356 W 58th St New York, NY 10019 (map); 212-554-6000; hudsoncommonnyc.com
Cooking Method: From freezer to griddle.
Short Order: A joke of burger so bad even Yelpers have caught on. But if you've ever felt like eating excellent fries in an Epcot Center interpretation of a New York party, this may be the place for you.
Want Fries With That? You want fries instead of that. Their thrice-cooked fries are excellent.
Price: Tiny, poorly cooked patty, $12; extra for a slice of dried out Velveeta, +$2; fries, $5
Let me start this review off by telling you that the Thrice-Cooked Fries ($5) with duck fat and sea salt at Hudson Common, the new burger joint/beer hall in the ultra-trendy Hudson Hotel, are excellent. Like, best-in-class, how-do-they-get-them-so-crisp? level good. I suggest you go in, order those fries and perhaps a beer,* then get out while the gettin's good, because it's all downhill from there.
* If you can put up with their ridiculous system of no waiters and two different lines to stand on in succession for drinks and food.
I'm not really the type of person who deals in take-downs or overly negative posts. But once in a while I feel so duped, so cheated, so entirely frustrated that I just spent $13 on the worst burger I've had since my middle school cafeteria days that I feel a bit of warning is due to our readers, in the hopes that the same fate will not befall them.
I also only choose to write this post because the burger joint in question happens to be inside a very popular hotel—one which there are good odds that a visitor to our fair city may stay at, or even choose to visit for their impressive outdoor drinking space and lounge.
If you do happen to find yourself at the bar enjoying a cocktail, I implore you to look elsewhere for your meal. It's not that difficult, seeing as they don't allow you to order food from the bar, despite the fact that the bar window and burger window are in the exact same room.
There actually, is some degree of culinary magic going on in the kitchens at Hudson Common. How else can you explain a burger that manages to be charred to the point of blackening around the edges, yet pale and steamed-looking across its entire face?
I have seriously never seen a burger patty that looks like this and am a bit mystified as to how it was accomplished. Perhaps an overly-compressed, potentially frozen patty that cooked so hot the edges shrunk, causing it to cup up and lose contact with the griddle is the answer? I really don't know.
I believe—I hope—that those frizzled things sticking to the meat were some sort of blackened caramelized onion detritus, though the menu description didn't advertise them and their flavor offered no clues.
Want to witness a bit more kitchen wizardy? Just watch as we take this slice of Velveeta cheese—well known as the processed cheese that will melt into gooey sauce if you even look at it wrong—and convert it into a plastic sheet so dry and shriveled that it will actually refuse to melt under the heat of your burger. Ta-da!!
A strangely sweet, horseradish-flavored sauce distracts you from the meat, which can be a good thing. At least the bun was properly toasted.
This is a rare case in which the veggie burgers are actually superior to the regular burgers. Though not by much. They have decent flavor and appear to be made with real vegetables, but are mushy to the point that the squeeze out of the sides of your burger as you bite.
If you're willing to spend even more money, you can treat yourself to even larger sandwiches that aren't worth eating. The breaded cutlet inside the Pork Katsu BLT ($15) is alright, albeit greasy on its own. Smears of unidentifiable creamy sauce, insipid off-season tomatoes, and clumsy fat slices of iceberg lettuce doused in Japanese Worcestershire sauce don't do it any favors.
I'm serious here: stick with the fries. If you want a full-meal, order the Bloody Mary Bacon Fries, which, for $9, is not only cheaper than almost anything else on the menu, but is also infinitely more edible.
Think poutine meets barbecue meets bibimbap meets nachos and you have a fair idea of what's going on. The awesome triple-cooked fries are topped with slices of pickled okra and jalapeño, along with plenty of squeaky cheese curds, a soft-yolked fried egg, and tender chunks of braised pork belly (which I wish they wouldn't call bacon). The dish is so damn good that it makes you forget all about the earlier trespasses.
Until the deafening house music starts pumping. Dammit, time to get the heck out of here.
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.