Super Bowl Catering: Bringing New York’s Best Bites Home

The Super Bowl is an event not just because of the football, but because of the food. It’s an excuse to get plastered and snack on unfashionably delicious bar food on a Sunday afternoon, football fan or not. The wonderful thing about this is that restaurants often “go deep” and present their offerings in a catering-friendly form, so you can either (A) come to the party with the best snacks or (B) host one at your own digs, and not have to worry about preparing oven-baked sheet after sheet of Pizza Rolls and Bagel Bites, or even worse, trying to get someone to deliver during the game. Of course, there’s always pizza, which you can order a few hours before the day of, but why go for the normal grub when you can hit something slightly more exotic. In other words: which restaurants are helping New Yorkers get one through the uprights, and bringing forth good grub to the game?

Momofuku Ssam Bar All those who place their bets on David Chang to deliver the goods will be pleased to know that he’s again offering the Bo Ssam — a motherlode of whole slow-roasted pork shoulder, with all the fixings: napa kimchi, ginger scallion sauce, caramelized onion, horseradish crème fraiche, bibb lettuce — along with some awesome sides–smoked chicken wings, red onion cole slaw, yukon gold potato salad, baked adzuki beans with bacon–and one of the best desserts the MomoEmpire has to offer–a dozen compost cookies–for $325 this year. Better get on it, though: today (February 4th) is the last day they’re going to be taking orders. Not exactly a hail mary, though: Momofuku’s a pretty surefire bet, year-to-year, Super Bowl or not.

BLT Burger The haute Village burger stand (whose burger received notable approval from us last year) rolls out their own special for four, eight, or 15 people (priced respectively at $60, $120, $225). They’re packing in burgers, fried snacks (onion rings, skinny fries, sweet potato fries, waffle fries, fried dill pickles), along with chicken wings and waffle bites. Even better, orders can be places and picked up the day of the game, but call ’em in early, unless you feel like missing the halftime show.

Kefi Upper West Siders going slightly more highbrow than the average fried fatfest can hit up star chef Michael Psilakis’ casual Greek digs for something a little more exotic than the typical Super Bowl spread. 6-8 people can get Psilakis’ homemade pita “chips” with tzatziki dip, hummus, Greek salad and Kefi’s meatballs — which are, by far and away, the restaurant’s standout dish — along with spinach mac and cheese, some Spetsofai pasta (rigatoni, sausage and peppers), and your choice of Souvlaki or Roasted Chicken, which also comes with a side of lemon potatoes. You can call in an order to the restaurant for $49.95 day of, and get it delivered in the neighborhood at no extra charge. That said, someone’s working on the Super Bowl, delivering your food, while you’re partying. Tip well, lest you get sacked by bad karma.

MacBar One of those party dishes nobody’s ever gone wrong with, ever — Mac and Cheese — can be brought to the table in a style naturally befitting New Yorkers, which is to say, a variety of flavors including truffle oil, lobster, any number of cheeses, among others. MacBar’s got 12 different flavors, and they’re putting the entire menu up for catering 16 to 20 people, priced anywhere from $40 – $70. Orders need to be placed at least by Saturday, and when you pick ’em up, make sure you get a cabbie who can keep the meter running, lest you get stuck on a Nolita corner with a massive tureen of hot, gooey noodles without a ride to move ’em.

Acme Bar & Grill and Great Jones Cafe We couldn’t make a list without giving due diligence to New Orleans fans, who have some of the best native food in the country. Good Cajun food’s hard to find in the city, but Acme does delivery via Seamless Web, and they have an entire menu of PoBoys and a kitchen that could pull oof a party of ’em. It certainly isn’t the “fanciest” of the options here, but it’ll get the trick done. For superior Cajun grub, Great Jones (as the smaller restaurant) might merit a little more advance notice and a little more convincing, but will definitely bring tasty game to the table for New York’s dedicated, displaced WHO DAT nation who can’t (and shouldn’t) be bothered to cook that day.

Finally, Bar-B-Que‘s a sport in and of itself in New York, so it deserves a few options. Dinosaur Bar-B-Que doesn’t have a specific Super Bowl catering menu, per se, but they do have some of the best meat in town, and as they’re located all the way uptown, they’re not going to be as slammed as some of the other places you might end up at. South Brooklyn should head to the Smoke Joint, arguable the best in the borough, though North Brooklyn’s meat-on-meat destination Fette Sau in Williamsburg would beg to differ. Smoke Joint will come correct on the sides, while Fette Sau comes correct with all kinds of meat, though their side selection is limited. For Manhattanites, Danny Meyer’s Blue Smoke is a wee bit pricy, but solid, and Indy fans will appreciate their care for the midwest’s BBQ stylings; Wildwood‘s located a few blocks south, is cheaper, and has a bigger menu for those who want to reach outside the realm of more typical offerings, but Hill Country has the best of all worlds: good meat, great sides, reasonable prices, and most importantly, will deliver Sweet Tea in a mason jar for you. If that’s not Southern Hospitality, what is? Well, Upper East Siders can find out: the Justin Timberlake-associated Southern Hospitality does take-out, too.

The Benjamin Steakhouse Burger Challenge

Believe or not, sometimes, people working at magazines get treated differently than normal people because companies want stuff in magazines or on websites. Such was the case with the Benjamin Steakhouse, who recently decided that their burger could take on some of New York City’s most infamous gangsters in the burger slingin’ game. So much so, in fact, that they offered to bring their burger — along with their competition’s burgers — into our office for us to try out. And hell yeah, we bit. Literally.

