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Ziggiz

333 3rd Avenue, NY NY 10010 (at 25th Street; map); 212-683-3662; ziggizonline.com
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: Decent burger hampered by use of frozen beef, somewhat redeemed by pleasing balance of flavors and textures
Want Fries with That? Maybe; showed potential but a tad too greasy
Price: Single $3.95, double $6.25, triple $8.25, Home Run $10.25, w/cheese +$0.60, w/bacon +$1.20
Notes: Open 24/7 including delivery

Ziggiz serves what could best be described as Pan-American fast food. The menu is populated with such culturally and geographically diverse comforts as Philly cheesesteaks, Buffalo wings, the more obvious Tex-Mex staples—burritos, tacos and quesadillas—and, for our purposes, hamburgers. If you're wondering why pizza is missing, they actually did at one time—it was recently stricken from the menu. What was it that they said about a jack of all trades?

To be frank, Ziggiz is a little run down and seems somewhat at odds with its neighbors, which include an upmarket wine store, a quaint Irish pub, and the chic Bar Milano. Its not that the confines are that old—in fact the white tile and dark wood looks quite new—but the place is in serious need of some upkeep. The floor is strewn with leaves, errant french fries, and deflated packets of ketchup. The tables look as if they get cleaned about once a day, if that, as they are invariable streaked with salsa, hot sauce, or ketchup.

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Despite being in the middle of New York City, the burger that Ziggiz makes is decidedly in the West Coast model by being served with tomato, onion, and "sauce," which is, of course, Thousand Island dressing. It comes on a large, puffy white roll, and the beef is reportedly Angus. Unfortunately, it was apparent that it is frozen, which is less than optimum. The patties are each six ounces and are offered as singles, doubles, triples or home runs—a 24-ounce, four patty stack.

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The beef, despite having decent flavor and fat content just high enough to keep it moist, suffered from having been frozen. The texture was too dense, especially because the meat is so finely ground, although it blessedly avoided mealiness, a problem endemic to many frozen burgers. One of the problems with using frozen burgers is that the patty tends to be too compressed and it loses that flaky, fluffy quality that is the hallmark of a great fresh burger experience. The other problem is a loss of flavor. Nevertheless, the griddle-cooked beef at Ziggiz did not suffer too much from the latter malady&madsh;it had a nice char. However, things inside were not, quite literally, so rosy. Despite being ostensibly cooked to order, my medium-rare burger came out cooked through with only a vague internal pinkness.

2008-11-16-ziggiz-autopsy.jpgThe bun is quite voluminous but also airy and light with a slightly chewy nature. It's robust enough to easily handle a double and probably a triple, although a home run might be too much for any bun. It actually works equally well with either a single or a double, the result of each being a different textural experience. I prefer the single because while the flavor of the beef is decent, it doesn't stand up to the naked test and there is a little too much of it in a double. This is a patty that needs the synthesis of the supporting ingredients to elevate it. Once topped with a generous double slice of perfectly melted American cheese, onion, tomato, and tangy special sauce, the sandwich is greater than the sum of its parts and made for good eating. The bun conforms snuggly around the contents of the sandwich and the creamy blend of sauce and cheese provide an excellent compliment to the savory blend of beef and onion. The skin-on fries showed potential, achieving a deep burnished hue, but they were a tad too greasy and slightly overcooked.

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Ziggiz doesn't make a world beating burger by any measure, but the effort is credible. I would take it over fast food dreck any day, although Molly's, Joe Juniors, Shake Shack, and Blue 9 would be far better alternatives in the immediate vicinity. However, Ziggiz does have one thing that none of the other places offer: They are open and deliver 24/7.

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