A Hefty Pastrami Burger for a Hefty Price at Jeffrey's Grocery in the West Village
172 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10014 (map); (646) 398-7630; jeffreysgrocery.com
Cooking method: Griddle
Short Order: A heavy interpretation of a deli classic
Want Fries With That? Sure, considering they come with the burger
Price: Pastrami Burger, $19
Jeffrey's Grocery is one of a handful of restaurateur Gabe Stulman's mostly West Village-based restaurants. This growing array, including Perla and Joseph Leonard, are thematically linked (for my purposes, at least) in that they all serve burgers. I'm happy to report that the Pastrami Burger at Jeffrey's Grocery might be the best.
This cozy restaurant, with bright, soaring windows angling onto Waverly Place, makes for a great lunch spot. For the longest time, the menu was Jewish-inflected with a raw bar component, but a recent revamp of the kitchen allowed for a new roster of dishes (though there are still Judaic remnants, like a potato latke with sour cream).
The Pastrami Burger ($19) acts more like a Reuben Burger. Chunky, roughly ground, and full of fat, the beef is Pat LeFrieda's house blend—a combination of brisket, sirloin and chuck—and packs a familiar, beefy taste. A house-blended pastrami seasoning, heavy on the black pepper, is pressed into the six-ounce burger patties before being seared on a plancha.
Digging deeper into Reuben territory is sauerkraut and a house-made Russian dressing, which adds a pleasant tang to the fatty, Swiss cheese dripping over the edges of the bread. Speaking of the bread, even more fat is infused when slices of Levy's seedless rye are buttered and griddled, allowing the cheese to melt before the burger is added.
Sadly, this is a pricey burger. It comes with fries, which are a solid (and necessary) accompaniment to a burger at this price point, but there's still some sticker shock to overcome (especially when the burger at Joseph Leonard across the street is a mere $12). You also have the option of adding a fried egg for an extra two dollars, but the burger is already so loaded with fat I can't imagine anyone but the most aggressive wanting one. Multiple visits also produced two very different versions of "medium rare" burgers (you can see the difference in the picture above), which I am more than willing to chalk up to a one-time mistake, but be aware.
Also worth noting are the whelks. At $10 for 6, they're an uncommon on menus around town and well-priced. I have happily dug them out of their shells on each visit. They come lightly seasoned with oil and red pepper flakes and accompanied by a thin Green Goddess sauce. You will thank me for ordering the whelks.
Despite the hefty construction, the price is still hard to swallow. While it's not a burger I'd necessarily seek out, Jeffrey's Grocery is as good a place as any to spend a sunny afternoon in the Village.
About the author: Noah Arenstein is a practicing lawyer, freelance writer, and co-founder and managing editor of Real Cheap Eats, a site dedicated to finding the best dishes under $10 throughout NYC. He can also be found making "Global Jewish Sandwiches" for Scharf & Zoyer and running Crow Hill Supper Club. Follow him on Twitter @ChiefHDB.