Terminal 5, JFK Airport, Jamaica NY 11430 (map); otgmanagement.com
Cooking Method: Griddled and broiled
Short Order: Classic 10-ounce steakhouse burger in an unexpected place
Want Fries with That? Yes, regular fries are good but so are the thick truffled variety. Home made potato chips are also available
Price: Cheeseburger with choice of fries, $17
Notes: Open from 11 a.m until the last flight leaves the terminal. Accessible to ticketed passengers only
Last week I complained about the lack of decent food—particularly hamburgers—in airports, specifically in Burbank. In fact, I had to venture outside of that airport to satisfy my craving for a breakfast burger, ending up at Bob's Big Boy. I liked the sandwich just fine at Bob's, but found it a bit too bready.
About six hours later I arrived at JFK Airport in New York and decided to try to redress the imbalance. I headed straight for 5ive Steak located in the swank new Terminal 5. While I would normally head home from the airport—I mean, who eats in an airport when they have a choice?—I was curious about 5ive Steak since flying into Terminal 5 on its first day and perusing the menu. Since 5ive Steak is situated behind the security checkpoint the only way to dine there is to fly Jet Blue, something I had cause to do last week.
5ives Steak is located in the main food court of the thoroughly modern Terminal 5. The menu is a contemporary steakhouse affair—think Dylan Prime or Primehouse New York rather than Peter Luger—with prime steaks served along dishes a bit more evolved than creamed spinach and hash browns, such as a large seafood selection and lots of dishes with truffle oil. The burger at 5ive Steak shares more than a passing resemblance to the one served at Primehouse. That is a good thing. I may not be the biggest fan of over-sized burgers, but the one at 5ive Steak makes a compelling case for them. Clocking in at a meaty beaty big and bouncy 10 ounces of custom beef from Pat La Frieda, this is one big hamburger. Forget about getting one to go and attempting to board a plane with it unless you want to take it on as luggage.
The patty comes served on an Eli's sesame black pepper brioche. While I am still an advocate of the plain white bun for burgers and generally have disdain for the use of brioche buns, the one at 5ive Steak is up to the task. Just as the brioche used in the Minetta Tavern black label burger adds extra salt and butter to compensate for the inherent sweetness of the bread, 5ive Steak's bun uses pepper to the same effect. Structurally, the slightly more robust nature of the brioche, not to mention its greater stretchiness, versus a normal bun might just be a better match for the heft of the patty.
The beef undergoes a two step cooking process: It is initially seared on the griddle to develop a thick crust and is then finished in the high intensity broiler that 5ive Steak cooks their USDA prime steaks in. Despite the unorthodox preparation it seems to work well because of the patty's large size. I prefer griddled burgers because of the crust that the method imparts, but a burger of this size would need to be covered in order to cook to temperature. The broiler also does an excellent job of melting the cheese, to the point of blistering it.
Biting the burger produces a familiar sensation. It is classic steakhouse burger: salty, beefy, succulent, the cheese slightly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of beef, and the bread, despite a valiant effort, succumbing to the torrent of juices that the patty unleashed. Despite the size of the patty it was texturally fluffy and the dual cooking methods produced both a nice crust and a correct internal temperature. I didn't bother with rabbit food nor any condiments—the burger simply did not need them, although it could perhaps have used a bit more cheese.
The truffle fries I had were delicious. Garlicky and perfumed with truffles, the crisp crusted potatoes were tender and buttery inside.
There are, as you might expect, a number of variations on the standard burger including the Rockefeller (Swiss cheese, bacon, spinach), The Cote (Swiss, ham, fried egg), Mushroom (mixed seasonal mushrooms, Monterey Jack cheese, truffle oil, fried onions), and the Bacon Blue (blue cheese, bacon, fried onions). I can understand why the restaurant would want to offer some variety to their customers, but the beef is so toothsome on its own that I would suggest going plain.
While I tend to prefer smaller griddle-cooked burgers, they would not really be appropriate on a steakhouse menu. One expects big, beefy, over-sized burgers at steakhouses and 5ive Steak offers as classic an example of the genre as you will find, The fact that you can get it at an airport is quite a boon for the roving burger lover. Granted, the price is higher than you might expect to pay in a steakhouse, but since 5ive Steak is located in an airport, where pricing is invariable inflated, that is to be expected. Knowing that there is a decent burger at either the beginning, middle (for those transferring flights) or end of ones journey is useful knowledge if you are flying on Jet Blue in or out of JFK. Just don't be late for your flight, as there is no way you can grab this burger and run with it—it is just too big,