Travel Like A Boss: Le Parker Meridien’s Burger Joint – Secret New York Food Spots Part I

While it’s really not the best kept secret in all of midtown Manhattan, The Burger Joint, tucked inside of the Parker Meridien is certainly a gastronomic underdog.

About 10 years ago, this local favorite was essentially created from scratch, carved from a tiny nook toward the back of the reception area and modeled after a greasy spoon you would find somewhere in the Midwest. Replete with wood-paneled decor, cheesy movie posters and impromptu scrawling on the walls, the Joint is so popular with the neighborhood that the lunch line forms before they open at 11 a.m. and doesn’t die down until way into the afternoon – only to pick up again just before dinner. The menu, aimed at the heart of the minimalist, consists of burgers, fries, beer, soda and shakes – nothing else. Under advisement from the super friendly staff, we ordered the works on a medium burger with fries.

With so many burgers in the ring for best burger in NYC, we were unsure how the Joint’s take on the revered beef patty would compete, but take our word for it; this is definitely up there with the best. It’s just the right amount of succulence you want in a burger. With the bun toasted just right, and the mustard ketchup combo, you have to wonder what the other guys are doing wrong. Well, we may know that secret. The Burger Joint employs a full-time butcher, working around the clock processing only the best beef money can buy – no additives, no spices, just great beef. The answer may lie in the freshness.

Five American-style North Korean restaurants for foodies

This may not have been the case a few years ago, but Pyongyang is definitely on its way to becoming a culinary destination … well, maybe not. Nonetheless, it is pretty wild that the self-isolating regime has let slip some pretty wild information about the dining options available in the capital. If you can finagle a way into North Korea and somehow get yourself a bit of freedom to move, there are now some interesting restaurants for you to visit.

Swing an eating trip to Pyongyang, and you may find yourself munching on the familiar. There are several western-style restaurants popping up in this strange city, so eating like a local may mean eating like you’re home.

Let’s take a look at five restaurants in Pyongyang and how you could scarf that grub in style:1. Okryu Restaurant: just opened last week, this soon-to-be hot spot garnered a mention by the Korea Central News Agency, which means its launch was intended to be made public. The claim is that this place can accommodate thousands of customers, so live on the edge and skip making a reservation.

2. Samtaesung:
a relatively new addition to the Pyongyang culinary scene, this burger joint is open 24 hours a day and still recommends making reservations to pick up your food. This is a place to see and be seen, especially if you’re tight with the regime: Kim Jong-il‘s sister, Kim Kyong-hui, is said to benefit personally from all the cash spent there.

3. Pizza (no name given): dine on pies with ingredients shipped in from Naples and Rome. The first North Korean pizza parlor is said to have been created at the request of Kim Jong-il himself, so you know the quality is going to be top notch! So, without a name, how can you expect to find the place? Ask where the pizza joint is; it’s not like there are dozens.

4. Beach (outside the city): get outside of Pyongyang, and you still have some options. In Wonsan, at the beach, you can find even more pizza. Just remember to wait at least 20 minutes before jumping back into the waves!

5. Cubby’s: this is the restaurant that never happened in Pyongyang. Originally the dream of a New Jersey BBQ joint owner, plans to expand Cubby’s to Pyongyang were explored. The owner, Bobby Egan, befriended some North Korean diplomats assigned to the United Nations in New York City and even took a few trips over to his buddies’ homeland. Alas, according to his recent book, the plans for a DPRK franchise never came to fruition.

[photo by John Pavelka via Flickr]

The Parker Meridien NYC knows how to serve a cheeseburger

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.

Undiscovered New York: Secret eating and drinking

We know New York best for its blockbuster culinary spots. Places like Nobu, Per Se and Le Bernadin tend to get all the attention in the latest Zagat guide writeups. And it’s certainly true that these places offer some of New York’s finest cuisine.

But to take these high-profile (and high priced) dining spots as symbolic of New York’s dining scene would miss other more intriguing trends. Just as much as New Yorkers like to be seen in high profile eateries, they also like to know about those “hidden out of the way” places where the food and drink is just as good and you have to be “in the know” to find it and get in. We’re talking about one of the city’s more recent food trends – hidden speakeasy cocktail lounges and unadvertised restaurants.

For some, this sort of trend can seem a bit obnoxious. Why should a bar or restaurant be hidden from plain view? And who are they trying to keep out anyway? But the fact is many of these places are highly accessible and provide for very fun experiences – you simply need to come with an open mind and know where to find them. The reward for your trouble is often a one-of-a-kind New York eating and drinking experience.

Ever wanted to play detective and sneak through a phone booth to a hidden 1920’s-style cocktail lounge? Interested in eating some of the most authentic Mexican tacos in New York in an unassuming Midtown grocery store? Or perhaps you’d like to try one of the city’s best hamburgers at a hidden greasy-spoon diner? Click below to check Undiscovered New York’s picks for secret eating and drinking in NYC…
Please Don’t Tell

You might already know about the New York hot dog. You know, that flavorless casing of meat they serve up at food carts stationed at every corner? We’re not big fans of the New York hot dog here at Undiscovered New York, but we are fans of Crif Dogs, a quirky hot dog and sausage place in the East Village. The best part about Crif Dogs is that they don’t just serve red hots – step inside what appears to be a simple phone booth on the side of the restaurant and prepare to enter one of New York’s hidden drinking dens.

On the other side of the phone booth lies Please Don’t Tell (PDT), one of the more recent additions to the city’s underground “speakeasy” cocktail lounge scene. This dimly lit drinking establishment serves up high-end specialty cocktails to a small crowd of “in the know” patrons. Make sure to call ahead if you want to stop by – the tiny space fills up quickly during the evening.

Tehuitzingo Taqueria
New York in 2009 does a surprisingly good job with Mexican food. One need only look at restaurants like La Palapa and rejoice at the fact that decently good Mexican has finally made its way to the Big Apple. One of the best results of this trend towards good Mexican is the rise of the casual taqueria stands all around the city. For perhaps one of the city’s more interesting taco experiences, head to the rather unexciting Midtown corner of 47th and 10th Avenue, home to Tehuitzingo Taqueria. Tucked inside the very back of a small Mexican grocery is a small taco stand, barely five feet wide, serving up some of the most delicious tacos you’ll find anywhere in the city, as well as Latin-American refreshments like Jarritos and Horchata.

Burger Joint
New York’s Parker Meridien Hotel along 57th Street is just what you expect: a shiny and modern upscale hotel catering to the city’s more well-to-do visitors. But there’s one experience you don’t have to spend $500 a night on a room to enjoy – the hotel’s greasy-spoon hamburger shack, Burger Joint. Walk through the marbled-tiled lobby and you’ll come to a large red velvet curtain with a small neon sign. Pull back these heavy drapes and you’re suddenly inside a blue-collar burger spot, complete wood-laminate walls and cheesy movie posters taped everywhere. Don’t let the ambience fool you – Burger Joint serves up a delicious mouth-watering hamburger – good enough, in fact, to warrant a visit inside a fancy Midtown hotel.