The Best Burgers of the Upper West Side

Written by NYPress on . Posted in Best of Manhattan, Dining West Side Spirit, West Side Spirit.


by Megan Bungeroth, Mayara Guimaraes, Regan Hofmann and Amanda Woods

New Yorkers have been searching for the best burger in the city since the dawn of time. But the West Side Spirit wanted to find out, where can Upper West Siders get the best burger without having to leave the neighborhood? We scouted out popular burger joints, from the highbrow to the divey, and rated their signature sandwiches accordingly. Check out our reviews, then tell us what you think at nypress.com/best-burger-uws, The winner of our reader poll will be featured in our Best of Manhattan issue this fall. In the meantime, we encourage you to embark on a taste test.

The Sunburnt Calf.

The Sunburnt Calf
226 W. 79th St., 646-823-9255, 
moolifegroup.com
The Burger with the Lot (lettuce, tomato, cheese, bacon, fried egg, onion, pineapple, beets); $12

Juiciness: 5
Flavor: 5
Inventiveness: 5
Bun: 4
Value: 3
Preparation: 4
Side: fries: 4
Presentation: 4

The Burger with the Lot is no less than an explosion on a plate—a delicious explosion, that is. The burger is intimidating at first, and it takes a while to figure out how to tackle eating it. A slice down the middle and some knife and fork action does the trick, though. This Australian classic combines a variety of flavors that blend well together—the bacon provided just the right amount of savoriness, while the pineapple and beet added an unmistakable sweetness. The egg, stained pink in some places from the beet, is cooked perfectly; not too hard, but not runny, either. The burger doesn’t need any ketchup or other seasoning—it is perfectly flavored as it comes. The front of the restaurant has a pub atmosphere, but the back of the eatery transforms into a small oasis, the walls covered with paintings of Australian landscapes in shades of orange and amber with a dark blue backdrop. The wait staff is friendly and attentive, and their Australian accents will have you imagining that you momentarily stepped out of New York City. If you’re hungry enough for a piled-high burger and you’re looking for a short getaway, The Sunburnt Calf is the place to try.

5 Napkin Burger.

5 Napkin Burger
2315 Broadway, 212-333-4488, 
5napkinburger.com
Burger: Original 5 Napkin Burger (gruyère cheese, caramelized onions, rosemary aioli); $14.95

Juiciness: 5
Flavor: 5
Inventiveness: 3
Bun: 4
Value: 3
Preparation: 4
Side: fries: 5
Presentation: 4

The boast inherent in 5 Napkin Burger’s name implies that one would want a meal so messy it requires an abnormal amount of face-wiping to get through it. While the 5 Napkin Burger itself lives up to that name, it wouldn’t kill the establishment to aim for perhaps three or four napkins. The juice dribbling down your chin as you bite into the burger notwithstanding, the flavor is well above average. If you order a burger medium rare (recommended), be prepared for it to crumble a bit and sop up the extra bits with the roll. The toppings of the standard burger work well together, though the rosemary aioli gets lost amidst the sharp cheese and onions, and the burger still needs a dose of ketchup. The accompanying fries, which make the meal more of an affordable deal, are thin and crunchy, as they should be. The restaurant’s other burger variations are done well, and if they have a special, it’s a good bet it will be a tasty one.

Amsterdam Ale House
340 Amsterdam Ave., 212-362-7260, 
amsterdamalehouse.com
Burger: Angus Burger with American cheese and seasoned fries; $11.95 ($1 extra for cheese)

Juiciness: 4
Flavor: 5
Inventiveness: 3
Bun: 5
Value: 4
Preparation: 4
Side: 3
Labor: 3
Presentation: 4

Ninety-five percent of reasonable burger eaters will agree that English muffins are not hamburger buns. Apparently nobody told the Amsterdam Ale House this–and thank god. The grilled muffin stands up to the juicy, remarkably well-seasoned patty better than a regular bun, though even it had began to disintegrate by the final bites, unable to stand up to the challenge. Though it wasn’t entirely clear what the “seasoning” on the fries was besides salt, the thin-cut, skin-on crisps were tasty, a better choice than the well-fried but slightly too sweet onion rings or cinnamon-and-sugar sweet potato fries. The place has a cleanly, pubby vibe, with oversized front windows to let in the light of day and an above-average beer selection, with hard-to-find cask ales, to make you want to stick around till the sun goes down.

