AHT: New York

Burger reviews in the New York City area.

Astoria, NYC: Jackson Hole Airline Diner, Where Bigger Is Not Necessarily Better

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[Photographs: Adam Kuban]

Jackson Hole Diner

69-35 Astoria Boulevard, Astoria NY 11370 (at 70th Street; map); 718-204-7070; jacksonholeburgers.com
The Skinny: This local chain of diners is known for its tall, 7-ounce burgers. In truth, the burgers are a bit bigger. Cooked on a griddle under a dome, the coarse grind becomes almost too crumbly, and the patty steams to a gray flavorlessness only salvaged by a heavy shake of salt
Want Fries with That? The platter comes with thick steak fries. They're adequate
Price: Cheeseburger platter, $10.60

I want to loooooove Jackson Hole. The local chain is well-known among New Yorkers for its big ol' burgers, and the one in Astoria (you've probably seen it off the Grand Central Parkway) is a beautiful punch-in-the-gut of old-school Americana. Tabletop jukeboxes stand ready to belch out tunes for a quarter, neon blares through the night, curvy Art Deco aluminum blinds passersby in the noontime sun. Rikers guards, LaGuardia workers, weary travelers just off a flight—they all pile into booths or plunk asscheeks on stools at the counter.

The 7-ounce burgers (in reality, they're closer to 10 ounces) are a good value—$10.60 for a cheeseburger platter—but the burgers could use some work.

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The patties are thick and tall, puck-shape—if you stacked two pucks together.

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I almost didn't want to use the term puck, since that's usually a pejorative, used to indicate a dense, tough burger. These patties are anything but. Yes, they're large, but they've got a coarse grind and a very loose texture. I'm normally a fan of those qualities—when the patty has a nice sear on it and some texture.

But here, the patty is griddled under a small dome. You know the kind. The kind that ends up steaming the burger as much as anything else. What you end up with is, funny enough, a dry, gray patty with little flavor. I had to hit it with a couple shakes of salt to improve it, and even then, the flavor was pretty flat.

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A shame, because the building housing this branch of Jackson Hole is awesome. (There are seven other JHs in NYC.) You may recognize it from an early scene in Goodfellas:

Yes, it was once known as Airline Diner, as it's blocks from LaGuardia. It's the diner in whose parking lot Jimmy and Paulie steal the truck.

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The jukeboxes are straight out of the '60s.

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Even though they've been updated at least as long ago as the late '90s. "Thong Song," anyone?

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If you're on the way home from the airport and your curiosity gets the best of you, I wouldn't blame you for stopping to see a minor location in a great Scorsese film. Or to even take some photos—it's crazy photogenic in the hands of a better photographer than I.

But don't bother with the burger. Bigger is not better here.

About the author: Adam Kuban is the founder of AHT, where he has been blogging about burgers more or less regularly since 2005. You can follow him as @akuban on Twitter.

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