Long before the likes of Shake Shack, In & Out Burger and a myriad of other hamburger hotspots skyrocketed to fame and foodie fortune, there was, and still is, Burger Joint.
Sequestered (dare I say hidden?) behind an imposing velvet curtain in the lobby of Le Parker Meridien on West 56th Street in Manhattan, Burger Joint isn’t the modern, fad-du-jour eatery typically found in today’s upscale hotels. On the contrary, lovers of a good-ole neighborhood dive—sans the seedy drunks and odor of stale beer—will feel right at home here.
If you enter the hotel and don’t know what you’re looking for, chances are you’ll miss it. At first glance, I thought the short, dark corridor leading to Burger Joint led to public restrooms. The only evidence that something might be around the corner was a small burger-shaped neon sign I could barely make out from a distance.
Once inside, the marble floors and sky-high ceilings of the Le Parker Meridien, transform into a gritty, urban roadhouse, replete with faux wood paneling, a thick coating of graffiti (you’ll find celebrity scribblings from Ashton Kutcher, Bill Clinton, Heidi Klum, and Leonardo DiCaprio), old vinyl booths, and a collection of bobblehead dolls that sit next to Costco-sized condiment jars and packages of hamburger buns on display above the check out counter.
Ramshackle publicity photos and stickers, pepper the walls mixed with a smattering of promotional posters for the Ramones, the Sopranos and Sex and the City, among others. In keeping with the restaurant’s theme, images are haphazardly taped to the wood in a style that looks as if the perpetrators were blindfolded before they were hung. In the background, a mix of blues, disco, and 50’s tunes play, and the thick smell of warm and salty French fries fills the air.
I first went to Burger Joint over a year ago. A friend suggested it after we found ourselves in Midtown’s restaurant vortex. (The area is a wasteland for good, casual fare). I’d never heard of it (apparently, I live under a large rock) and I was intrigued by its unusual location. Walking down the darkened hall to the entrance I felt like I was privy to a secret, one I couldn’t wait to tell someone even before I tasted the food.
As you might expect, the menu is no fuss, no frills. If you’re looking for truffle oil, you won’t find it here. You will find hamburgers, cheeseburgers, a “cheesburger without meat” (a.k.a a grilled cheese for the kiddies or vegetarian tag-a-longs) and, well, that just about covers it. French fries or a pickle make up the sides and for dessert, you can spoil yourself with a gargantuan brownie or a milkshake. If you’re brave and want to push the caloric envelope, try the brownie ala mode.
The crowd spans all ages with singles and families equally represented, and in large part they are international. During my last visit, I heard customers speaking Arabic, German, French, Spanish and Swedish. It’s like a grunge version of the United Nations’ cafeteria. One couple told me it was on their “must-see” list during their east coast road trip.
To assist foreign visitors with ordering, the restaurant provides handy-dandy, menu cards in a variety of languages. No need to worry about what to say, just circle what you want, hand it to the waitress and you’re good to go.
Proud to support the classics, I order the same thing every time I visit: a cheeseburger with everything—medium rare—fries and a diet Coke. Fifteen minutes later my order is handed to me piping hot, wrapped in white deli paper and stuffed into a slim, brown paper bag—the kind moms use for school lunches. It’s perfect really and charmingly apropos. Plates and silverware feel like they would be overkill here. More importantly, the burger was delicious. Flavorful. Fresh. And perfectly cooked. It’s no wonder they sell over 1200 burgers a day.
Take that Shake Shack.
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43 thoughts on “Where to find the Best Burger in Manhattan”
When I was at Men’s Journal (years ago) my friend Chris and I would go here for lunch. A bit crowded but totally worth it. I’d forgotten about it. Thanks for the reminder!
I didn’t know you were at Men’s Journal!
Amazing, I had no idea. Definitely on my list for the next trip up there. Thanks!
So tasty. Really good and the atmosphere is fun.
One day, if I ever step in NY, promise to search the place up
You’ll be glad you did..it’s a great burger!
Yes! You won’t regret it!
Very interesting article … I wanted to personally visit such a vividly described institution, try a hot hamburger .. feel the warm atmosphere and the aroma to breathe the vyyayuschy there ..
It’s a great atmosphere in Burger Joint. Very retro and casual. And wonderfully delicious. 😁😁
We love it, too! When our children were very young, we always stayed at the Parker Meriden, in part because of the restaurant! We had some picky, picky kiddos that loved their burgers just the way Burger Joint prepared them. And Norma’s for breakfast used to serve hot Kristy Kremes as a choice. I am thinking that when it is time to bring grandchildren to NYC, I will once again be staying at the Parker Meridien! With all the changes in the world, I am thankful that the Burger Joint hasn’t changed! Hoping it never does!
What a great idea! Something about the retro feeling of Burger Joint that’s also a plus. Thanks for taking a look at the piece. Welcome to the blog. I hope you return. 🙂
Next time in New York I’ll have to check this place out. I like a good burger no matter where I am.
Nossa que lanche lindo da agua na boca😃bem apresentado seu tivesse ai eu compraria. Miamia
Ummmm😀qui delicia de lanche
It is that. Definitely!
Looks great, thanks for sharing!
You’re most welcome. Thanks for checking the post out.
What an awesome find. Love getting lost in these hidden treasures, especially in the bustling and oftentimes chaotic tangle of Manhattan. Next time I’m in town, I’m gonna have to look for it. Cheers!
So well said. When my friend said it’s hidden behind a giant velvet curtain I was pretty much sold right there. LOL If you do go, let me know what you think. 🙂
Will do! And i’m gonna have to try one of the grilled cheese sandwiches
Looks great…I have made a note of it for my next trip to Manhattan.
It’s fun and yummy. If you do go, let me know what you think, ok?
I will need to tell my husband about this. He works out of Manhattan pretty regularly and is always on the look out for quick but tasty places to eat. I doubt he would have just stumbled across this place based on your introductory passage so I will have to give him the info.
I was in that area for years and had no clue. International peeps know it better because multiple airlines put their pilots and attendants up there. It sometimes has a long line from what I hear but not when I was there. It can’t be beat, especially in midtown.
I emailed my husband your blog post. He might be tempted to go seek it out next time he’s staying in Manhattan.
If he does, will you give me his feedback? 🙂
Thank you, I thought to myself afterwards that that is probably how you got this effect. You should come to Cape Town and give lessons 🙂 Would you believe I had to have Ostrich burger patties last night – the burger thing just wouldn’t leave my head, lol.
As it so happens, it looks like I will be in CT in March!
It’s an amazing city filled with endless photographic opportunities. I’d love to touch base if you have some free time. Also, please let me know if there’s anything I can help with.
Definitely- send me your email in a message on my Insatiable Traveler FB page. :))
Will do 🙂
Gosh, I’m salivating. And I don’t normally eat burgers with a bun. Awesome pics too. If you have a minute, I’d love to know how you focus on the burger but blur the patrons – that’s so cool.
The burgers are definitely worth your salivation….LOL… In regard to the photo: It was very dimly lit in the restaurant and there was no way that I could hand hold the camera sufficiently and it would have been too disruptive to the customers if I used a flash. Therefore, the owners allowed me to bring a tripod to shoot with longer exposure. When you do that, anyone moving in the shot will end up blurry.
Love your writing style as usual, Susan! Chris
Chris, you are so kind. Thank you for taking the time to read it. 🙂
It is always entertaining!