A Hamburger Today
Brooklyn: Blue Collar Burgers Are A Simple Success
160 Havemeyer Street, Brooklyn NY 11211 (map); 347-725-3837; facebook.com/bluecollargoodjob
Cooking method: Flattop
Short Order: Simple, fresh, classic fast food-style burgers are some of the best in Williamsburg
Want Fries With That? Sure, the extra-crispy, thin fries are worth adding on
Price: Single burger, $4; w/cheese, +75¢; double burger, $5.75; w/cheese, 50¢; fries (sm/lg), $2.25/$3.25; shakes, $4.75-$5.50
With a name like Blue Collar, this tiny Williamsburg burger joint makes it clear from the get-go that they're not attempting to reinvent the burger. Instead, the cheery shop focuses on perfecting a small selection of Americana-style classics. And for the most part, they succeed.
This is a strictly counter-order operation, with a menu consisting of a burger, a hot dog, fries, and some milkshakes. That's about it (unless jalapeño poppers are on the specials board). It's not the kind of place that brags about its burger pedigree—although the chef is in the process of perfecting a custom sirloin/chuck/loin blend, right now, they use a standard Angus 81/19 blend of indiscriminate origin. But for these prices—$4 for a single, $5.75 for a double, with cheese for 75¢ more (50¢ on the double)—premium sourcing likely isn't their top priority.
That might sound like a knock, but in context, it isn't. The beef is fresh, and the burgers that Blue Collar turns out with great efficiency are compulsively edible and highly crave-able, so long as you're not expecting a gourmet experience. Parallels have been drawn between Blue Collar and those two high priests of thin patties, In-N-Out and Shake Shack. It's not an entirely off-base comparison, though one noteworthy difference is that there's rarely a line at Blue Collar.
Thin 3.5-ounce patties are pressed down with a weight on a flattop grill, and cooked to medium by default. While I prefer a medium-rare with a thicker burger, thin patties like these really benefit from that extra time on the griddle, developing a solid sear that plays nicely off of the soft potato roll they're swaddled in. The single is petite enough to almost be considered a snack, a boon to those looking for a lighter bite (or a late-night treat—the griddles stay hot until 2 a.m. on weekends), while the double obviously packs a beefier punch.
My cheeseburger ($4.75)—with American, the only option, and really, the only cheese that belongs on a burger like this—still maintained a thin layer of pink within, and was so juicy I went through about five napkins. Then again, that might have had something to do with the smear of secret sauce oozing out, which mingled nicely with the melting cheese and juicy patty. Toppings were simple—crinkle-cut pickle rounds, beefsteak tomato, raw onion, a sheaf of crisp lettuce—but fresh and portioned in a way that didn't overwhelm the patty.
Fries ($2.25/$3.25) are thin and extra-crispy, with a dusting of housemade seasoned salt. The milkshakes are very thick and creamy, though the chocolate version ($4.75) is sickly-sweet, thanks to a heavy-handed squirt of Hershey's syrup.
The décor is retro-roadside chic: ketchup-and-mustard squirt bottles on the table, kitschy burger-themed posters on the walls, cherry-red plastic chairs. Service is ambivalent at best, but your interactions with staff are relatively limited—there's even a soda fountain for DIY drink-filling.
I feared in a snark-ridden neighborhood like Williamsburg that a place named Blue Collar would get mired in its own irony. But I was pleasantly wrong—it's a simple roadside-style joint, serving simple food at affordable prices. It's not destination dining. But it's not trying to be, and that's what makes Blue Collar succeed.
About the author: Jamie Feldmar is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and editor eating her way across Southeast Asia for the next three months. See more of her work at jamiefeldmar.com or follow her misadventures on Twitter at @jfeldmar.