United by a love for a good burger, Alex, Henry & Zack have teamed up to check off Eater.com’s list of “15 Epic New York Burgers to Eat Before You Die.” As a public service, each week they will try these “epic” burgers and give you the skinny on whether they are worthy to be considered a “To Die For” burger.

The Marrow

Marrow was so nice, a few of us did it twice! Marrow is a restaurant in the West Village that has a focus on its namesake: marrow. This small bistro had an upscale yet comfortable vibe with a welcoming atmosphere. The first time we went, Zack had a last-minute issue that kept him from joining us, so Henry and Alex (and Elisa) wound up going once for a first try, and back again for another when Zack was able to join us.

On the second trip with Zack, Elisa’s mom, Jo, joined us from Phoenix, as did Henry’s friend Alan. As both Henry and his friend were expecting newborns in the near future, it was a joyously expectant event. Jo was a joy to have along and we were surprised and appreciative when she treated us to our round-2 dinner!

So let’s get to the meat of the matter. The burger boasts a mix of waygu beef with beef marrow, making an unctuous burger, placed happily on a pretzel bun to soak up its juices. On top of the bun are “sherried” onions and emmental cheese. The meat itself was juicy and extremely rich. Henry responded that the meat had a wonderful flavor that was perfectly packed. It had a good texture, but its real appeal was that marrow that made it both moist and extremely flavorful. Henry also noted it had a salty crust and Alex added it was salty “in a good way.” Zack had a slightly less excited response to his burger, but still thought the meat was delicious and the toppings were complimentary in a “perfect” way. Henry and Alex wondered (out loud) if Zack’s preference for a medium, rather than medium-rare burger, had any impact on overall enjoyment.

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Alex noted that the onions – which were similar to caramelized onions – had a depth of flavor that made them taste like condensed onion soup. The addition of the emmental cheese solidified that “onion soup” flavor for Alex, though Henry said he did not even notice the cheese until it was brought to his attention. Both Zack and Alex commented that the swiss-like cheese was a perfect foil for the richness of the meat, and the two complimented each other.

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The only real area of contention was the bun. Henry revealed that his second-favorite bun – right after that potato bun – would be the pretzel bun. This one did not disappoint. However, Zack felt that the pretzel bun was actually too substantial, causing too much bread to get in the way of his enjoyment of the tasty burger and the super-pleasurable onion-cheese mix. Though he thought the bun was too “bready,” He agreed that the bottom being substantial was useful in soaking up some of the juice. Alex agreed that the bun was a bit too much for her as well, but liked the burger so much it did not take away from her enjoyment. Though Henry disagreed that the bun was too much, he also – on our first trip – admitted he needed to take a break or a walk mid-burger because it was so rich he needed a short break!

Overall, this was considered one of the tastier burgers we had, and the enjoyable environment upped the ante. Though it was not inexpensive, all agreed it was worth the price.

Our ratings (all scores out of 5)
Meat: 4.7
Bun: 4.0
Toppings: 4.3
Ambiance: 4.8
OVERALL WEIGHTED SCORE: 4.4

The Marrow
99 Bank St
New York, NY 10014 (map)

website

Rosette

Recommended by our friend and former coworker Mike, tonight’s burger was at Rosette. A cool, dimly-lit bistro on the Lower East Side, Rosette features a bar up front (with an extremely friendly bartender, who freely shared some of his own alcoholic concoctions) that opens to a larger dining area in back. Our usual trio was rejoined with Kim for this one — our first outing together with her in several months.

As our waitress took us to our seats we noticed America Ferrera and her boyfriend in a booth across the room. After catching up on what we’ve all been up to, the four of us dove into the simply-named Rosette Burger, made with cloth-bound cheddar, confit tomato, and marie rose sauce.

Zack commented that there was too much bun and Alex felt there was too much cheese — both factors making it hard to taste the actual meat. Henry commented that there was no meat flavor on the inside, only on the crust; he deemed it unmemorable. Alex liked the tomato, which she described as tasty, mellow, and like tomato soup. She chose to eat her burger upside down. Henry liked the pickles, though Zack found them unfortunately concentrated into one spot of the burger. He enjoyed the cheese, but agreed with Alex that it was overpowering and ultimately felt he couldn’t really taste the other toppings. While Zack appreciated the sesame seed bun, Alex declared the burger over-bunned.

The burger aside, everybody agreed the ambiance was fantastic. The waitress and the aforementioned bartender were very friendly and helpful, the room was spacious, and the overall atmosphere quite pleasant; as Alex put it, “I feel classy, which is not easy.”

