Burger Friday: NYC’s Top Three Weirdest Burgers

In honor of the national holiday that is National Burger Month, I am devoting Fridays to the world’s love for the juicy, dripping beast that is The Burger. Today, I’m honoring NYC’s weirdest burgers. This took a good deal of research (eating), as only the absolute strangest and craziest can make the list. Take a look.

The Donut Burger from The Burger Bistro: The most wildly popular dish on their menu, The Burger Bistro’s donut burger is one hunk of juicy beef topped with melted American cheese, fried egg, crispy bacon, sandwiched between a cut-in-half glazed and fluffy donut from local Bay Ridge spot Mike’s Donuts. It’s dinner and dessert.While it runs as a frequent special, you can call one of their Brooklyn and NYC locations a day in advance, and they’ll have it made especially for you. Perfect for a birthday surprise (as it may be your last). Kidding! (probably).

The Kangaroo Burger from The Thirsty Koala: Remember Roo from Winnie the Pooh? Kanga’s playful, roly-poly son? Yeah, well now you can eat him. On a brioche bun. Topped with bacon, grilled pineapple, beet root slaw, caramelized onions, fried egg, and house-made goat cheese. The kangaroo meat – which is actually quite sweet and leaner than beef – comes directly from a ranch in Australia and straight to Bronx Hunts Point Market, where the Astoria restaurant scoops it up and serves it to you with a side of kumara mash yam grown in New Zealand. Farewell, Roo. Hello, yum.

The Mac & Cheeseburger from GO Burger: This NY burger chain combines two of America’s most prized comfort foods; it tops a slab of beef with fried mac & cheese, bacon, caramelized onions, cheddar cheese, and house-made smoked ketchup, all on a  golden-toasted bun. A recipe for greatness. 

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Photo: Thrillist.

Brisket Boom

In April 2012, Texas native Daniel Delaney started Brisketlab, a pop-up shop featuring, what else, smoked brisket. In 48 hours, he sold 2,500 pounds of meat and earned a name for himself and his product. Now, Delaney dishes up brisket at his first brick and mortar shop Delaney Barbecue, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. There, you can buy tender, fatty brisket and smoky ribs by the pound, along with a tangy potato salad and coleslaw. Bring your own beer to chase the meat, and lots of friends to share it with.

Also dishing out stellar brisket is Bill Fletcher, who runs Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue in Gowanus. What is Brooklyn barbecue you may ask? The owner said it’s not from Texas, it’s not from St. Louis, and it’s not from the Carolinas, it’s from Brooklyn. Plus, in sticking with the local, organic, grass-fed beef trend that, thankfully, many restaurants in the borough have adopted, Fletcher’s also makes sure their product remains sustainable. You can also buy by the pound here, and, aside from ribs and brisket, they serve Pat LaFrieda spicy sausage, pork shoulder, baked beans, and house-made fridge pickles.

Recently, in Astoria, Queens, The Strand Smokehouse opened up with former Jeffrey’s Grocery chef Eric Milley cooking pulled pork, smoked pork loin, and macaroni and cheese. They have a good selection of beer and have a handful of whiskey-filled barrels right for tapping. 

 

Photo Credit: Critter

Exploring NY’s Top Hidden, Overlooked Restaurants

You, there! Over yonder! Summon that explorer spirit in you, and hop on board that ferry or subway, cause we’ve put together the map you need to discover the top underrated, hidden restaurants in New York. A fan of crunchy, spicy fried chicken? Fresh and crispy, cheese-smothered pizza? Broiled scallops? Fluffy French toast? These spots in each of the five boroughs offer completely different cuisines for you and your very diverse, complex, curious palate. Who needs the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria? Put on those walking shoes, rouse your hunger, and get ready for this merry dining adventure. 

Discoveries: Astoria, Brooklyn, Bingo & Noise

Nightlife’s club, bars, lounges, and restaurants bring me to exotic locations all the time. It’s made me a believer in Brooklyn, where I am completely on the edge of my seat waiting for Brooklyn Star to open—which it will, reportedly this Wednesday. It’s located just up the way, at the corner of Lorimer and Conselyea. I have been told by my well-seasoned crew things like “you don’t understand,” and “OMG, we’re never leaving the hood.” They provided informative answers when I asked what all the buzz is about. Amid all the lip smacking, drooling, “OMGs,” and “you don’t understands,” I made out words like “corn” and “southern food.” I’ll find out for myself on Wednesday, and tell you all about it (and I’ll try not to drool).

