145 Borinquen Place, Brooklyn NY 11211 (map); 347-789-7742, LightHouse.com
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: Despite an alluring description from this otherwise excellent restaurant, the Everything Burger fell short on almost every front
Want Fries with That? Fries come with the burger, but diners should definitely order from the pickle menu as well
Price: Everything Burger, $13; w/fried egg, +$2; pickles, $5
In the year since LightHouse opened in South Williamsburg, I've had a series of delightful meals at their charming family-style picnic tables. Owned by attentive Israeli-American sibling duo Naama and Assaf Tamir, in collaboration with chef Nicholas Cox (previously of La Esquina), the restaurant serves up a small but well-curated raw bar selection, along with grilled steaks, chops, and the most extensive house pickle menu I've ever encountered. Their brunch menu veers more Israeli than their New American dinner options, with a marvelous shakshuka and an aromatic harissa-spiced chicken thigh with fried eggs. With plate glass windows lining most of the dining area, brunch-goers can bask in the sunlight while listening the house DJ's sweet vinyl collection. Given my affection for this neighborhood spot, it pains me to say that their Everything Burger was a disappointing lesson in burger no nos.
Let me begin by saying that the description on their brunch menu had me drooling. Bacon in my brioche? Duh! Pickled tomatoes? Yes, please! Fried leeks? The more the better! Benedictine? Sure, why not? And what really got me going was the option to throw a fried egg into the mix for an additional $2. Little makes me more gleeful than adding an egg to pretty much any dish, and never more so than at brunch. I'm obsessive about the experience of bursting that bright yellow yolk and contentedly watching it ooze into the surrounding food, infusing it with its subtle warmth and richness. Suffice it to say that with such high expectations, I fell pretty far.
My burger arrived open-faced and looking quite lovely. The patty, topped with my precious fried egg and a sprinkle of fresh herbs, sat on one half of the bun, with the benedictine, pickled tomato, and a tumble of thin, curly slices of fried leeks adorning the other. The leeks went from nice and crispy to soft and wilty and didn't add much in the way of taste or texture. The tomato, as with all the LightHouse pickles, was delightfully tangy but with only one slice, the flavor was largely subsumed by the rest of the burger.
Having ordered my patty medium rare, I was frustrated to find both meat and (gasp!) egg overcooked. I paled when I cut the burger in half and my egg remained entirely intact, though admittedly soft. Similarly disappointing was an almost uniformly grey patty which, despite being overcooked, lacked any char. The grind was far too fine and lean, giving the meat a gritty texture. Collectively, the patty was dense, dry, and flavorless.
Things went from bad to worse as my bun began to dissolve between my fingers. The bacon brioche was nice and bacon-y, but the bun was cut unevenly, with the top half significantly thicker than the bottom. Had the ratio been adjusted, I might not have ended the meal as I did: clutching bare burger bottom.
I was more or less ambivalent about my side of fries. Neither crisp nor mushy, neither over- nor under-seasoned, they remain unmemorable. That said, my sides of pickled mushrooms and jalapeños ($5 per plate) at least partially redeemed the meal. Generous servings of these brightly acidic vegetables brought a puckered smile to my face and reminded me why I will continue to make LightHouse one of my dining destinations.
About the author: Niki Achitoff-Gray is the associate editor of Serious Eats and a recent graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She's pretty big into oysters, offal, and most edible things. You can follow her on Twitter at @eatandcry.