Third Avenue: Hamburger Row
If it's Tuesday, it must be time for another review from Nick Solares. Nick is also the publisher of Beef Aficionado, his blog that explores beef beyond burgerdom.
There are lot of famous streets in New York City. Broadway is, of course, known for the theater, Wall Street as the heart of the city's financial center, and 45th Street as "steak row," although almost all of the chophouses that gave the street its name have since moved or closed.
I would like to nominate Third Avenue in Manhattan as "Hamburger Row." Not because it is so densely populated with burger establishments—I am sure that there are numerous stretches of suburban highway that pack in more burger joints per mile—but because Third Avenue has an amazing variety of burgers, representing virtually all genres of the beloved sandwich, not to mention some of the finest examples of their respective breeds.
Staring downtown and working north, here is an admittedly incomplete list of burger spots that offer a wide variety of styles. I am not including fast food chains, although I am fairly certain that all the major players have at least one or two locations along the Avenue.
A virtual clone of the vaunted In N Out Burger, Blue 9 offers New Yorkers the closest thing to a "California" style burger - thin fresh patty, lettuce, tomato, onion, "special sauce" on a plain white bun- without actually leaving the city. Reviewed by Adam back in 2005. 92 Third Avenue, New York NY 10003 (at 12th Street; map); 212-979-0053
I reviewed Joe Junior a few weeks ago and at the time called "as classic an example of the "diner-style" cheeseburger as you will find" 167 Third Avenue, New York NY 10003 (at 16th Street; map); 212-473-5150
Of all the Irish Pubs in New York, I think Molly's really is the quintessential example of the genre. The low ceiling, poor lighting, and sawdust on the floor, not to mention the thick Irish brogue that almost all of the staff speak with adds a level of authenticity that most pubs on these shores lack. Molly's offer a big, thick, coarsely ground "pub" burger that despite its large size is quite loose and flaky in composition. 287 Third Avenue, New York NY 10010 (at 22nd Street; map); 212-889-3361
I have to admit that I am not the biggest fan of the type of burger that Jackson Hole pioneered at their original Queens location back in the early 1970s—seven-ounce burgers so thick that in addition to griddle cooking they require an inverted metal dome be placed atop to essentially steam-cook them through. While there are numerous examples of this style of burger to be found in New York (Paul's, Cozy and Silver Spurs all offer variations on the theme), the fact that Jackson Hole is the originator of the archetype merits its inclusion here. 521 Third Avenue, New York NY 10016 (at 35th Street; map); 212-679-3264; jacksonholeburgers.com
OK, technically Wollesnky's Grill is located on 49th Street, but the USDA Prime beef that makes up the burgers comes from the adjacent Smith and Wollensky Steakhouse, which is located on Third Avenue. The burger here is everything you expect from a steakhouse burger—thick, juicy, flame-broiled, using top-quality beef and served with homemade steak fries that are excellent. 201 East 49th Street, New York NY 10022 (at Third Avenue; map); 212-753-1530; smithandwollensky.com
Houston's is a national chain but one that offers food of a higher quality than your Applebee's and Red Robins. Hamburger Matty Jacobs reviewed Houston's in 2005 and found that they turned out a "most definitely tasty burger." 153 East 53rd Street, New York NY (b/n Third and Lexington; map); 212-888-3828; hillstone.com/#/restaurants/houstons
You will have trouble finding a bar with as storied a past as P. J. Clarke's. It's been in business for well over a hundred years. It has learned a thing or two during the last century, turning out a burger that, aside from being utterly consistent, is also often and deservedly included on those ubiquitous "Top Burger" lists. Indeed, George Motz thought highly enough of Clarke's to included it in his book, Hamburger America. 915 Third Avenue, New York NY 10022 (at 55th Street; map); 212-317-1616; pjclarkes.com
J. G. Melon
If P. J. Clarke's had never opened, I think George Motz might have included J. G. Melon in his book instead. The Upper East Side saloon offers an equally captivating burger and one that has developed a staunch following. 1291 Third Avenue, New York NY 10021 (at 74th Street; map); 212-744-0585
I think my case for nominating Third Avenue as Hamburger Row would be a lot weaker without the inclusion of a mini burger. Fortunately, Third Avenue has Sassy's Sliders, reviewed by Hamburger Matty Jacobs back in 2005. 1530 Third Avenue, New York NY 10028 (at 86th Street; map); 212-828-6900; sassyssliders.com
So there you have it, my case for Third Avenue as Hamburger Row. I am sure I have left out some very good burgers but I think that I have covered the major types. From California-style to sliders to pub burgers to steakhouse burgers to good old diner burgers, Third Avenue has a lot to offer the burger aficionado.