NYC Food Trucks: Okay Beef Overshadowed by Great Toppings at Frites 'n' Meats
Frites 'n' Meats
Location varies; check twitter.com/fritesnmeats for latest updates; fritesnmeats.com
Short Order: Fast, but only okay burgers that get overshadowed by great toppings
Want Fries with That? Sure—great shoestring fries with equally tasty dipping sauces
Price: Grass Fed Angus, $6; +$1 for cheese; Wagyu, $8; Burger of the Week, $8.50; fries, $3; baked dessert (varies), $2
The phrase "Saving the world, one burger at a time" adorns each and every takeout bag from New York City's Frites 'n' Meats food truck. After sampling their full burger menu, I think they should consider changing this motto to "Saving our burgers, one avocado at a time." As Nick Solares has pointed out, a great burger shouldn't need any condiments to taste delicious. Unfortunately, toppings are a major saving grace at a truck that seemed destined for burger greatness.
On paper, Frites 'n' Meats has a lot going for it. Not only does it focus on a narrow range of foods (burgers and fries), but it also sources quality ingredients (including DiBragga & Spitler meat). This joint-on-wheels should have been dishing out some serious burgers—at least by food truck standards. Instead, the grillmasters serve up an okay burger—a few steps behind those at Munchie Mobile—with some very tasty shoestring fries.
Ordering at Frites 'n' Meats consists of filling out a too-small sheet with a too-large marker (my cashier had to rewrite mine), handing it to an employee and waiting between 5 and 10 minutes for your burger. While it may help keep the orders in check without a true ticket system, the process is pretty futile, as none of my burgers came out exactly as requested. I asked for sesame seed buns and got brioche, for extra sauces and got none, and I think there might have been pricing confusion. However, when I got my burgers within a few minutes of ordering, I almost forgot about the botched service.
Frites' standard six-ounce patty, the Grass Fed Angus ($6 + $1 for cheese), is cooked on a real gas grill (not just an electric grill pan), which, despite filling the block with great aromas, imparts a bit too much grilled flavor to the patties. The burger looked pretty nice on its bun with a substantial grill-marked crust and a juicy-looking exterior.
Looks were deceiving, however, as it ended up tasting a bit too much like salt, pepper, and grill and not enough like beef. The coarse, somewhat fatty chuck grind from DiBragga and Spitler comes preformed, which results in a patty that's a bit overcompressed. Moreover, the standard medium doneness looks a whole lot like medium well (I asked for medium rare and got a mediocre medium with little juice or pink). Sweet bread and butter slices and a hardly melted slice of yellow cheddar from Murray's help the patty along (Why no American? I'm as confused as you are), but as Mr. Solares said, "A burger worth eating is worth eating plain," and this one hardly makes the cut. On top of the weak patty, the brioche bun from Baltazar commits several crimes: it's somewhat dry, lacking in squish and a bit too bready.
The Wagyu ($8) does not fare much better. First off, American wagyu is a farce—it's generally just higher quality beef. In the case of Frites 'n' Meats's burger, the beef doesn't taste noticeably different (if only a bit sweeter and, surprisingly, dryer) and hardly justifies the two dollar price jump. Our recommendation would be to skip it entirely and hit the toppings list instead.
Speaking of toppings, the last burger I tried was the only one that left a lasting impression. The Burger of the Week rotates regularly, and when we visited the burger of choice was The SouthWest Fusion ($8.50). Despite the silly name (not sure what they're fusing besides burger and toppings), this was the best burger of the day by a long shot. The standard patty benefits exponentially from the addition of perfectly cooked thick-cut Applewood bacon, fresh and spicy guacamole, pepper jack, and an assertive sweet chile sauce. I couldn't help but think as I ate the burger that I might have actually preferred a BLT with some guac thrown in, but the burger patty seemed harmless amidst the onslaught of add-ons. If there is a next time, which there may be due to their cute punch card (10 burgers = 1 free), I'd try out other toppings such as savory onion jam and the ambiguously named "jazzy sauce."
The fries ($3), on the other hand, are delicious, crispy shoestrings (despite being billed as Belgian frites) that come in a newspaper cone. Dipping sauces are available, but these are plenty good on their own.
There's dessert too, a chocolate walnut brownie ($2) when we visited, but it tastes only slightly better than Betty Crocker.
If you're craving a burger in a burgerless neighborhood, Frites 'n' Meats isn't going to insult your tastebuds—especially if you like your patties grilled. And again, if food truck expectations are necessarily lower than restaurant expectations, these burgers aren't a total bust and even get pretty tasty with extensive toppings—but they aren't an impressive creation. For the sake of my food truck burger journey, I hope I can find some more accomplished hamburgers on the streets of New York.
About the author: Sam is an intern, college student, food TV enthusiast and thinks the worst smelling food imaginable is a Subway sandwich in a subway car.