I’ll never forget the first time that I took Craig to The Burger Joint. “What is this place?” he asked, annoyed, as I led him into the Parker Meridien Hotel. “This is fancy, I don’t want anything fancy. I just want something fast.” He was reacting to the marble interior of the Parker Meridien lobby which is, indeed, fancy. It almost feels like you’re walking into a lavish bank. But just past the front desk, astride a large curtain, is a narrow passageway at the end of which is a sign.
Follow that arrow and you’ll be quickly transported to an environment that couldn’t be more different than the one you just left. Suddenly you’re in a burger dive, the kind of place you’d find on the outskirts of a city. The walls are covered with graffiti (though, unlike most graffiti, this graffiti is done with a magic marker and mostly involves autographs from celebrities like Ashton Kutcher), rock music blares overhead, and in a fluorescent-lit kitchen a large griddle is laid out with flat burger patties sizzling away.
The menu is relatively non-existent. You really only have two choices: burger or cheeseburger. (It’s like that old John Belushi sketch.) We always order our burgers with everything on it, a bag of fries (there’s enough in there to share) and two lemonades.
The burger, though, really is the star:
Crisp on the outside, moist on the inside, and dressed with just the right amount of condiments, this is the kind of burger that fast food burger chains want you to think that you’re getting, but that you’re not really getting unless you get it like it’s done here. Here the meat is good, the bun is right, and as unhealthy as it all might be, on a late night in New York City, it totally hits the spot.
Needless to say, this is now one of Craig’s favorite places to go in New York. And last week, which was his last week as a New York City resident (he left for L.A. last Friday, I follow him there in September), we made a point to visit The Burger Joint one last time. And it did not disappoint. It’s a New York institution that captures the spirit of the city so well; it’s low culture mashed up with high culture. And though we’re going to be OK in L.A. when it comes to burgers–In-N-Out, Umami Burger–this is one place we’ll miss as much for the atmosphere as for the food. Maybe we’ll have to send a letter.
The Burger Joint
in the Parker Meridien Hotel
119 West 56th Street
New York, New York