Big Nick’s Burger 
and Pizza Joint
2175 Broadway, 212-362-9238, 
bignicksnyc.com
Burger: Mozzarella Burger; $8.25

Juiciness: 4
Flavor: 3
Inventiveness: 3
Bun: 2
Value: 3
Preparation: 4
Side: fries: 3
Presentation: 3

This so-called “greasy spoon” spot might intimidate first-time visitors unless they’re prepared for what they’ll see. The place has its own charm, with pictures all over the walls and handwritten menu items glued everywhere. It’s a little dirty and a little dated. The best way to describe the burger here is with the word “medium.” It’s not excellent, but it’s not terrible either. If you go, order medium rare for taste, and maybe complement the choice with some bacon. The bun tasted old and very dry, but the patty itself was quite good. The French fries are a fine addition, and you can also choose waffle fries. The place is so eccentric and the menu so huge, it’s worth going and trying a few things out.

Shake Shack
366 Columbus Ave., 646-747-8770, 
shakeshack.com
Burger: Single Shackburger (cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, Shack sauce); $4.55

Juiciness: 3
Flavor: 4
Inventiveness: 3
Bun quality: 3
Value: 5
Preparation: 3
Side: fries (extra) 4
Presentation: 3

The Upper West Side outpost of Danny Meyer’s fast food burger joint has perfected consistently delicious burgers. While the standard Shackburger contains a somewhat thin beef patty that is cooked slightly more than necessary, the special sauce more than makes up for it, and the option to get a double patty is on the table too, though it brings the price up to $7.10. The burger pairs well with a side order of crispy crinkle-cut fries ($2.65, enough to share) for a complete if salty meal. The spot unfortunately lacks the outdoor seating of other Shake Shack locations, but there is usually room to grab a seat downstairs, and the line here doesn’t stretch to absurd lengths. Burger lovers looking for a decently priced outing for a family or a place to grab a bite after a movie will find it here.

Island Burgers and Shakes.

Island Burgers and Shakes
422 Amsterdam Ave., 212-877-7934, islandburgersnewyork.com

Editor’s note: While our burger review team didn’t make it to try this one, we couldn’t leave it out of an Upper West Side burger roundup, based on the feedback we’ve seen.

At Island Burgers and Shakes, diners can enjoy char-broiled, steakhouse-style burgers. The menu is extensive, and variety is key. The Tijuana Burger, covered in crispy bacon, sautéed onions and spicy guacamole, is a popular item there. As one blogger, NYC Food Guy, calls it, “the Tijuana Burger is a beast.” A Yelp reviewer tried the Derby Burger, which comes with triangle bleu cheese, avocado and bacon. Another tried Marco’s Burger, which is topped with pesto, ranch, bacon and parmesan, served on ciabatta bread. The fries are perfectly seasoned, reviewers say, but they don’t come with the burgers, so you have to order them on the side. The burgers are typically on the rare side which some enjoy and others would rather avoid. Some think the chicken and the shakes, rather than the burgers, steal the show at this joint. The establishment has a retro vibe, and diners can even scrawl messages in chalk on the bathroom walls.

The Lighter Side of the Upper West Side
Whether you’re loyal to the four-legged fleet or you’re just looking for slightly lighter fare, here are some vegan and vegetarian-friendly options worth giving a try on the UWS.

Josie’s Restaurant West
300 Amsterdam Ave., 212-769-1212, josiesnyc.com
The organic three-grain vegetable burger at Josie’s Restaurant is a sure crowd-pleaser. Comprised of quinoa, bulgur and couscous, it is an interesting alternative for those who are maxed out on run-of-the-mill vegetable patties. Suitable for vegans, Josie’s burger can be topped with soy American cheese or natural cheddar for non-vegans and is served with another healthy twist on the burger’s best companion—air-baked Belgian fries.

Shake Shack's Shroom Burger.

Shake Shack
366 Columbus Ave., 646-747-8770, shakeshack.com
As the unofficial New York City burger authority, Shake Shack has a delicious answer for non-meat burger lovers. The Shroom burger is made of two Portobello mushroom caps with muenster and cheddar cheese sandwiched between them, breaded and fried. Ok, we concede it’s not necessarily a healthier option, but it’s enticing all the same.

Café Blossom
466 Columbus Ave., 212-875-2600, blossomnyc.com
Entirely organic and vegan, UWS veggie lovers can’t go wrong with this menu. For those who yearn for their abandoned carnivorous lifestyles, opt for the Soy Bacon Cheeseburger, complete with tapioca cheddar and soy bacon. If that’s not appealing, the Veggie Grain Burger is an alternative, not to mention one chock-full of protein, made from lentils and quinoa and topped with hummus.

Don’t forget to vote for  your favorite – or tell us what we’ve missed – at our poll here: nypress.com/best-burger-uws!

 

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