Ed Levine's 5 Favorite Patty Melts

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Patty melt from Top Notch. [Photographs: Robyn Lee]

How do I love patty melts? Let me count the ways.

  • A regular burger has, at best, a soft, squishy potato roll as a bun.
  • A patty melt has buttered and grilled rye toast. Edge to patty melt.
  • A patty melt MUST have either caramelized or griddled onions; on a regular burger any kind of cooked onions are optional and often not even available.
  • A patty melt's crispy rye toast exterior means you don't have to rely on the burger patty's exterior for any textural contrast.

I am not saying that a great regular cheeseburger on a fresh potato roll is not a beautiful thing, because it is. What I am saying is that a patty melt is a worthy—dare I say elegant—form of burger. That's my patty melt story and I'm sticking to it.

One more thing: I love the way "patty melt" rolls off the tongue. Doesn't it sound like something that would be seriously delicious?

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Here are five patty melts worth their weight in caraway seeds, or should I say gold. If it seems like my list has a regional skew it's because I have seen patty melts most often on New York area menus.

Burger Heaven, NYC
It's gotten a little tired in the last few years, but damn, its patty melt is fine: juicy, cheesy, and beefy, with a nice crust on the meat and the rye bread. [Review]

Telepan, NYC
Bill Telepan makes the cheffiest patty melt I know. How does he make it? In his words: "We use grass fed chuck spiced with a BBQ spice blend we make. Griddle the burger, cheddar, caramelized onions, and Amy's rye Pullman loaf (really dense and rye-y, makes the sandwich). Butter the bread and make like grilled cheese. Serve with salt and vinegar cottage fries and pickles (dill and bread & butter)."

Top Notch, Chicago
There's nothing unusual about the Top Notch patty melt, but like everything else served there the patty melt is done right, with not a hint of preciousness or pomp and circumstance.

Joe's Cable Car, San Francisco
Joe's Cable Car is legendary among serious burger lovers in San Francisco and out, and its excellent patty melt only adds to its already stellar reputation.

Short Order, Los Angeles
Short Order is the brainchild of the wondrous Nancy Silverton (of Mozza and La Brea Bakery fame) and her childhood friend Amy Pressman, who tragically died shortly before Short Order opened a few months ago. Pressman and Silverton's patty melt is fundamentally sound and classic: "Grass-fed beef, house-made pimento cheese, griddled onion, toasted rye," according to the menu.

Where are your favorite patty melts? I would love to hear about great patty melts beyond the five I'm listing here.

About the author: Ed Levine is the founder of Serious Eats.

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