Saturday night I traversed to Astoria, where a birthday shin-dig was being held at the Astor Room in the basement of the ancient Kaufman Astoria Studio. The newly opened restaurant was once the commissary of the Paramount movie machine at the still-active studio. Clientele included W.C. Fields, Rudolf Valentino, the Marx Brothers, and a thousand other black-and-white et ceteras. Today Nurse Jackie and Sesame Street shoots there. Men in Black III will start soon. The place is located under an unassuming black awning, with a staircase that takes you down to the restaurant, and possibly back in time.

Over the stairs was a photo of a silent era actress I had never heard of, Betty Branson. The shot was from a movie I didn’t know called A Kiss For Cinderella. I was awestruck by her smile and beauty, and used my Droid to find out about her. She was the first Peter Pan in 1924, then starred in Ben Hur in ’26, and then Cinderella. She was a huge star. Douglass Fairbanks wrote of a huge crush he had on her. She starred for many years, making the transition to talkies, and then faded from our affections. She worked, but mostly in obscurity, until she passed in 1971. I hadn’t gone 5 steps into the place and I was totally absorbed. A restored Beaver Bar, a reference to Astoria namesake and fur mogul John Jacob Astor, was where my large and loud party had gathered. Mr. Astor’s great grandson John Jacob Astor IV built the Waldorf Astoria, and was the richest of the rich who went down with the Titanic.

The Astor Room was like a Stuyvesant High history class with Mr. Gleason—but with cocktails. My crew was ecstatic over the concoctions that mixologiests Lynette Marrero and Jim Kearns (ex Rye House) were making. They were ordering things like Mary Pickfords, and Astor Martinis, and drooling and giggling and exchanging sips. I looked around the room with unforgiving eyes and wished they had done something to the ceiling, which was a Home Depot-level dropped variety. I saw it again later that night at the Good Times Diner. Some walls were just blank, screaming for the same retro wallpaper that scored throughout. It was real close, but not the cigar a W.C. Fields might have been chomping on as he ate. He must of ate sometimes? The food for 21 people came out orderly. Chef Richard Pims visited us regularly and we spent time with him after diner. Nice guy, great cook. Throwback courses included Oysters Rockefeller, but nothing was thrown back. Everything was eaten and everything was good. I should have ordered the baked Alaska instead of stealing it from other plates. My own smoked 7-layer cake was scrumptious as well.

Astoria is developing rapidly. Just down the block is the hugely popular Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden, and the slamming 5 Napkin Burger and Bar. I almost built a joint for Richie Romero and his cohorts right there. It is empty again, all high ceilings and opportunity.

I went to Snap to meet up with Amanda. They start a bingo night there tonight at 9:30pm. This time of year, without Monday Night Football, Mondays at a sports bars become problematic. Bingo will cure that. I, of course, will be at my usual table earlier at Bowery Poetry for Linda Simpson and Murray Hill’s bingo. So the plan is, I will hit bingo at both places, and then it’s home for warm milk, a cookie, and Tivo shows of Jerry Springer’s Baggage. I might need to think this over.

A shout out to White Noise and their Friday night jam with Sam Valentine Djing. It was a blast, despite the protestations of Sam and Luke. Both apologized about how weak it was that night. My bingo/cookies and milk/Springer eyes saw it differently. I don’t know what a good night feels like here, but this joint was wonderful. The only thing I was aware of was there was an abundance of really hot rock and roll hootchie coos that made me feel like I was in Max’s in ’80, and far fewer great guys. I pointed that out to Luke who smiled knowing that’s not a long term problem.

In Which Astoria Tries to be Brooklyn Trying to be Manhattan

A long time ago, in a Galaxy far, far away, a group of club gods decided they could build a suave, sophisticated, and hip night club right over the 59th Street Bridge. It lasted, I believe, for about a night and a half. Other moguls tried, but for many years, New Yorkers would not leave Manhattan and its glam for fun in the hinterlands of Queens, Brooklyn, or Staten Island. I know there’s another borough, but I can’t remember its name. These places on the map, and Jersey too, have millions of residents looking for a good time. The theory has always been to catch the locals with a spot near their homes, but without Manhattan door policies or prices. Williamsburg changed all that for the hipster set. The L train is crammed with revelers seeking bohemia in the borough. Larger dance clubs with world-class DJs have fared less well, with some noticeable exceptions.

