Address: 1410 Broadway, New York NY 10018 (at 39th Street; map)
Website: Listed as cityburgerny.com but not operational at this time
The Skinny: A very decent burger for the neighborhood. It's still early, and they're working out the kinks. The staff is learning on the job. Irate, impatient customers in a small space is no fun.
Want Fries with That? Steak fries are $2.75 or $3.95 with cheese. The beer battered onion rings looked great.
The Fashion District is a great place to be if you're a clothes buyer and one of the last places you want to be if you're looking for a good meal. Within a four block radius of where I work there are five Starbucks, five Pax, two Hale & Hearty Soups, several McDonald's, and countless steam-table, pay-by-the pound delis. That's a lot of repetition and a lack of good choices. City Burger opened Monday, and I've been there twice already.
City Burger's burger is a half pound of famous beef served on a puffy, seeded bun, and theoretically cooked to order. Mine were somewhat more cooked than I would have preferred, but remained far shy of hockey puck status. The free vegetation includes lettuce, tomato, pickles, and onions (although not the same varieties shown on their printed menu) and others are available at additional cost. The meat was tasty, if unremarkable. It's a solid burger, and filling. A nice size for lunch.
On the day of their grand opening, City Burger was decked out in flags and balloons. I took a late lunch and there was no line. There was a bowl of cookies, however, and a bottle of rum and a bottle of VSOP Cognac sitting on a table near the cashiers. On my second visit, the house was packed, the cookies were gone, and the crowd was antsy.
Some Confusion, Some Identity Issues
People seemed to expect things would happen much quicker. I think the design of the place contributes to this confusion. It looks like they're cooking fast food, but they aren't. I heard a lot of good-natured grumbling and some really grouchy stuff. The numbers assigned to orders are not issued chronologically, so waiting for your number to be called feels like lunchtime bingo.
The price of a hamburger or cheeseburger seems quite reasonable to me for a half-pound of quality meat. Once you start adding fries, rings, or a drink, however, things get significantly pricier than I'd expect. On the whole, it seems like the pricing skews a little high, but this might also be due to the fact that City Burger looks like a fast-food establishment. Would I think twice about paying $2.75 for an order of steak fries in a sit-down restaurant? It's hard to say. City Burger seems to have a few identity issues.
Since they're brand spanking new, I'm cutting these guys a little slack. My order was accurate, but my coworker ended up with someone else's lunch. I guess when you want a cheeseburger with no pickles and no mustard, a hamburger with the works will not suffice. I've never seen a man so sad about cheese. Braving the crowd again (for a replacement) was not an option.
A Welcome Addition to the Neighborhood
I wasn't particularly hungry on either of my visits, so I didn't try any of the sides. I asked a guy about his onion rings while I was waiting for my food. They looked good, and he told me they were. I wanted to ask him more, but I decided it was a little weird to be bothering this stranger about his lunch. An hour later, friends pointed me to Midtown Lunch, where we'd been caught on camera. And it turns out that the onion ring guy was eating lunch with Zach Brooks, Midtown Lunch's publisher. There are no coincidences at City Burger.
The interior is a narrow joint with an open grill and a handful of stools. Given the size of the current crowd, it's inadequate. Presumably, this will die down with time (or frustration), but at the same time, City Burger is addressing a real lack in this neighborhood, so maybe not. The staff is very friendly, and though they're clearly learning on the job, they don't appear to be panicking. I'll be back in a few weeks and see how it's going. It's not as if I have too many other places I like to go to around here.
Related: Midtown Lunch on City Burger
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