Best Burgers on the Upper East Side

Written by NY Press on . Posted in Best of Manhattan, Dining Our Town, Eat & Drink, Lifestyle, Our Town.


Bareburger Hamburger.

Tracking down the best burger and fries in the neighborhood


By Paul Bisceglio, Megan Bungeroth, Rebecca Harris, Regan Hofmann, Helen Matsumoto, Amy Smith and Amanda Woods
New Yorkers have been searching for the best burger in the city since the dawn of time. But Our Town wanted to find out where Upper East Siders can get the best burger without having to leave the neighborhood. We scouted out 10 popular burger joints, from the highbrow to the dive, and rated their signature sandwiches. Check out our reviews, then tell us what you think at nypress.com/best-burger-ues, The winner of our readers’ poll will be featured in our Best of Manhattan issue this fall. In the meantime, we encourage you to embark on a taste test.

Jones Wood Foundry
401 E. 76th St., 212-249-2700, joneswoodfoundry.com
Burger: JWF Burger, DeBragga Dry Aged Blend; $18.50
Juiciness: 5
Flavor: 5
Inventiveness: 3
Bun: 3
Value: 3
Preparation: 5
Side: Fries, 2
Presentation: 5

If you get the burger at this crowded gem of a British pub, get it with Stilton (as opposed to Swiss) and get it with bacon. Both complement the dry-aged patty in a way that, while making the whole meal a touch salty, pushes the flavors into a sharp, savory combination that makes the burger excellent instead of just great. The accompanying fries (or more authentically, chips) aren’t crispy enough and don’t properly absorb the malt vinegar they are served with, but the housemade pickle and roasted plum tomatoes make up for that. The burger itself doesn’t need ketchup, lettuce or anything aside from those roasted tomatoes. Wash it all down with a Boddington’s ale and you’ll quickly forget that you’ve spent nearly $20 on a cheeseburger that’s actually well worth it.

Joy Burger Bar
1567 Lexington Ave., 212-289-6222,
joyburgerbar.com
Burger: Midi (5 oz.) burger with cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, sautéed onions, spicy mayo; $5.60
Juiciness: 3
Flavor: 4
Inventiveness/Creativity: 4
Bun quality: 3
Value: 5
Preparation: 5
Side: Fries (extra), 5
Presentation: 4

This burger bar kicks customization up a notch by letting you decide what size burger you want—3, 5 or 8 ounces—and charging accordingly. Cheese and some upscale toppings like avocado and olive tapenade cost extra, but the regulars are free and unlimited, as are sauces like garlic mayo and spicy mango chutney. The patty itself, which you can get cooked medium rare to order, unlike Joy Burger’s competitors in the mid-priced upscale burger joint category, is decent, if unremarkable. Their slogan, “The sauces make the difference,” is definitely true. Plus, a midi burger with cheese, a side of almost perfect crunchy-on-the-outside shoestring fries and a beer will only set you back $13, and the restaurant’s cozy diner feel makes it a great spot for kids or a kitschy but fun cheap date.

Joy Burger

Shake Shack
154 E. 86th St., 646-237-5035,
shakeshack.com
Burger: ShackBurger (Single); $4.55
Juiciness: 5
Flavor: 5
Inventiveness: 3
Bun: 3
Value: 5
Preparation: 4
Side: Crinkle-cut fries, 4
Presentation: 2

This oh-so-popular fast food chain does not pretend to be anything more than what it is: a cheap, guilty-pleasure burger joint with greasy, delicious classics. Don’t be put off by the long lines, because this place is quick. For $5 at Shake Shack, you can get a cheeseburger with a juicy, flavorful patty and the standard fixings, dripping with the restaurant’s mysterious, sinfully scrumptious Shack Sauce (you can forgo additional condiments). The burgers are rather small, but if you add a side of their too-salty-in-a-good-way crinkle-cut fries and a creamy, hand-spun milkshake—which you absolutely should—you’ll be full to the gills by the end of the meal. This is not the place to go if you’re looking for the highest quality beef or an exciting blend of toppings, but if a quick, cheap, tasty burger, fries and shake is what you’re after, Shake Shack’s old-school simplicity will be right up your alley.

Genesis Burger

Genesis Bar & Restaurant
1708 2nd Ave., 212-348-5500,
genesisbar.com
Burger: Gaelic Burger (cheddar cheese, Irish bacon, sautéed onions, lettuce, tomato and ketchup on a toasted sesame seed bun); $12
Juiciness: 3
Flavor: 3
Inventiveness: 5
Bun: 5
Value: 4
Preparation: 4
Side: Fries, 5
Presentation: 4

If you’re looking to enjoy a good burger with a creative twist, you may want to consider the variety of options on the menu of this classic pub. Monday nights are burger night, with eight special burgers added to the menu! The patty itself did not have a lot of flavor, which was disappointing, but the combination of toppings—try it with sautéed onions—a perfectly toasted bun and a delicious side of crispy bar fries tied the meal together to make this cheeseburger well worth its reasonable price. Chase it down with a Sierra Nevada pale ale or another of the pub’s many beer options, and Genesis is a great place to enjoy a quality, affordable burger. Plus, one of the pub’s main attraction is its atmosphere (and good music selection); you can watch the big game inside at the bar or dine outdoors with friends on a warm summer’s eve.