Our ratings (all scores out of 5)
Meat: 3.3
Bun: 3.2
Toppings: 3.7
Ambiance: 5.0
OVERALL WEIGHTED SCORE: 3.5

Rosette
171 East Broadway
New York, NY 10002 (map)

website

Blue Collar

Located on Willamsburg’s South Side, Blue Collar is a hole-in-the-wall offering burgers, hot dogs, fries, and shakes. Many patrons ordered food at the counter and took it to go; we chose to sit at one of the handful of tables. A trio of cops and a few locals made up our dine-in companions. The simple decor fit with the joint’s name; reggae, ska, and punk music acts such as Catch 22 and Fugazi played over the speakers (which Alex thoroughly enjoyed).

Zack found the burger delicious - good delivery on a standard burger with no frills or fancy complications. Alex agreed that the burger was great and the kind she likes, but the meat itself wasn’t great; it wasn’t juicy, and she likes juicy. Henry quickly compared it to Smashburger (a positive mark in his book) and Burger Joint, and Alex agreed. All agreed that the veggies were crisp and fresh. Zack, who isn’t usually a fan of onions, enjoyed these and felt there was just the right amount. He also enjoyed the good, plain ketchup and mustard — the latter an often-overlooked condiment in our burget outings. Henry said the bun was “fine” but didn’t like that it was flattened. Alex took a more positive stance on the bun and also complimented the pickles; overall, she concluded that the burger as a whole was greater than the sum of its parts.

Our ratings (all scores out of 5)
Meat: 3.5
Bun: 3.3
Toppings: 4.5
Ambiance: 3.5
OVERALL WEIGHTED SCORE: 3.7

Blue Collar
160 Havemeyer Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211 (map)

Google+ page

Umami Burger

After frequently seeing it pop up in magazines, blogs, and word-of-mouth, the crew finally headed to Umami Burger.  The LA-based chain — named after the fifth taste, a savory flavor they bring to burgers — opened its first East Coast location last summer, in Greenwich Village.

When we arrived on a Tuesday evening the place was bustling with folks in their 20s and 30s chowing down on burgers and beers.  We were taken to the second floor, which was less busy.  We were seated in a cozy corner; the music was low and did not interrupt conversation, and our waitress was friendly and attentive.

On to the burger itself.  At first sight, the burger looked like a flat, fast-food burger.  Henry said it looked mechanically made. Based on its appearance and an article he had read, Zack didn’t think he would like the burger, but he did.  The lack of lettuce and tomato — normally a big no-no to him — was welcomed, as it allowed him to really taste the meat; these vegetable accoutrements would’ve been distracting.  Zack described biting into the burger as a “tasty amalgamation of juices and flavor”; he couldn’t discern what was in it, but it tasted great.  Alex commented, “I feel like I need to work out now.”  She and Henry agreed that the burger was delicious (and all three enjoyed the charring), but both wanted more crunch to it — maybe some red onion? Henry felt it tasted more like a chili burger; all the fat holding it together tasted like “chili chunks.”

The bun was fairly dense in the center, but fairly soft and fluffy on the top and bottom.  It was branded with the Umami logo, which Henry deemed cute but Alex called cheesy.  Alex also commented that she liked the parmesan and aoli, but had to add some of the house ketchup.  Overall, we agreed the burger was small but rich and filling.

Our ratings (all scores out of 5)
Meat: 3.8
Bun: 4.3
Toppings: 3.3
Ambiance: 3.5
OVERALL WEIGHTED SCORE: 3.8
Umami Burger
432 Sixth Avenue
New York, NY 10011 (map)

The Story so Far…

We have a few more burger reviews to post up and a few more places to visit, however we wanted to list out where we are as of now, especially after eating 30+ burgers in a year and a half!

Below is a heatmapped table.  Dark red is the lowest score.  Dark green is the highest score.  The heatmapping is calculated within each category.

After reviewing the data we discovered some interesting points:

Here are the places to have the top 3 burgers:

  1. Swine (4.6 average)
  2. Jeepney (4.5 average)
  3. 3 way tie: The Penrose, Gramercy Tavern, The Toucan & The Lion (4.4 average). Though we recently heard that The Toucan & The Lion closed.

Some other interesting points:

  • The average score was above the midpoint of the ranking with toppings being the lowest average at 3.5
  • After averaging our three individual judge scores, only meat, bun, and toppings have ever hit the perfect 5.0 score.  Ambiance missed it by .2.
  • Though interestingly ambiance had the highest average score at 4.0.

We’ll update the list again after having a few more reviews under our belt.

Click on the image below to see the full size. 