Dennis Saleeby of the fabulous club Capri in Bayridge, Brooklyn has been working there since the mid-60’s, through countless name changes and countless jobs. He eventually wound up owning the place. OPM brings a world nightclub mentality to the docks of Sheepshead Bay. I caught up with Franco Porporino Jr., who will be hosting a new brunch at Cienna in Astoria, Queens. Brunches are all the rage in Manhattan’s chic spots. I, of course, am not talking the Eggs Benedict places with the kids screaming and spilling maple syrup at the next table. I’m talking the napkins-in-the-air, blaring-house-music Bellini brunches where Euros and other trash spend beaucoup bucks with their beautiful, jet-setting friends. Bottle service started as a small thing and is now a world-wide phenomenon. Big-time, big-buck brunches will soon be everywhere. I asked Franco about brunch in the borough.

Cienna is in Queens. Where Brooklyn has developed a hipster scene to rival Manhattan, Queens has not. Will this happen? At first I was skeptical myself, until I decided to scope the nightlife and brunch scene in Astoria. Since Astoria is very limited to certain nightlife venues and cafes, I am very confident in saying that Astoria, Queens has a huge demand for a “European Brunch Party” concept like mine. Who are your clientele, and how are they marketed to? My clientele consists of high-net worth individuals whom I’ve developed relationships from my background on Wall Street, as well as the young chic crowd whom I’ve come into contact with throughout the different exclusive venues that I’ve worked with in the past. Does the space have a Manhattan feel or is that unimportant? Designed by Antonio Di Oronzo from Bluarch, Cienna is in a class all by itself, as far as ambiance. Close attention was paid to every detail during the two-and-a-half year restoration to ensure that the space has a one-of-a-kind appeal. It embodies the atmosphere of both an intimate eatery, and a quintessential “ultra” lounge. Contrary to its local counterparts, Cienna is able to blend the electric nightlife of a Manhattan lounge, with a unique local dining experience. Is there a scene with VIPs or is it more laid back? Is there a door policy? The Sunday European Brunch party that I am hosting will be strictly guest list only, with a very strict door policy. However, on any other night the door policy is more laid-back. What makes your customer come to you rather than a Manhattan joint? Well that credit would have to be equally shared. I manage an up-and-coming DJ by the name of Claudius Raphael whom throughout the past two years has spun at every exclusive brunch party in Manhattan, including Via Dei Mille, Revel Gardens, Juliet Supper Club, Greenhouse, and Gansevoort. So cross networking as Raphael’s manager in addition to having a loyal following from my Wall Street contacts brings a very exclusive clientele to Cienna. What is your hospitality background? I am former owner of a 3-star restaurant, and was trained in the culinary field by Michael LaTour, who not only worked in New York City’s finest first-class hotels, but was part of the opening team at the 57/57 Restaurant at the Four Season’s Hotel in NYC. I was also previously the host of Via Dei Mille, Speak Easy Supper Club, Juliet Supper Club, and Greenhouse. What can people expect from your upcoming brunch party at Cienna? From the feedback that I am getting already, it’s safe to say that this brunch party will set the benchmark in Astoria Queens and Cienna’s “Heaven on Earth” Sunday brunches will most likely be the closest thing to boarding a plane to Mykonos to discover the same vibe. Do you consider yourself a promoter or restaurateur? I consider myself more of an event coordinator and adviser.

Will Astoria and Queens become like Brooklyn, an increasingly more relevant part of the city’s clublife? Since I formerly resided in Bensonhurst, and have been to some of Brooklyn’s venues, I easily see Astoria giving Brooklyn a challenge, especially Cienna and Central, the home of my dear friend DJ Jus Jack.

Is Manhattan losing its luster and domination on our social lives? I believe that Manhattan will always be in a class all by itself for nightlife however I strongly believe that if you can bring a venue that is distinguishably different and exclusive, people will be drawn to that rather than the same venue over and over again.