Word of Mouth: The Burger Joint

From Kliman Online’s “Word of Mouth”

Small quibble with the new Burger Joint: It ain't a joint.  

It's an upmarket riff on a joint, the kind of place where men in suits come at the end of the day to pick up carryout for the family. Two cheeseburgers plus two orders of fries (you have to order them separately) plus drinks will set you back more than twenty-five bucks. Yeah, some joint.
Big quibble: It's fast food that's not fast.
I recently waited twenty-five minutes in line just to order (the long lines are excusable — the place has been swarmed with curiosity-seekers since it opened) but then it took another twenty-five minutes before my food was ready. Fifty minutes for scarf-down food?
Burger Joint gets good quality meat (hormone-free, aged prime — although some of the patties tend to be a bit too tightly packed), and the burgers, which come wrapped in white paper, are nicely assembled. At their best, they have the sloppy synergy of all great sandwiches. The cheeseburger put me in mind of the chenkelburger at the late, lamented Henkel's.
The roster of variations is long and interesting. The Greek burger, a spicy lamb patty topped with tzaziki, is better than some gyros, and the turkey burger is surprisingly detailed and surprisingly juicy. The monthly special, The Eliot Spitzer, is a poor man's Boulud burger: a gargantuan patty wrapped around braised shortribs (no foie gras, here) and slathered with barbecue sauce. The juices ran down my arm as I handed it to my mother, whose eyes lit up: "Aha!" she said. "So THAT explains the name."
In the context of Central charging $29 for a lobster burger and Westend charging $18 for a burger, I suppose it's easy to justify asking twenty bucks for the Spitzer. But that's not to say I would order it again. At least with the lobster burger and the Westend burger, you are paying for the cache that comes with the names Michel Richard and Eric Ripert. Burger Joint is in a different class.
Actually, the place I kept coming up with by way of comparison as I munched on my meal was nothing so lofty. It was  McDonald's. As in: McDonald's wouldn't make me wait that long. McDonald's doesn't send out soggy, cold fries. Heck, even McDonald's gives you more room between the tables.

-June 10, 2008