Ladies and germs, welcome to the AHT delivery showdown. This is an elimination bout for the NYC Delivery Belt. In the red corner, weighing in at 7 ounces of flame-broiled goodness, fighting out of Union Square, is Goodburger! And the opponent in the blue corner, weighing in at a reported 8 ounces of flame-broiled beefiness, fighting out of Greenwich Village, give it up for Stand! Scoring will be on the 10-point mustard system, where the winner of the round is awarded 10 points and the loser 9 or fewer. And now, let's get ready to sizzle...
870 Broadway, New York NY (17th/18th; map); 212-529-9100; goodburgerny.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: A nicely balanced juicy burger travels well and fulfills the promise of flame-grilling
Want Fries with That? No, soggy and tepid
Price: Cheeseburger, $6.75; fries, $2.50; shakes, $5.50
Notes: Delivery, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., 7 days
4 E. 12th Street, New York NY (Fifth Ave/University; map); 212-488-5900; standburger.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: High-quality beef somewhat hampered by a cloying ketchup
Want Fries with That? Not for delivery, probably better in restaurant
Price: Cheeseburger $10; fries, $3; shake, $6
Notes: Delivery, 12 to 11:30 p.m., 7 days
Getting a hamburger delivered is not ideal. It is obviously far better eaten moments after it's scooped off the grill or griddle, slapped down on a bun, and deposited in front of you. Wrap it in foil, wax paper or shovel it into a cardboard box, and throw it into a plastic bag before taking it on a bumpy bicycle ride through Manhattan's potholed streets and your chances of achieving burger perfection go down exponentially by the block—the patties cool, cheese congeals, lettuce wilts and buns become soggy.
But of course there are times when you have no choice but to get delivery because you are too hungover, because it's pouring rain outside, because you are waiting for a delivery or because you are just too damn lazy to go out. As it turns out I recently found myself fulfilling all of these conditions and decided to pit Stand and Goodburger, two of my neighborhoods dedicated burger spots, in a head-to-head delivery battle.
I must say that I like ordering food online because I don't have to fight against the inevitable din of background noise that phoning it in usually entails and also because everything is in writing so when you order a rare burger and a hockey puck shows up instead, you have some recourse. Fortunately that was not a problem when I ordered two identical meals from Stand and Goodburger.
I chose these two not only because they're almost equidistant from my apartment but because they both make very similar products: 7-ounce flame grilled burgers using custom beef blends, hand-cut fries and shakes made with premium ingredients. Stand has seen a fair amount of coverage here at AHT (Adam's original review noted the problem of the backsliding bun which he later found to be solved). On the other hand, Goodburger has not been officially reviewed here at AHT, which is a bit of an oversight frankly.
For the record: I think both Goodburger and Stand produce good hamburgers. I have my preference when dining-in but given the unknown quantity of delivery, I was not sure which would come out ahead.
Round One: Delivery Time
I placed the orders only one minute apart: Goodburger at 8:21 p.m. and Stand at 8:22 p.m. Goodburger arrived at 8:39 p.m. and Stand showed up at 8:46 p.m. Given that Goodburger is 2/5 of a mile away and Stand is only one block farther, the win has to go to Goodburger for speed of delivery.
Round Two: Packaging
Stand and Goodburger use similar containers. They are a one-size-fits-all affair designed to accommodate large sandwiches and double burgers. When packaging a single burger, Stand wraps the burger in foil and even staples both together. The result is a snugly secured burger that retains more heat.
Goodburger simply places its burger in the box unwrapped, so the single patty I ordered had a lot of wiggle room. The bun top was consequently tilted off to the side. Stand delivers its fries in a foil-lined paper bag. The Goodburger fries are served in a cardboard container and then go into a paper bag. Neither method is ideal; fried food needs to vent lest it becomes soggy.
Round Three: Temperature
Using my trusty infrared-assisted, laser-powered thermometer, I took the foods' temperature as quickly as possible after arrival.
Stand's secure packaging paid dividends, delivering a warmer burger—the bun was 90°F versus 87°F for Goodburger, while the patties external temperature was 100°F to the rival's 95°F.
Goodburger's fries were 108°F, but Stand was the clear winner, clocking in at a toasty 130°F. However, Stand was almost too adept at delivering warm food. They also delivered a warm milkshake, which was tepid and soupy at 60°F versus the Goodburger shake's dense and chilly 34°F. Stand would have been the outright winner here but for the shake. As it was, the round was even.
Round Four: Price
There was no comparison here, Goodburger offered a similarly sized burger, an equally large shake and a reasonable portion of fries for a lot less money.
