This is part of a collection of short reviews from my travels around the USA in June.
Diversity is very important to me. That includes my choice in restaurants, and the dishes I choose to eat. So what happened?
In New York for less than 96 hours (or 4 days) either side of a quick trip to Salvador in Brazil for the World Cup, on reflection, I realised that I tried three burgers in that time. Three burgers that are worth talking about!
Union Square Cafe – Lunch
My personal discovery of USC was back in 2004. I dined alone on the bar and have a photo that brings me back there regularly in my mind, but this is the first time in a little over 10 years that I’ve actually come back. It was one of those meals you dream about.
I’m back but this time my wife and I are meeting up with my cousin, Lisa, and food is secondary to catching up. We chatted for ages over three Moscow Mules. Once we came to order, hunger had taken over. I’d heard about the burger. I’d had one for supper the night before but I just couldn’t go past it.
Incredible! Cooked medium rare the burger is juicy goodness. Everything else is just as beautiful, immaculate actually. There’s the light brioche bun that holds the burger together rather well; thin crispy bacon to add a punch of saltiness; pickles; and indulgent cheddar cheese in good measure. The fries are as good as you would expect given the quality of the burger.
Now I have a different fond memory to add to my memories of a decade ago. There is something magical about USC.
Corner Bistro – After Midnight
People say going to New York can be comforting given the familiarity we have with one of the great cities of the world. I agree, and the consistency of my first few hours in New York for my last three trips also has something to do with it on a personal level.
Whether it is unfortunate planning, or subconscious leanings, I have arrived in NYC really late each time. It might look as though the city doesn’t sleep, but trust me that the chefs eventually need to (via a bar or two). So looking for an awe inspiring meal after midnight can be a challenge if you don’t know about the institutional Corner Bistro in West Village.
I love the burger. It is simple, cheap, great. Fresh ingredients along with a thick pattie cooked medium and a good helping of decent fries. Wash it down with some cheap mugs of beer in a room that has seen countless people having a great time all hours of the day for years.
Minetta Tavern – dinner
There are few places where so much contemporary cool gels with old-school speakeasy glamour. Minetta didn’t spring up yesterday and it has got it completely right.
Straight after walking through the curtain you are met by the maitre’d which is a little intimidating, especially if you just feel like a drink in the bar. Rest assured, the entire floor staff are excellent hosts. Personally, my favourite place to sit for dinner is the bar, the vantage point for people watching too good to trade for the slightly quieter dining room. Tonight we are in the dining room and the action is still steady.
I’m afraid to say that I’ve only ever had the burger here. My friend has ordered a pasta which looks fabulous but as I grab my burger there is not a hint of envy. I threw in the tomato and lettuce on the side and was ready to go. The brioche bun holds the burger well with great medium rare cooked juicy beef smothered in cheddar cheese and a pickle to the side. The fries are excellent too.
Like Corner Bistro, only in a different sense, the vibe of Minetta is the intangible ingredient that adds extra flavour. Not only are the floor staff smooth and professional, they are also a little wicked. A polite warning early in the evening about the chocolate soufflé taking twenty minutes put paid to any attempt to forgo dessert on the way to the Comedy Cellar. It was great, and one of the biggest I’ve ever seen! Easily enough for the four of us and the first part of a great evening was complete.