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I stood on the corner of 43rd and Broadway waiting for NYC Food Guy to show up. We had a one o'clock at Brooklyn Diner. Or so I thought. The clock struck 1:20 p.m. Where was this ahole?

Turns out I was the ahole, having completely borked the rendezvous by going to the Times Square location rather than the West 57th Street spot. Oops. We rainchecked for the following week, and I met him at the right spot, where he was holding down a two-person booth under mini plaques inscribed with the names David J. Fiorina and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, among others. He was itching to plow through some burgerage.

Since this is one of Food Dude's favorite New York burgers and he knew his way around the fare, I let him guide me on the order, figuring I'd ape his style. He opted for the cheeseburger deluxe, menu description: "Custom ground beef, Vermont cheddar cheese, smokehouse bacon, frizzled onion rings, and served with french fried potatoes. 'Best Burger in New York, Gael Greene, New York magazine '07'." Food Guy ordered it medium-rare, so I didn't even have to break rank with him on the doneness.

From his report on the place, I knew that the "frizzled onion rings" were actually served on the burger. I already liked this place.

After some get-to-know-you chat (we'd only met via e before this), our burgers arrived. Food Guy hipped me to his attack plan: remove some of the frizzled onions to better taste the meat, cut the burger in half to assess accurate cooking, slather on a crapload of ketchup (he loves ketchup, I soon found out), and go to town. Cross-sectioning of his burger revealed a patty done closer to medium than medium-rare. Food Guy was noticeably upset; he wanted the burger to be dead on, since he felt he had kind of staked his rep on it. Fortunately, mine was nicely pink in the center (right); Food Dude's good name would soldier on. Or would it? I hadn't tasted the burger yet ...

Yeah. It was good. Damn good. His rep remained unsullied. The thing was meaty, juicy, and just thick enough. The cheddar, while not my first choice for a burger cheese, was applied liberally and evenly, melting into the coarse nooks and crannies of the patty. I could have gone for a bun that was a bit more toasted (as is this one Food Guy had in March; mine is pictured at right), but the swipe of butter on the sesame seed brioche bun was a nice touch—just how I make 'em at home (minus the brioche chicanery, that is).

Strangely enough, the bacon didn't seem to add all that much to this bad boy, as juicy and cheesy as it was already. And I wish now that I hadn't have followed Food Guy's lead in removing most of my frizzled onions—maybe they add up. Who knows. I guess I'll find out when I revisit the place again.

The beef-to-bun ratio was about as perfect as you'd want; as the Food Guy noted in his write-up, it's hearty enough to stand up to the heft of the patty but not overwhelmingly bready.

At $15.95, it's a bit spendy, but it's worth the splurge every now and again. And the price includes a side of respectable fries—not quite steak wedges but not skinny-mini McD's-style, either.

Both NYC Food Guy and Gael Greene are correct. This is a burger worth raving about.

Brooklyn Diner

212 West 57th Street, New York NY 10019 (near Seventh Ave.; map)
212-977-1957
Website: brooklyndiner.com
Cost: $15.95
Want Fries with That? It's not like you have a choice; they come with. But they're actually good enough I might consider them even if they weren't included.
Additional Location: 155 West 43rd Street, New York NY 10036 (at Broadway; map)

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