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Lure Fishbar

Avast ye matey! We weathered a mighty storm at sea for our next burger review…

Well, no. Quite the opposite, actually. This time we traversed down some steps on a side street in SoHo and anchored our ship at Lure Fishbar. At best, I’d describe it as what the inside of a nice yacht would look like if it had a full dining area.

Jumping into the burger, I noticed that it felt similar to Burger Joint’s burger but with a certain fanciness to it. And Alex actually thought it was the most high-end fast food burger we have had yet; a compliment. The buttered bun was pretty good, we all agreed. It did a really good job of soaking up the juices though I would have wanted a thicker bottom half for more support.

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Zack noted that the meat had a very nice soft texture with a well-melted slice of cheese. We felt that the burger was very rich, possibly buttery on the outside, which made the meat a bit salty.

Besides the cheese, the shredded lettuce was a nice change from many of the previous burgers, which were served with a whole lettuce leaf. The special sauce added a nice tang to the burger, some that Alex really liked.

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Overall this was a fancier American burger that as a whole was much greater than the sum of its parts. Alex added that this would make a fantastic hangover burger.

Beyond the heavy nautical theme, we had some great music in the background including Inner Circle’s “Bad Boys” and popular tracks from Michael Jackson & Fleetwood Mac. As a bonus we got a famous person sighting with Michael Strahan seated at the table next to us.

Our ratings (all scores out of 5)
Meat: 4.2 
Bun: 4.5 
Toppings: 4.3 
Ambiance: 4.3 
OVERALL WEIGHTED SCORE: 4.3

Lure Fishbar
142 Mercer St.
New York, NY 10012 (map)

website

Jeepney - Filipino Gastropub

The team met up to taste the burger at the Filipino restaurant Jeepney’s, in the East Village, and we had a few visitors! Along with our team alternate Elisa, Jen Jeung – former HP employee – was in town and we were excited to have her join us for dinner. In addition, Henry’s friends Maryann and Steve also came along. It turns out Jen is an adventurous eater, and she convinced most of us to try the Balut, or fertilized duck egg. What an interesting prelude to the Chori-burger that is touted as the specialty of the house.

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The burger itself was a mixture of beef and the house sausage, and after previous burgers with sausage, we were all slightly wary. However, Jeepney’s burger was a delicious success. Henry commented that the meat was very good and had a smokiness that hit the back of your throat. Zack said the meat was “amazing,” and we all recognized that the meat was lightly packed, which is part of its success. Agreeing the meat was delicious, we began to comment on the other attributes. Always a hit with Alex, the burger was so juicy, it ran down your arm. The bun was good in size and the bun-to-burger ratio was perfect. Though Alex’s bun was slightly over-toasted (ok, burnt) all agreed that the toasting allowed the bun to soak up all the juice from the burger, which was positive. Zack thought the bun tasted a bit like a pretzel, but was more than just a vessel for the burger, but added to the experience.

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The toppings were distinctly Asian, which was tasty and not overpowering. The daikon-carrot slaw was a big hit with Alex and the guys thought the slaw was tasty as well. The “house made ketchup,” something that always concerns Zack and Alex, turned out to be fantastic, that was similar to traditional ketchup but with a slight spice from the banana peppers. There was raw onion, lettuce and tomato on the plate, but not everyone ate all the elements. Though Alex thought the raw red onion nicely cut through the fat, the guys don’t eat raw onion and opted for the tomato instead. All felt like the toppings complemented the burger well. Finally, there was an aioli flavored with a shrimp-type paste that Zack recognized right away, but Henry and Alex only knew as “tasty.”

We were seated comfortably in the back of the restaurant , which played great music. Though it was slightly too loud for Alex, the rest of the crew didn’t notice. The life-sized pictures on the wall of lovely (ahem) barely-clad ladies were a conversation piece and the wait staff was fantastic; they explained the menu well and were extremely attentive. In the end, we were impressed with the burger, the restaurant and the company.

Our ratings (all scores out of 5)

Meat: 4.8
Toppings: 4.7
Bun: 3.8
Ambiance: 4.5
OVERALL WEIGHTED SCORE: 4.5

Jeepney - Filipino Gastropub
201 1st Ave
New York, NY 10003 (map)

website

Cafe Ghia

In our first Patty Posts trip of 2014, the original trio made its way through the cold, windy night to Bushwick’s Cafe Ghia.  The restaurant to ourselves, we took a seat and ordered the grass-fed burger - with Vermont cheddar, roasted tomato aioli, and alfalfa sprouts.

