly affordable wine list.
Brace yourself: there is no actual happy hour at The Happiest Hour. But don’t fret, the Happiest Burger more than makes up for it, really. The double-patty, double-cheese, California-style burger is better than an In-N-Out Double Double and comes topped with a similar Russian dressing as the West Coast fast-food fave. The bar's resort vibes shine in its cocktail selection, which includes the Frozen Painkiller, a twist on the Tiki classic that pairs rum with crème de Pêche de Vigne liqueur and coconut, lime, and orange juices.
In the same space as the former Marco’s, the team that brought you Franny's has now created Rose's, a less Italian and more classic American tavern and cocktail outfit. Simple and excellent cuisine like cheeseburgers, spit-roasted pork, and egg sandwiches are all on offer, and they pair perfectly with inventive takes on traditional cocktails like the Burro of Brooklyn, a Moscow Mule made with house-cured "cranberry moonshine."
From Chef Josh Capon and the group behind Lure, Burger & Barrel, and El Toro Blanco, this glitzy modern steakhouse in the East Village takes traditional steak and chops up a notch. The menu offers a nice mix of usual steakhouse mains (the meat comes from butcher Pat LaFrieda) and next-level starters and sides (patatas bravas, crispy polenta, salmon sashimi, to name a few), with pasta dishes and oysters rounding out the sophisticated menu.
Located right near the heart of Union Square is All'onda, a Japanese and Venetian hybrid restaurant housed in a rustic duplex building. The first floor has a spacious bar (complete with sake) where you can drink or dine without having made a reservation, and the second floor is dimly-lit with cozy booths and wooden rafters. The menu is limited, but the smoked uni bucatini is a must-try.
Marc Forgione's American Cut might not be among the class of old-school New York steakhouses, but the swanky, Atlantic City-based restaurant is one of the best spots for wet- and dry-aged beef in the city. The menu is simple but sophisticated, featuring tableside-chopped caesar salad, tomahawk ribeye and porterhouse for two, and out-of-this-world Cracker Jack sundae for dessert. The interior is dark and sleek with Art Deco touches, exposed brick walls, and leather booths.
No two dining experiences at Park Avenue are ever alike, because the menu and interior change with every season. Locals enjoy stopping by throughout the year to taste inspiring new breakfast, lunch, dinner, and brunch dishes in a redesigned space, but the main draw is the California-style burger (served two to an order!), which is thankfully available all year.
On the cusp of the East Village and Lower East Side, Boilermaker takes its namesake drink very seriously with multiple variations of the beer and shot combo. The drink menu also includes a rotating selection of draft beer, most of which are regional craft brews. Aside from offerings like burgers and wings, the bar's food appeal is its midnight breakfast: from midnight to close, the kitchen whips up pancake stacks in flavors like red velvet and apple pie, as well as egg sandwiches with bacon or house-made sausage.
9. Alder 157 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003 (East Village)
Alder is Wylie Dufresne's pub-inspired resto that's funneling his classic taste-bud-bending creations into a more accessible, slightly less-conceptual bar food-inspired menu in a woodsily modern East Village dwelling.
Created by the team behind nearby bar The Girloy (Josh Mazza and Steve Laycock), Pamela Wiznitzer of the Dead Rabbit, and Will Horowitz of Ducks Eatery, Seamstress focuses on All-American food and drink, including a bar menu split into six distinct sections -- fresh, spirit forward, low proof, elaborate, nonalcoholic (?), and large format (!) -- as well as a section on the back dedicated to 50 cocktail classics from the 50 states. Food is pub-grub taken to the next level, so a smoked mutton burger with triple cream cheese on brioche, and a braised pork shank with dry tomato, fermented black bean, and spruce.
White paint peels on the wood-planked building where Whit’s End pizzeria resides, a block from the beach in the Rockaways. The shabby-cool space has a spunky, rough-around-the-edges attitude, a lot like sailor-tongued owner Whitney Aycock. The menu features surprisingly highbrow pizzas (like the bianca with fior di latte, zucchini, goat cheese, mint, and pistachio) and small plates, whose names are laced with expletives (take the "quick ass ceviche" or "fuckin' bluefish dip"). Everything on the menu that's cooked is done so in the gigantic, Italian-made wood-burning oven, situated towards the back of the restaurant and dressed in a beachy mural. Though you're here for the charred, thin-crust personal pizzas, don't miss the recurring specials, especially the oven-baked cheddar burger with hot pepper jam. Just don’t ask for substitutions, and don’t ask for a slice, or you’ll get thrown out. And the only fate worse than sand in your pizza is no pizza at all.