Ottomanelli Burger

Ottomanelli New York Grill
1424 Lexington Ave., 212-426-6886,
nycotto.com
Burger: VIP Burger (mushrooms, grilled onions and provolone); $9.75
Juiciness: 3
Flavor: 3
Inventiveness: 4
Bun quality: 3
Value: 3
Preparation: 4
Side: Waffle fries, 5
Presentation: 4

At Ottomanelli New York Grill, the rustic Italian atmosphere and the menu’s vast selection of steak burgers unite the best of two worlds. The VIP Burger is a tasty option; the burger’s toppings—mushrooms, grilled onions and provolone—offer a satisfying mix of textures and flavors. The provolone coats the top of the patty, and every mouthful will satisfy a cheese lover’s craving. The mushrooms and onions are hidden below the cheese, not on top, an unexpected but welcome treat. The meat itself, although fresh, was less juicy than expected, and the bun was thin and didn’t contribute much flavor. A bit of ketchup plus a few of the pickles provided on the side gave the burger the kick it needed. The waffle fries on the side, though, were delicious and crunchy—a perfect complement for the burger.

Café D’Alsace
1695 2nd Ave., 212-722-5133,
cafedalsace.com
Burger: Burger d’Alsace (10 oz. sirloin with sautéed onions and cheese); $17
Juiciness: 3
Inventiveness: 4
Bun Quality: 5
Value: 3
Preparation: 5
Side: Fries or salad, 5
Presentation: 4

The description of the Café D’Alsace burger sounds delicious on the menu—caramelized onion and melted Gruyère cheese with a garlic aioli. But for a whopping $17, the burger itself was somewhat average—good, but definitely not worth the price. The flavors of the burger were quite tasty, but the meat was a bit dry and not of great quality. It came on a nice heated plate with warm, crispy fries, and the mesclun salad with vinaigrette is an excellent lighter alternative. But the restaurant’s extensive artisanal beer selection and other great Alsatian dishes are more worth checking out than the burger.

Bareburger Hamburger

Bareburger
1370 1st Ave., 212-510-8559,
bareburger.com
Burger: California Burger (sharp cheddar, hass avocado, romaine lettuce, tomato, raw red onion and cilantro lime dressing); $11.95
Juiciness: 5
Flavor: 5
Inventiveness: 5
Bun: 5
Value: 3
Preparation: 5
Side: N/A
Presentation: 3

Bareburger is a must-try spot. The burger is juicy and fresh, and every bite is bursting with flavor. The cilantro lime dressing is the highlight of the burger—it added some zest to the meat and vegetables and blended well with the avocado. The multigrain roll has a distinctive oaty taste as well. This burger isn’t the only unique concoction at Bareburger—the Maui Wowie is topped with smoked mozzarella, pineapple, Canadian bacon, fried onions, roasted red peppers and ranch dressing and the Western Burger is served with pepper jack cheese, blackened maple bacon, fried onions, house-made coleslaw and peppercorn steak sauce. All of the burgers are made with grass-fed meats, natural cheeses and organic vegetables. The only drawback to Bareburger is the price: our California Burger cost $11.95, and that’s without fries. But if you have the money, this is the place to go for a burger that few can replicate.

Jackson Hole
232 E. 64th St., 212-371-7187,
jacksonholeburgers.com
Burger: Cheeseburger platter; $10.90
Juiciness: 4
Flavor: 4
Inventiveness: 3
Bun: 3
Value: 3
Preparation: 4
Side: Fries, 3
Presentation: 3

Jackson Hole serves a good burger—not a change-your-life burger that would convert you to devout meatatarianism, but a simple, delicious one. With hearty but forgettable fries, a dry bun and a token clump of lettuce alongside a single thin slice of tomato (negative points for that one), the burger was all about the quality patty, which was tender, juicy and large enough for me to feel like, by Manhattan standards, I got what I paid for. The restaurant itself was cramped, but the servers were friendly and the place gets extra points for having an open kitchen—watching your burger be hand-scooped and steam-grilled under a stainless steel cup definitely makes it all the more savory.

JG Melon Hamburger

J.G. Melon
1291 3rd Ave., 212-744-0585
Burger: Cheeseburger; $10.25
Juiciness: 5
Flavor: 2
Inventiveness: 1
Bun: 4
Value: 2
Preparation: 5
Side: Cottage fries (extra), 3
Presentation: 1
The people who claim dirty-water dogs with those angry red onions are the best kind of hot dogs or oversized, floppy cheese slices are the best pizza are the ones who list J.G. Melon’s as one of the best burgers in the city. The bar, which was designed in the early ’70s to look like a ’30s saloon, is perennially packed, bar and tables crowded with people ordering burgers (add bacon, cheese or both, for a surprisingly reasonable additional charge) and cottage fries on the side for an extra charge. The burger is slapped together with the carelessness of experience—it’s cooked perfectly and the American cheese slice is melted evenly, but it would be nice not to have to place it squarely on the bun oneself—and presented with scattered rounds of red onion and wrinkled pickle slices. It’s juicy, alright, but that fat is covering for a lack of meaty flavor. After a few (reasonably priced) beers it’d be welcome at just about any table—but then, so would a dirty-water dog.

The Mark Restaurant by Jean-Georges
25 E. 77th St., 212-606-3030,
themarkhotel.com/restaurant-bar
Burger: THE MARK Cheeseburger (brie, black truffle dressing); $27
Juiciness: 5
Flavor: 5
Inventiveness: 4
Bun: 3
Value: 4
Preparation: 5
Side: Fries: 3
Presentation: 5

There’s nothing quite as saliva-inducing as sitting down for a meal at The Mark Restaurant by Jean-Georges. The celebrity chef extraordinaire has prepared a menu of home-cooked favorites with a gourmet twist. The sumptuous Mark Cheeseburger is every bit as juicy and succulent as one would expect, while the truffle oil drizzled on the surprisingly un-soggy bun gives the perfect tastebud kick, especially when paired with the smokey, melt-in-your-mouth taste of the grade-A beef patty. Topped with brie and a little dollop of ketchup (sorry, Jean-Georges), this burger is worth every penny.

Don’t forget to vote for your favorite at nypress.com/best-burger-ues!

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