147 Mercer Street, New York NY 10012 (b/n West Houston and Prince; map); 212-966-5454; jean-georges.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: A surprisingly purist hamburger from a fancy pants hotel restaurant
Want Fries with That? Comes with, and they are excellent
In my review of the pizza at Mercer Kitchen I noted how the cross street of Prince and Mercer is best avoided when looking for pie. Not only did the pizza there disappoint, but the pie I tried across the street at Fanelli's was equally bad.
But when it comes to hamburgers the cross street holds an embarrassment of riches. Fanelli's turns out a very good pub burger and across the street Lure serves two different styles of burger, including the People's Choice winner from last years Burger Bash. You can add Mercer Kitchen to the list of commendable burgers. Somewhat unexpectedly the burger here, unlike the nouvelle-style pizza they serve, is about as purist as one can get.
I wouldn't have been surprised had the burger here came on brioche bun topped with a vegetable tapenade and brie. Instead it comes on a sesame bun and the only cheese offered is yellow American, which comes perfectly melted, a glistening mass that blankets the patty, dripping off at its corners. Greens? A colorful array of lettuce, tomato, red onion, and pickles lay next to the burger—a miniature vegetable patch in the heart of Soho. The restaurant can be forgiven for not stocking yellow mustard—the rest of the burger is so good that it doesn't need it, nor any other condiment.
The beef, a fairly finely ground blend for Niman Ranch, came out rare as ordered and had some outstanding hatch marks—deep, crusty black grooves—with a correspondingly smoky, charred flavor. The beef is succulent where it counts: inside the patty. The kitchen has nailed a taste familiar to millions. Coupled with the American cheese and the densely seeded bun (I suspect it's a Big Marty roll) the burger tastes like the quintessential backyard burger.
The skin-on fries that come with the burger are also excellent. I've eaten a good lunch at the Mercer Kitchen and some bad pizza, but the cheeseburger they serve is, even at a pricey $14, my easiest recommendation if you happen to yourself there.
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