New York's Best Cheeseburger, Take 100: The Little Owl
There are many seriously delicious bacon cheeseburgers to be had in New York City, especially of the fancy-pants variety, but rarely have I seen a cheeseburger as well put together as the stylish beauty Joey Campanaro is serving at The Little Owl.
Let me break down Campanaro's burger for you in loving and admiring detail:
It is made from fresh, not aged, short rib and brisket from Manhattan's uber-meat purveyor Pat La Freida Meats (of Black Label fame). There is a little too much of this supremely juicy and flavorful meat for my taste—it's eight ounces—but in this case Campanaro makes the big ol' mound of beef work.
The cheese, as you can tell, is a veritable blanket of good aged cheddar.
The bacon is maple-cured and just smoky enough. Bacon maximalists might quibble with the amount of bacon on the burger, but those people are just being silly. There is just the right amount of bacon on this burger.
The pickle is a fine half-sour from Guss' Pickles. Mine was a little mushy but still managed to cut through the supreme meatiness of the beef, which is what a pickle on a burger plate should do.
The first-rate, properly twice-cooked fries come seasoned (with a perfectly fine but unnecessary seasoning blend) unless you ask for yours plain. Do just that and then sprinkle some of the good Maldon sea salt Campanaro puts on all the tables.
The house-made bun, however, is what propels Campanaro's burger to mythical, hall-of-fame status. It is a bigger version of the focaccialike bun he uses on his supremely delicious meatball slider appetizer, sans Romano cheese and rosemary. The magical bun soaks up the burger's juices right on cue, and it is soft and tender while having just the right amount of slightly chewy exterior. It puts the ubiquitous brioche bun found on many of the city's fine fancy-pants burgers to shame.
I know that extolling the virtues of another burger and mentioning the possibility that it might be the best in New York merely adds to the ridiculous amount of "best burger" white noise we are all exposed to and contribute to, but, damn, the Little Owl Burger is good. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.