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Henry and Alex pretty quickly agreed that the bacon-fat-infused patty tasted like chorizo, which Zack didn’t mind; in fact, he immediately called the burger “delcious” after having his first bite (though he admitted that his small lunch and ensuing hunger may have influenced his opinion).  Henry did not like the meat, which he said was too chorizo-y, and he also found the alfalfa sprouts “hairy”; Alex enjoyed the thin sprouts, and Zack barely noticed them.  Henry added that the center was juicy and the outside chewy, but he did like the buttery, soft bun - toasted, and not super moist.

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Alex was initially worried about the burger-to-bun ratio, but allayed these fears once she bit into it. She called out that the sliced tomato was cleverly placed underneath the patty, eliminating slippage, and also enjoyed the fatty bacon.  She summed up the burger as being very tasty, too greasy, a little strong, but good.

By the end of our meal a number of other patrons had come in for dinner, but it was still calm and not very loud or crowded.  The service was good and songs like Van Morrison’s “Caravan” and Bill Withers’s “Use Me” provided the soundtrack.

Our ratings (all scores out of 5)

Meat: 3.7
Toppings: 3.0
Bun: 3.5
Ambiance: 4.5
OVERALL WEIGHTED SCORE: 3.5


Cafe Ghia
24 Irving Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11237 (map)
Website

The Breslin

On our last burger outing of 2013, the crew headed to The Breslin, located in the Ace Hotel. The place was surprisingly crowded for a Monday evening; we waited for our table among an endless bustle of people coming and going. Over an hour later, we were seated.

Tonight’s reason for visiting was the chargrilled lamb burger, prepared with feta and cumin mayo.  Alex and Henry thought the lamb flavor was subtle, while Zack said it was too lamby — good, but he would’ve preferred beef. He appreciated the cumin mayo, which helped cover the “lambiness.” Alex didn’t like the mayo, and suggested a dill tzatziki would be better; she also suggested a soft bun or even pita, as the crunchy chiabbatta bread was “too much work.” While her burger was disappointingly undercooked, she did enjoy the high quality feta.

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Everybody agreed that the burger was all salt and needed something — perhaps more cheese, lettuce, and tomato.  Henry stated that the burger was better than he expected, but he expected something like Telepan’s burger so the bar wasn’t set too high.  Alex conceded that “it was OK,” but not worth $20.

Our ratings (all scores out of 5)

Meat: 3.2
Toppings: 2.5
Bun: 3.5
Ambiance: 2.8
OVERALL WEIGHTED SCORE: 2.9


The Breslin Bar & Dining Room
Ace Hotel
20 West 29th Street
New York, NY 10001 (map)

Website

Whitman’s

In the dining room basement of a small restaurant in the East Village, we gathered together to taste a unique take on the burger. This burger was the Midwestern famous, Juicy Lucy. Here we had a burger where instead of having the cheese on top of the meat, it was stuffed in the meat before cooking. Question arose of whether the burger was going to be moist and if the cheese, in this case a pimento cheese, was going to balance well with the meat. These were questions we were soon going to find the answer to.

After getting our burgers the first thing we noticed was the massive tomato on the burger. It looked like a genetically engineered Monsanto tomato. The lettuce also looked pretty large, though the tomato still dwarfed it. The non-Monsanto looking caramelized onions rounded out the burger’s accouterments.

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Upon first bite all our burger questions were answered, and they were not pleasant. Alex immediately felt disappointed with the burger. My cheese fell out onto the plate. The cherry on top of this mess was the weak tasting onions. So sad.

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We were somewhat split on the flavor of the meat. While I felt the burger was pretty bland, Alex thought it was tasty. However, Alex did notice that it was a little undercooked on the inside. To further my point I noted that the toppings overpowered the burger. Zack had a similar feeling, as they were a bit overwhelming. The cheese was good, but it would have been better to spread it out than to concentrate it in the center of the patty. Alex also pointed out that her onions needed more time to be caramelized.

On the positive side, I did enjoy the sesame seed bun. It always reminds me of the days my dad would grill burgers in the park. However with every positive, there was a negative not far behind and the wide burger to bun ratio was it. Alex pointed out that it would have been better to have a wider bun to catch the falling cheese. Zack didn’t find the bun as enjoyable. It was pretty weak and fell apart halfway through his meal. Since we were eating in the basement dining area, it felt pretty cozy.

We had some great 90s hip-hop on the speaker, such as, Crossroads (Bone Thugs-N-Harmony), “I Got 5 on It” (Luniz), “Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta” (Geto Boys) and very attentive service. Alex noted that the ambiance is the best thing about this burger! I think that sums it about right.

Our ratings (all scores out of 5)
MEAT: 2.7.
BUN: 2.7 
TOPPINGS: 2.8.
AMBIANCE: 4.
OVERALL: 2.8

Whitmans
406 E 9th St
New York, NY 10009 (map)
Website