The four burgers they brought to us were from BLT Burger, Burger Joint, JG Melon, and their own. The infamous Corner Bistro burger was also supposed to show up, but they told us the wait was too long. We compassionately accepted this as true (as opposed to a cheat), if only because various BlackBook staffers are still banned from the premises (a result of the Corner Bistro being full of motherless bastards). Anyway: a few things you have to understand before the judging of this little “contest”:

1. None of us are burger experts by any measure. Just broke, hungry magazine staffers taking the bait on a PR promotion. 2. The Benjamin Steakhouse is handicapped by a theoretical four-point spread. It’s their burger, and PR flacks are ruthless in their efforts for their clients (we did not, however, bite into any of the competitors’ burgers to find glass). But we just assumed it would be the most well presented, the most precisely cooked, and possibly, the warmest. For it to win, it would have to succeed these factors. 3. We can’t judge it on “Best Burger” — because we’re not eating these burgers the way God/line cooks meant for them to be eaten, i.e. in the restaurant — so we’re judging it as “Best Burger We Got Delivered to Us by the Benjamin Steakhouse PR People.” Or simply: “Best Burger You Could Get Delivered To Your Office.” 4. If your company ever wants to give us anything for free, hit us up. We’re shameless.

And off we went.

BLT Burger ($17) – Our first burger sampled. Came with a pile of soggy, stringy fries that Senior Editor Nick Haramis thoroughly enjoyed, but the rest of us thought were mediocre at best. That didn’t stop us from eating them. It also came with this strange hunk of hard-crusted, hollow, fluffy, flaky bread that we all really enjoyed — a strange if not bizarre touch. Comptroller Joe Friedman noted that the bun was “lookin’ serious,” and indeed it was: a sesame-seed topped starch, fluffy enough to sleep on (assuming you had 20 of them, and don’t mind haircrumbs). Assistant Editor Cayte Grieve noted that she liked the “smokey, grilled flavor.” I thought it was a little dry, but also thoroughly enjoyed the flavor. Account Executive (but notably: “not a suit”) Brian Kantor used the words “thick and beefy” to describe his experience with the BLT Burger. “But the fries: suck,” he added.

image Assistant Editor Cayte Grieve. Doin’ it for journalism.

JG Melon ($9) – Imported all the way from the Upper East Side to our offices, this burger definitely traveled the furthest. Maybe that’s why it tasted like ass. “Charred,” Assistant Editor Ben Barna noted. “It tastes … not burnt? No. Not so great.” Kantor had the same reaction: “Meat’s flavorless. This needs to be drowned in condiments. Also, did they use an old McDonald’s bun? Jesus.” To me, the JG Melon burger tasted like most of the Upper East Side feels to me: classic, old, at one time really rich, but now, mostly lacking in taste. Sans fries.

Burger Joint ($6.50) – I always thought the novelty of this burger — its only strength — was going behind the giant, Oz-like curtain covering the place at the Parker Meridian to order it from a relatively rude, take-no-shit staff. I was right. Ms. Grieve? “It takes like it’s been frozen at one point. This meat can’t be fresh.” Ben Barna: “Tastes just like the second one.” Also ordered without fries, but I can attest their fries are really good hot. Don’t hold up to being cold, probably.

Benjamin Steakhouse ($15.95) – The contender came with four different sauces (a Luger-esque steaksauce, a fry sauce, ketchup, mayo), bread-and-butter pickles on the fixings, and pretty great fries that actually did hold up in taste and texture (despite being the same temperature as the others). We were lectured on the kind of meat that went into it (some kind of brisket-sirloin-blend, but we’re hungry, LET US EAT) and it sounded fancy and we all bit in. Again, Cayte Grieve had the first opinion: “Textured.” I have no idea what that means, though I can attest: it was certainly the “softest” of the bunch, but it didn’t feel spongy. Senior Editor Nick Haramis — still picking at the BLT Burger fries, which he’d developed a great affection for — noted that it was his favorite. Kantor the Condiment King responded: “No ketchup needed.” I asked him to clarify. “That’s the quote.” So it goes.

image Tilda Swinton has to wait in line, like everyone else.

Final results:

Ben Barna: Benjamin Steakhouse. Cayte Grieve: BLT Burger. Nick Haramis: Benjamin Steakhouse. Brian Kantor: Benjamin Steakhouse (“But I would go with wherever’s closer if faced against BLT.”). Me: Benjamin Steakhouse, but those fries are what pushed it over BLT. Goddamn, those fries are good.

And there you have it. The PR people at the Benjamin proved a point: When delivered by a team of publicists, their burger tastes better than some of the city’s competitors (though BlackBook neighbor Shake Shack was notably absent). If I’m ever stuck at Grand Central, yeah, there’s definitely a chance I’d stop by the bar for a burger there. It’s pretty good. And there’s your press line.

[Also, most interesting thing learned during this: apparently, Feedbag blogger/former Grub Street writer Josh “I Got Gout” Orzersky has also taken the challenge. “He was really hardcore about it,” one of our sources notes. “He was opening up the burgers, smelling them, trying each condiment and each fixing on each bite. It was intense.” Go get ’em, Cutty.]