I know I’ve written a lot about hotdogs, but I’m also a big fan of burgers. I guess my true affinity is for anything that’s bad for you. Nothing beats a great dog, but I have room for variety and sometimes crave an amazing burger. In Manhattan, you should look no further than the Parker Meridien on W. 56th St. (or W. 57th St., you can enter from either side).
You’re probably thinking about a $20 hamburger (more with cheese), because nothing’s cheap at a Parker Meridien. Well, for this burger, you’ll have to pass Norma’s (which is a great brunch spot, but far from cheap) and look for the neon cheeseburger on the wall. Welcome to the Burger Joint! It’s hidden in a hallway next to the concierge desk, and if you ask for directions, the staff will direct you easily. They know what you’re looking for.
During most peak dining hours, though, the location will be obvious. Look for the incredibly long line and be prepared to wait.
When you finally do reach the Burger Joint, you’ll notice a substantial shift in the décor. Scrawled between the many posters on the walls are light attempts at graffiti (but lots of them). The signs are handwritten in magic marker. The upscale uniforms visible in the rest of the hotel are eschewed for attire that’s considerably more laid back. The restaurant’s name says it all. It’s a burger joint, nothing more. But, it excels at its one mission – putting an amazing hamburger between your teeth.
Read the menu before you get to the cash register, or you’ll probably be sent to the back of the line. Demand for the product will force you to wait for a while, so there’s no reason to make it worse by screwing up at the moment of truth. The sign provides strict (but easy to follow) instructions on how to order. Speak loudly and confidently.
The restaurant itself is usually crowded. It’s tough to get a seat, and there’s always an asshole or two who lingers after finishing. So, you’ll be crammed shoulder-to-shoulder while waiting for your grub to be cooked, bagged and handed to you. Deal with it; there’s no alternative. From time to time, one of the cooks will step from behind the counter and scream at loiterers to get the hell out. It’s not done delicately … and it shouldn’t be.
If the dining area is full, or you just don’t want to mess with the crowds, there’s a great inter-block alley between W. 54th St. and W. 55th St., and it has tables and benches. This is a great dining spot when the weather is favorable. Also, you’re only a short walk from Central Park.
So, what about the food? You can’t go wrong with the burgers and fries, which comprise the entirety of the menu. The burgers are tasty, but do benefit from a bit of ketchup. I’d be happier if they were larger. The fries are thin-cut and the best (of this style) in the city. I haven’t tried the shakes (not really my thing), but I can tell from how many have been ordered that they must be good.
The total cost for all this isn’t absurd. For three cheeseburgers, two generously-sized orders of fries and a drink, I dropped $31.50. You’re going to have a bitch of a time finding a deal like this anywhere else in the city, I assure you.