After a brief hiatus, ladies and gentlemen, Grilled is back. This week's installment is Peter Meehan, who has discovered and relayed the news of some of New York's finest burgers in the pages of the New York Times. Because he wishes to retain his anonymity for the purposes of his reviews, we do not have a photographapologies to those of you who enjoy rating the relative hotness of each new Grilled subject as compared with my sister. Without further ado, let's get Grillin'! The Mgmt.
Name: Peter Meehan
Occupation: "$25 and Under" columnist for the New York Times
Location: New York City
How often do you eat burgers? Once or twice a week at most. Back before I was reviewing restaurants, I probably ate three or four burgers a week.
Where did you eat your most recent one? BLT Burger. I've taken a short burger break after bingeing at BLT.
Cheese: American, cheddar, other? American, I guess. Seems like the patriotic answer. But I am open to almost any melty cheese on a burger. I have more specific feelings about what cheese choices I object to: I love blue cheese and mozzarella, but I don't think either belongs on a hamburger; and I don't like burgers blanketed in any outré or overly pedigreed cheese.
Ketchup or mustard? Mustard on the burger, ketchup on the side. I think a truly great burger needs no ketchup. (But I have a very strong affinity for ketchup, so there's a good chance I'm still going to eat at least part of that truly great burger with it.)
Sesame-seed or plain? That's tough. Sesame-seed buns do seem like the platonic ideal of hamburger bun-ness. But there are many seedless buns on burgers I like. Seedless potato rolls are perfect for the Shake Shack burger. The choice of ciabatta for the smaller burger at DuMont burger is inspired. The English muffin as a burger bracket has always struck me as a pointless East Coast affectation, but it serves Gabrielle Hamilton's lamburger [at Prune] well. Before eating at Royale, I would have said "absolutely no brioche" because every hamburger I'd eaten on a brioche bun up to that point was way too rich. Not theirs. Plus it had sesame seeds. So I'm waffling, but ultimately going sesame. Final answer.
Grilled, griddled, or broiled? All of the above. Didn't George Motz teach us that burgers can be steamed and deep-fried, too? Is there even a verb for what they do to the burgers at Louis' Lunch in New Haven? I find grilling and broiling to be the surest approaches to properly cooked patties, but I have no allegiance to any one style.
And how would you like that done, sir? Medium-rare. Bonus points if the thing gets a chance to rest for a few minutes before it's served, though I can't think of a single restaurant where that happens.
Would you do us the favor of describing your perfect burger? (Price and ingredients are no object.) I think it would have to be away from a restaurant or burger stand: I spend too much time in those kinds of places at the moment. So a homemade burger, made with good, fatty beef (I'll take it dry-aged and humanely raised, if you've got it) that has been salted in advance as Judy Rodgers instructs in the Zuni Café Cookbook. Hand-formed five-or-so-ounce patties cooked in a cast-iron pan or over a hardwood charcoal fire. Buns lightly crisped on the inside. Thinly sliced red onion, mustard and ketchup at the ready; tomatoes only in the height of the season. And, since money is no object, a bottle of Ridge Zinfandel to wash them down.
The hamburger is a food item with which most Americans have strong childhood associations. Do you remember your earliest encounter with this delicious dish? I don't. Food didn't matter much to me until I moved to New York. Back in high school there was a stretch where my buddy Tom and I would hit Mickey's in Oak Park everyday before retiring to the basement at his parents' house and playing video games until our eyes bled. I always got the same thingtwo Big Mickeys with cheese, ¢99 eachand washed them down with Mountain Dew. The Big Mickey was this super greasy double cheeseburger (griddled, sesame seed buns, cheap American cheese) loaded with cooked onions. For old times' sake, I went back and tried to eat one a few years ago and was absolutely repulsed by it. And I can't tell you the last time I thought that drinking Mountain Dew or anything that colorsave maybe absinthewas a good idea.
What's your favorite fast-food burger? I stopped eating at fast food restaurants years ago. Any business that would have a drive-through were it somewhere else in the country is a no-go for me. So Shake Shack, about which very little is "fast", and Goodburger would be my favorite fast food burgers, such as they are, at least here in the city. I don't understand eating corporate fast food hamburgers. It's such lazy, thoughtless eatingespecially when there are mom-and-pop burger places trying to hang on everywhere across the country. I'd much prefer to spend my money with them.
What topping or condiment, in your opinion, should never grace a burger? That Aussie power play with the beets doesn't resonate with me at all. But I'm open to trying anything once.
What's the most unusual burger you've eaten? (Or most unusual burger experience you've had?) Sorry to name check him twice, but some of the burgers George Motz unearthed in Hamburger America make this question no fun to answer: He has the market on unusual hamburgers cornered. I'd like to try every one of the burgers in that movie. I've done the Billy Goat and Louis' Lunch so far. I hope to make it to Solly's this summer.
What's the most overrated burger you've tried? Most underrated? Overrated: A tie between Peter Luger's and In-and-Out Burger. I came to the latter too late in life. And I think Luger's glory days may be behind it. Most underrated: I don't know about underratedness, but I think too few people have ventured out to Woodside for a Guinness and a cheeseburger at the bar at Donovan's. That's a fine meal.
For some crazy reason, you're going vegetarian. Where do you go for your final burger? This question totally bummed me out. One last burger? So sad. I'd say Donovan's but it's too depressing to think about ambling away from the restaurant under the roar of the 7 train and knowing I'd never have a reason to step foot in there again because the rest of their food is so dreadful. So I guess I'd go to Ono Char Burger on Kauai. Because even if the burgers are so-so, I would want to put back my last cheeseburger in a place that's as close to paradise as I know.
BURGER JOINTS REFERENCED
BLT Burger: 470 Sixth Ave., New York NY 10011; bltburger.com; AHT review
Shake Shack: Madison Ave. and 23rd Street, New York NY 10010; shakeshacknyc.com
DuMont Burger: 314 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn NY (Williamsburg); AHT review
Prune: 54 East 1st Street, New York NY 10003; prunerestaurant.com; AHT review
Royale: 157 Avenue C, New York NY 10009; Meehan's "$25 and Under" review
Louis' Lunch: Louis' Lunch: 261-263 Crown Street, New Haven CT 06510; louislunch.com
Zuni Café: 1658 Market Street, San Francisco CA 94103
Mickey's Gyros & Ribs: 525 North Harlem Ave., Oak Park IL 60302
Billy Goat Tavern: 430 North Michigan Ave., Chicago IL 60611; billygoattavern.com
Solly's Grille: 4629 North Port Washington Road, Glendale WI 53212
Peter Luger: 178 Broadway, Brooklyn NY 11211; peterluger.com
In-N-Out Burger: In-N-Out Burger: Various locations in California, New Mexico, and Arizona; in-n-out.com
Donovan's Pub: 57-24 Roosevelt Ave., Woodside NY 11377
Ono Char Burger: 4350 Kuhio Hwy., Anahola HI 96703
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