Brace yourselves: My new favorite burger lives in the Bronx. At a pizza place, no less.
Coals is a cozy hangout near the Fordham campus. The restaurant is part bar, part table-service, part rec room, and they specialize in pizza. Grilled pizza, even! The pizzas look gorgeous, and it was difficult to stay focused, but I was chasing a burger and nothing else would do. The Coals Burger is only served after 5 p.m., which was something I almost didn't find out until it was too late. And had I missed out on this burger, you would have heard my howl of disappointment from every borough.
Address: 1888 Eastchester Road, Bronx NY 10461 (map)
When we walked in, the place was full, if not packed. The Wizard of Oz was playing on a widescreen TV above the bar, and the crowd seemed happy. Four middle-aged ladies told us they'd been sitting at their table too long and that we should take it. This place was absolutely oozing good vibes.
I ordered my burger and was given a choice of cheddar or asiago. And I ask you, who can choose cheddar when faced with asiago? Maybe you, but not me. I tried to make Mike order a pizza, as I was feeling self-conscious about ignoring the house specialty, but he chose an asiago burger as well. The waiter told us everyone was getting burgers that night. I tried to be a good reporter and ask him why that was.
He shrugged and said, "Because they're good." Duh.
And they were! The presentation is a little bizarre, what with fancy greens and a gorgeous burger paired with ketchup packets and a bag of potato chips. But from the very first bite I knew the trip had been worthwhile. There was a lovely char to the meat and the bun efficiently squished away to little more than a burger-mitt, protecting my hand from meat and letting me know when to stop biting. The Asiago was an ideal compliment without being the least bit overpowering, and the patty was cooked to perfection (excepting the last two bites which veered on overdone). My goodness I liked this burger.
We also shared a Caesar salad that featured five of the biggest croutons I've ever encountered. The lettuce was crisp, the dressing didn't drench the salad, and those croutons were garlicky and delightful. Oh, but who really cares about salad, right? Not me.
A beer or two later and we were full. I hadn't touched my chips and the waiter noticed. I shrugged and said I didn't need them.
"Great!" he said, "there's a guy over there who wants them." And with that, he took my chips to another patron. I was happy to share.
I can't say enough nice things about Coals, and I can't wait to go back. Actually, I tried to go back the very next day (for pizza), but they were closed. Evidently they don't do weekends. Another lesson learned: let your fingers do the walking-- call or check the website before you go. This is a seriously delicious burger and I implore you to try one for yourself. I'll leave you with a burger smile, since I can't stop smiling about this burger.