I can’t decide if Burger Joint is a cynical attempt at manufacturing cool authenticity, or simply the miraculous survival of a delicate flower in an otherwise harsh environment. So, I’ve decided I simply don’t care. Whatever the reason, Burger Joint works.
Hidden (to increase the allure) behind a curtain, down a dark hallway, and indicated only by its iconic neon sign at the end of the hall, Burger Joint is located in a place only slightly less probable to me than, say, the Vatican. It’s in the lobby of Le Parker Meridien hotel, which sits in a neighborhood I’d never visit except to go to the theater. But we had tickets for one of the “Fall Into Dance” performances, and there it was. And it’s hardly what you’d call a secret any more, and it’s always packed at mealtimes, but…
But it’s like having a little hidden passageway or room built into your house, like the children’s reading room at Rochester’s Central Library. Of course you know it’s there. And your friends probably do too. And maybe it’s even in a guidebook or something. But you still love it and get a thrill from it each time you crack open the door.
And… the burgers. The meat wasn’t quite as fabulously thick and juicy as Paul’s, in the East village. But the roll doesn’t turn to mush in your hands, like it does at Paul’s. And the fries are better, but hardly the best in town. What really I love about this burger is that it’s neither one of the super-skinny Shake-Shack/In-and-Out patties you can barely taste, nor a too-huge-to-enjoy patty. No, let’s call this one the Goldilocks patty, shall we? Great flavor from the beef, which is cooked right, but you’re not stuffed afterwards. And you gotta’ go with The Works, toppings-wise. It’s one of those mysterious alchemies of flavor fusion, like peanut-butter and chocolate.
The look is really great. They’ve managed to combine vintage seating with new construction in the rest of it, and create something that looks like it *could* have been there for 50 years, minus the attendant layer of aged grease. Again, it’s technically fake-cool, but done so well I don’t mind calling it cool anyway. And the size is perfect to make it feel intimate and obscure.
Definitely a mob-scene during mealtimes. We snuck in at 6:30 or so on a weeknight, then the line was wrapping around the lobby by the time we left. So, skip it then. But the rest of the time, if you’re anywhere near it…