Ever since the first caveman hunted mastodon and discovered fire, we’ve been in search of the perfect hamburger. Yet it’s easier to find exceptional pasta or sublime sushi than a tasty, impeccably prepared, medium rare burger with the proper bun-to-meat ratio. It shouldn’t be so elusive, especially with gourmet burger joints becoming as ubiquitous as nail salons. Two newcomers in the Village are vying for your hamburger dollars, and though just three blocks apart, they couldn’t be more different.
Stand is a 21st century reinvention of the 1950s corner malt shop—replete with a hip vibe. The bright and airy space—with its exposed kitchen and minimalist décor—has music ranging from hip-hop, classic rock and dance hits pumped through an overhead sound system. Black picnic-like tables dot the room with padded purple benches and high-tech, black plastic chairs. So, you know, you can feel like dancing in a trendy school cafeteria.
The cafeteria presentation continues with generic white plates with a solitary hamburger sitting in the center, but don’t let that deter you because the burger—a combo of prime chuck, short rib and brisket—is moist, juicy and packed with flavor. Each burger is cooked to a perfect medium rare, but all that juiciness comes at a price: I needed several napkins to clean up the sauce and grease dripping down my hands. Wetnaps are provided at the end of the meal—so let the juices flow!
The bun is thick and firm, a great compliment to the robust seven ounces of meat which lays between it. With eight varieties of beef burgers to choose from, the Classic ($9) is just about perfect, with or without the added cheddar or blue cheese. The Mushroom Burger ($10), with sliced porcini mushrooms and porcini sauce, and Burger Salad ($12) are also exceptional. The fries and onion rings ($4) were crispy, delicious and, quite frankly, some of the best I’ve had.
The Burger Soup ($10), a French onion-style soup—with cheese, veggies, croutons and meatballs—makes a great hearty winter meal. They also have homemade sodas made from their own fresh puree. The Homemade Ginger Ale and Fresh Blackberry Soda are a must—though at a steep $5 a glass, you might want to limit yourself to just one.
Three blocks away, BLT Burger, with its neighborhood pub atmosphere, welcomes like an old friend ready to cheer you up with good grub. The restaurant space is long, narrow and low-lit and lined with cozy, relaxed booths. Though the food is relatively good, there are two major problems here: meat and bun. We ordered our burgers medium rare, yet nearly every time they arrived medium to well-done. No need to worry about any messy juices here. And the bun is doughy and disappointing.
Despite its shortcomings, The Classic ($7) does have nice flavor, enhanced by layers of mayo, mustard, ketchup, pickle, onion, tomato and lettuce—making it an upscale version of its golden-arched, fast-food cousin. The patty itself is five ounces (two ounces smaller than Stand) and a similar meat combination as Stand, except they also add sirloin to their mix. The BLT Burger, with two four-ounce patties, smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, and green peppercorn sauce ($11), is also quite tasty. Other than the American Kobe Burger ($16), which doesn’t taste much different from the Classic, and a Japanese Kobe Burger ($62), those are the only hamburger options. Fries ($3) are plentiful and crispy. Now, if only they’d change their bun and work on the timing of their burgers, things would greatly improve. So in the great big burger bust that seems to be taking over the city, Stand comes out as the current winner.
24 East 12th St. (betw. 5th Ave. & University Pl.)
470 6th Ave. (betw. W. 11th & 12th Sts.)