650 Forest Avenue, Staten Island NY 10310; map); 718- 447-9276
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: A fantastic beef patty is somewhat undermined by too much cheese and a muffin that can not stand up to the torrents of juice
Want Fries with That? Burgers comes with potato chips. Fries cost $1.50 extra; they're a bit oily.
Price: Cheeseburger with potato chips, $5.95
I love English muffins. They are wonderful toasted in the morning—crunchy, yeasty, airy, and flavorful—and their nooks and crannies make an excellent vessel for gobs of butter and jam. They also work well in sandwiches, such as in my favorite breakfast sandwich, the Momofuku Milk Bar egg muffin—an homage to the McDonald's Egg McMuffin. (The latter might be the most compelling item that McDonald's sells, not that that's saying much.) I think that even a tuna sandwich works pretty well on an English muffin.
But what about on hamburgers? I can think of worse choices, but I also think that there is no substitute for a proper burger bun made of the type of bread that was designed specifically for hamburgers. It is sort of like pizza—yes, you can top a bagel, pita, or even naan bread with sauce and cheese, but it's not going to be a worthy substitute for a purpose-made dough.
I mention this because Duffy's, which claims to sell the best hamburger on Staten Island, serves theirs on an English muffin. It is an excellent hamburger, but if they served it on a proper bun it would be even better.
The hamburger was the first thing on Duffy's menu when the restaurant opened in 1985, and has remained the most popular menu item since. The bar is the sort of classic neighborhood watering hole that you don't find in Manhattan much these days.
The beef is fresh, never frozen, and is formed into 1/3-pound patties and grilled in a furnace-like broiler. The broiler does an outstanding job of putting pronounced hatch marks on the exterior of the patty, even while maintaining a juicy interior. A very juicy interior—this is one of the juiciest, most succulent patties I have eaten. The juice stays in the burger even when it is cut in half, a testament to the quality grinding they use.
The broiler emanates so much heat that it scorches and blisters the cheese in mere seconds. I found out that ordering cheese was a mistake, though; not only does the patty not need it by virtue of its fresh flavor and copious juices, there is far too much of it. A slice on the bottom and two on top is one slice too many.
But the real problem is the English muffin. Those nooks and crannies that do such an admirable job with butter get completely overwhelmed by the burger's juices. By the time my burger had made it to the table, the bottom slice was a soggy sponge unable to sustain its own weight, let alone the buxom patty. The denser, less airy interior of a proper burger bun would be a far better match for the burger here. The structural problems with the muffin extend to the beef-to-bread ratio: There is just not enough bread in the mix, especially with all that cheese.
Order the burger without the cheese and I think the sandwich will be better. Order it medium or well done and the bread will probably stand up better because there will be less juice, but also less flavor. I wouldn't accept the trade-off: The beef is so good that it practically demands to be eaten medium rare or rare.
Does Duffy's make the best burger on Staten Island? I have no idea. I can say that it is an excellent burger, but it could be so much better with a different bun.