Kenn's Broome Street Bar
363 West Broadway, New York NY 10013; map)
Short Order: A solid half-pound burger served on a pita rather than a bun. Underflavored meat but with a great char-grilled flavor nonetheless. Could use some more salt; order yours with bacon to make up for it
Want Fries with That? Tough luck. The burger comes with potato chips or a small salad; go for the chips
Price: $9 for American cheeseburger; $9.75 for bacon American cheeseburger
I believe it was two years ago that Celia Cheng of the online food magazine Cravings told me about the burger at Kenn's Broome Street Bar in SoHo. It's quite good, she said, and ... it's served on a pita.
Hold it right there, missy, I said. That's not a burger. No bun, no burger.
Well, after you've been writing about the same food item for years, your taste buds start craving something new and different. So after a lengthy time spent ignoring this burger I got the bug to check it out. Something about a pita-enveloped patty sounded downright delicious.
So I found myself at Kenn's for lunch yesterday with Matt "Hamburger Matty" Jacobs.
On the corner of West Broadway and Broome Street, Kenn's Broome Street Bar is one of those classic well-worn pubs that seems to draw folks of all stripes. We were seated next to a couple of suit-and-tie dealmaker dudes, but throughout the place were more casually dressed patrons, as well as some fashionable SoHo types.
As you walk in, dishes traveling out from a pass-through window immediately on your left help set the tone. Despite the name, this place is more "pub" than "bar," what with the relaxed atmosphere, table service, and extensive list of food specials.
Ms. Cheng recommended the bacon cheeseburger, so Matty and I ordered one of those, plus a standard American cheeseburger to serve as a benchmark, a baseline, a control. Burgers come, undressed, neatly tucked into the pita with a thick slice of tomato and rings of raw onion. The half-pound patties are about a half inch thick. Ours were ordered medium-rare, and they arrived more on the rare side. I'm not always a huge fan of the texture of rare burgers, but better that than overcooked.
The beef itself was not abundantly flavorful and could have used some more salt, though the flavor of the grill—that familiar flame-cooked char—is very powerful here and satisfying in its own right. I guess my previous sentence answers this question for you, but to state it clearly, the burgers here are grilled. Juiciness was adequate but not less than expected for a burger on the rare–medium-rare side. This is both a blessing and a curse, as it keeps the thin pita from soaking through but obviously does not add to the burgering experience. That said, the bottom of my pita had moistened enough by the final few bites that it began to fall apart; eat with caution and eat quickly.
The bacon burger was yards more satisfying than the plain cheeseburger. I'm not one to automatically upgrade to bacon (I think it's a flavor-enhancing cheat; a great patty should be able to stand son its own), but I'd definitely recommend it here. The crisp meat-condiment adds the saltiness that's otherwise missing from the standard package.
Matty, who works in the neighborhood, said it was the best burger going in that neck of the woods, beating even Fanelli's Cafe a few blocks over and up on Prince Street. He's right. I'd go for Kenn's before I'd hit Fanelli's.
And to answer my own question: Yes. I think this sandwich was good enough to earn the moniker burger.