11 West 17th Street, New York, NY 10011 (b/n 5th and 6th; map); 212-255-7260; ryehousenyc.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: A good patty is undermined by an insubstantial bun.
Want Fries With That? They automatically come with the burger, but aren't crispy enough.
Price: $12; cheese + $1.50
"get the burger. dear god get the burger. forget the shack, b-joint, mellon, or anything else in the city. rye has one f*cking damn good burger."
I don't normally look for burger recommendations from Yelp; a friend pointed it out to me and since the restaurant is near Serious Eats Headquarters, it seemed silly to not investigate a burger that could cause someone to say, "forget the shack."
Alas, although the burger wasn't bad, it did little to erase Shake Shack from my mind (methinks only head trauma could do such a thing), or any of my other beloved burger joints. The meat was fine; the bun was at fault.
Something seemed a little off about the bun of the from the start. It looked paler than normal, with no ring of toasted-ness around the edge. I lifted the top; underneath, it appeared to be all white. Do buns have to be toasted to taste good? No. But my heart sank a little anyway.
The cross section looked promising. The seven-ounce patty was cooked medium rare, leaning more towards rare, as I requested, and the center glistened with juices without gushing them.
First bite, and—ah, in comes that bun. It was soft and tasted fresh, but it had no body. It melted into mush just moments after coming in contact with my saliva. I like soft buns, potato rolls in particular, but those have a hint of chew to contrast with the patty. This didn't. Perhaps toasting the bun would've made it slightly better, but it would still mostly be too soft and insubstantial.
This bun was no mistake, though. I found out from talking to chef Anne McKinney that the goal was to find a Wonderbread-like bun—theirs comes from Rockland Bakery. They have brioche buns too, which I would prefer. McKinney told me that they do toast the buns for a few minutes in the oven. If my bun had been toasted, it didn't taste like it; maybe mine just slipped through the cracks.
The patty, made of a custom blend from JT Jobaggy, was fine by me. It was juicy and flavorful, although I would've liked more char. The toppings were fresh and the sharp New York State Cheddar added a nice tangy kick.
The fries were just okay. The first few fries were crispy, but most of the ones after that lacked crust. (If anyone from Rye House is reading this, check out Kenji's french fry recipe.)
Although the burger wasn't bad, I couldn't recommend it to anyone if it's on that bun. The restaurant is a pleasant and casual place to eat though, and if you do want some dish recommendations my friends and I enjoyed the Beef Wellington sandwich and the drunken mussels.