Just under $16 versus almost $21 at Stand, you could almost order another burger at Goodburger for the price difference.
Round Five: Fries
As previously noted neither restaurant's packaging method is ideal and both samples were somewhat soggy. But in terms of both quality and quantity the clear winner was Stand, which served up a heaping portion of golden fries. By comparison, Goodburger's came out limp and pale and the portion size was dwarfed by the sack full delivered by Stand.
Round Six: Shake
Both shakes had excellent vanilla flavor and pure tasting milk although Goodburger's was a bit too sweet. It was also much thicker than Stand's, which almost melted completely—perhaps it was too thin to even qualify as a shake. Stand packages a wide straw, indicating they're usually very thick. If it had shown up thick, it would have won but came away the loser instead.
Round Seven: Bun
As Adam noted, the days of Stand serving a backsliding bun are long gone, and the reworked bun is softer and more compliant than the original, but it's still not like the pillow-soft purity of Goodburger's generic white squishy bun. Both buns were nicely toasted—Goodburger's had an even burnishing from a toaster, while Stand had pronounced hash marks from the grill. The taste of burnt bread threatened to overshadow the more subtle charring on the beef.
Round Eight: Cheese
Goodburger serves its burgers with a slice each of yellow and white cheddar, which, while somewhat congealed, was still warm and blanketed the beef. It's not the sharpest of cheddars, which is fine by me for burgers. I prefer the even milder American cheese on my burgers. Stand serves a sharper white cheddar that was tangier and nuttier than Goodburger's milkier cheese, which I ultimately preferred.
Round Nine: Condiments and Toppings
While I generally go commando style on my burgers, I ordered lettuce, pickles, and onion on the ones for delivery to see how they would travel. I also ordered the burgers with all the condiments the "standard" burgers come with. In the case of Goodburger, this was ketchup, Dijon mustard, and mayo. They were applied in refreshingly sparing quantities but were still unnecessary. But not as unnecessary as the "homemade" ketchup that Stand slathers on the its burger. It tastes not unlike marinara sauce—perhaps it was made in Mama Leone's home.
The leaf lettuce on the Goodburger held up better than the shredded variety on the Stand burger, but the onion on the former was a bit too sharp in flavor, especially compared to the sweet red slices on the Stand burger. Stand also had better pickles; they were crunchier and had a pleasing buttery flavor. On balance, however, the cloying ketchup on the Stand burger gave the innocuousness of the Goodburger toppings the win.
Round Ten: The Beef
Stand uses a custom beef blend from Pat La Frieda. It was delivered a tad past the rare temperature that I ordered but was juicy and moist with a nice external char, and was well-seasoned. Goodburger uses its own proprietary blend of Angus beef—it was perfectly rare and well seasoned but lacked the grill char of Stand's burger. Texturally the Goodburger was a bit chunkier than the Stand patty, but Stand's had a more buttery feel.
Round Eleven: The Synthesis
I am a firm believer that a burger should be judged in total and that it can only be as good as its weakest component. Great beef on a lousy bun does not make for a great burger. The way a sandwich comes together—the synthesis of the components—is what makes for great hamburgers.
Stand's burger had a decent beef-to-bun ratio, but the slightly stiff bun, while a world of improvement over the original bun, is still less than ideally compliant. The beef and cheese had a promising interplay, but it was somewhat obscured by the ketchup. The shredded lettuce barely made an impact, although the onion added a pleasing sweetness. The beef itself was very good, juicy with a rich mouthfeel.
If the beef at Goodburger was a touch behind the offering of Stand, the rest of the sandwich—from the pillow-soft bun, milder cheese, conservatively applied condiments and snappier lettuce—was superior and, not surprisingly, produced a better hamburger experience.
Round Twelve: The Overall Meal
The supporting cast (shakes and fries) essentially canceled each other out. Goodburger's shake was as far ahead of Stand's as Stand's fries were ahead of Goodburger's. Thus the deciding factor appropriately came down to the burger, which gave the round to Goodburger.
It was a close-fought battle, both burgers acquitted themselves admirably considering the less-than-optimum circumstance of delivery. Ultimately Goodburger edged out Stand for a better bun and because I found the ketchup on the Stand burger to be rather cloying.
I was not impressed with either of the fries, but Stand's were better and gave you a lot more for the money. But that was the only saving, the rest of the meal was priced considerably higher than Goodburger's, further shifting the decision in the latter's favor. Ultimately both burgers were very good, considering they traveled almost half a mile to get to me.
While I obviously recommend that you try these burgers in the restaurants I think that you will still enjoy them delivered. I am looking forward to the rematch.
Bout Winner: Goodburger
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