Mikey's Burger in the Lower East Side Makes Me Want More Kewpie Mayo
134 Ludlow Street, New York NY 10002 (at Rivington; map); 212-979-9211
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: These well composed burgers are juicy and come with interesting toppings.
Want Fries with That? If the small burger doesn't satisfy you, the supplementary chili and cheese-covered fries should.
Prices: Mikey's, $5.50; BLT, $6; Cheeseburger, $5.75; Chili cheese fries, $6.75; milkshakes, $5
Vietnamese restaurateur/chef Michael "Bao" Huynh opened a string of restaurants in 2009 included Bia Garden ("Vietnamese beer garden"), Pho Sure (pho joint), O Bao (noodle shop), and more locations of Baoguette (banh mi mini-chain). Last New Year's Eve he added another popular foodstuff to his domain with an Asian-influenced burger joint, Mikey's Burger in the Lower East Side.
Today, Huynh isn't involved with the restaurant besides that he consulted on the menu. Manager and chef Stephen Potter is in charge—you may see him behind the counter with the other chefs, overseeing the griddles and tweaking his latest milkshake recipe. With the help of two friends, I tried three burgers and two milkshakes with tasty results.
The burgers are made with thick 4.5-ounce patties of fresh ground beef cooked on a griddle (and for the non-beef lovers, they have lamb, turkey, and veggie burgers). If a customer asks for their burgers to be cooked medium well or more, they cover the burgers with a metal dome to cook them faster. Although Mikey's Burger wouldn't name their meat purveyor, they said the purveyor is in New Jersey and makes a special blend just for their restaurant. The patties fit perfectly tucked into lightly buttered and griddled Martin's potato rolls, making for small, but satisfying burgers that won't make your stomach explode.
The namesake Mikey's ($5.50) is topped with corned beef hash, onion, and mustard. The patty was cooked medium rare as ordered, and was satisfyingly juicy without being messy or soaking the bun. The meat was packed a bit more densely than I prefer and didn't have a strong crust, but I liked that it was well seasoned and tender. Admittedly, as a lover of potato rolls (and it's not just me; potato rolls are the AHT favorite), I like just about anything slapped in between those squishy buns.
If you really like mustard, this burger's for you. I found the mustard a bit too nasal cavity-kicking for my taste, but one of my mustard-loving friends called this her favorite of the three burgers we tried.
My favorite was the BLT ($6) topped with Chinese-style bacon, Kewpie mayo, lettuce, and tomato. It was the mayo that did it. Oh mayo, Kewpie or not, why do you not grace more of my burgers à la Icelandic and Chilean sandwiches?
The cheeseburger ($5.75) came enveloped in a melted slice of cheddar cheese. It's a perfectly fine cheeseburger, although it'll taste plain if you eat it with the special burgers.
We supplemented the burgers with a generous order of chili cheese fries ($6.75) made out of fresh cut fries topped with beef chili (made in house), melted cheddar, and sliced jalapenos. I couldn't really rate the fries on their own merit since they were buried under spicy ground beef, beans, and cheese, but I'd recommend it since...it's fried potato sticks buried under spicy ground beef, beans, and cheese. It fulfills a different craving than regular french fries, the craving that wants a lot of fried-starchy-meaty-gooey goodness in every bite.
Make sure to try a avocado or white sesame milkshake ($6 each). They're thick, smooth, not too sweet, and well flavored. You can read more about them in Kathy YL Chan's Sugar Rush review.
Although my preference is for smashed, not thick patties, I liked these burgers for their reasonably sized, juicy patties, made better with Kewpie mayo and potato rolls. If I'm ever in the Lower East Side with a burger craving, I'll make my way back to Mikey's Burger.