Bill's Bar and Burger
22 9th Avenue, NY, NY 10014 (map); 212-414-3003; 2nd location at 16 West 51st Street, NY, NY 10019 (map); 212-705-8510; billsbarandburger.com
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: These sliders live up to their well regarded reputation
Price: Mini B's, $7.95; Bill's Burger, $8.95; boneless chicken wings, $7.75
I was having lunch with slider expert Nick Solares (who will be returning to the Serious Eats fold shortly) when the talk, as it often does with Nick, turned to burgers. When I told him that my son was still waiting tables at Bill's Bar and Burger, Nick said that he heard the sliders there were amazing. Considering Nick is any slider's toughest critic, a fresh visit to the original Bill's was obviously in order.
The sliders, called Mini B's, came three to an order, on perfectly-sized White Castle buns (the manager told me they source White Castle Buns because they couldn't find anything better). The burger, which was griddled on Bill's high heat flattop, came with cheese, mustard, ketchup, special sauce, pickles, and—the key to great sliders—a mountain of griddled onions.
Let's face it. It's the non-beef components and the condiments that define and determine a slider's greatness and potential for serious deliciousness, and at Bill's all these components work together like a great jazz rhythm section.
The Bill's Burger was also very, very good, though the first I ordered rare came medium at best, a little pink peeking through the gray. They were very gracious about cooking me another one, which came out perfect, a circular mass of perfectly cooked rare meat that never veered into pink or blue territory. Eating this burger rare really brings out the funky, juicy, mineral-ly flavor of the dry-aged LaFrieda beef brisket and short rib that goes into it. At $8.95 it may be high for a Bill's burger, but if you compare it to other burgers made with the same quality meat it seems quite reasonable.
The boneless chicken wings, chicken tenders slathered with Frank's Hot Sauce, were spicy and tasty, but I missed the crunchiness of the skin. These boneless babies are easier to eat, but I have to say I like to eat the whole wing and nothing but.
Nick was right. In a mostly lousy slider town like NYC (where anything on a small round bun is called a slider) Bill's more or less classic sliders stand out. I didn't have the fries (hey, I was on a sliders mission, and if it's one thing I've learned there can be no mission creep when it comes to food), and I can't vouch for the sliders at the recently opened Bill's location at Rockefeller Center, but Bill's sliders on Ninth Avenue and 13th Street are certainly worth braving the crowds in the meatpacking district for.
About the author: Serious Eats founder Ed Levine doesn't mind being called "overlord," but he wants everyone to know that he is a benevolent despot. He loves, in no particular order, burgers, pizza, fried chicken, barbecue, pie, hot fudge sundaes, pizza bianco, jamon Iberico de Bellotta, porchetta, and hot dogs.