24 Minetta Lane, New York NY 10014 (b/n Sixth and Thompson; map); 212-933-1824; perlanyc.com
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: An Italian-American pub burger that'll send juice down your chin and put a smile on your face
Want Fries With That? Hell yes. Thick-cut spuds dusted with tomato powder and Calabrian chili
Price: $18, fries included
Note: Only on Friday and weekend lunch menu
Yes, we've been talking about Perla a lot.
And now here's the burger.
We get it, I imagine you're saying. You guys like the place. (We really do.)
But here's the thing. We've looked around to find mention of this killer burger, only on the Friday and weekend lunch menu, and our search didn't turn up much. Maybe those who've eaten it just want to keep the secret to themselves. Or they've just been distracted by the superb hunks of meat and excellent pasta that chef Michael Toscano does so very well.
So that's why we're bringing Perla up again, to tell you that this is a damn good burger, so good that you might even skip the pasta to get it.
You could say it's the same burger we've seen many times before: a fat griddled Pat LaFrieda patty (80/20 lean-fat, a blend of chuck, short rib, and brisket) that isn't afraid to be served on the rarer side of medium rare,* with floods of juice and electric sparks of mineral gaminess. It has the texture we've come to love in LaFrieda's pre-formed patties: loose and supple but not mushy, almost steak-like, but way more juicy. One bite was enough to make it one of my new favorites of the style.
* This isn't a rare burger, though it is on the rarer side despite the well-rendered fat. If you like, ask for your burger a hair past medium.
But that's not the whole story. Because this burger isn't afraid to break out the potato roll bun—and pair it with caciocavallo, a stretchy provolone-like cheese that heightens the natural tanginess of the beef. And it lays on a creative topping that doesn't kill the other flavors. The blanched chicory and roasted tomato, tossed with olive oil and champagne vinegar, are restrained and thoughtful. A whisper of bitterness, a touch of tangy sweetness, and then here comes the beef for another bite. A taste had me thinking: why can't all burger toppings be this well done?
This burger is big but not huge, so even though it's rich, you'll want to make friends with the fries that come on the side. They're so good I'm pretty sure I'd order them alongside the Italian dishes, too. Delicate but sturdy crusts are cracklier than expected for fries this pale, with clean, fluffy innards exemplary of the thick-cut spud.
The real treat is the dusting of spices they receive, which include Calabrian chili, dehydrated tomato, onion, garlic, and guanciale. These are not your heavy-handed herb fries; the seasoning here is judicious and complementary, not overwhelming. It's the same seasoning you find on the potato chips all'amitriciana; chip manufacturers, take note.
Perla's an Italian restaurant, but it's also so much an American one, and particularly New Yorkish at that. There's that whole Italian ingredient-driven balance thing going on, but it hits you by way of fabulous excess. Nothing about a meal here is light or quiet, which is what makes this burger feel so at home. A gastropub patty for the Italian rustic age. I'm on board.