Found: NYC’s Best Burger

Battle of the Burger 2014 - We tried 'em all!

“C’mon,” said my editor. “We’re going to the Battle of the Burger next week.”

“What is that.” I said, without a question mark. “What are those words you just said to my face.”

“It’s a contest where the best burger restaurants in New York City face off to see who’s got the best burger in the five boroughs. I need someone to come with me to taste a few and give their take, and after looking at my roster of writers, you’re the only one-”

“I’m the only one who’s local?”

“You’re the one with the most stomach-to-body ratio, so I figured you’d be a good pick.”

I was pretty sure he just called me “fat” in a very technical way, but I wasn’t about to turn down free burgers.

“Oh, and Brian?” said my editor.


“Don’t eat 15 hamburgers.”

“Loud and clear, Vladimir Putin.”


The Battle of the Burger is every bit as magnificent and American as you might expect. There were lovely people too skinny to be eating that many burgers, oodles of Amstel Light (they were co-sponsors), and stall after stall after stall of free burgers.

My fervor for this event was similar to, like, when I was six and got a Voltron for Christmas. I tore into these stalls rabid. I was only sort of hungry, y’see, but my brain was pumping so much dopamine in my head that I just needed to eat everything I could before they kicked me out for making a scene.

In chronological order, here are the burgers I tried, as well as my notes about them (as well as my attempts to decipher what I wrote back then):

Round 1 – Dram Shop, Jeepney, NYC 5-Napkin Burger, Eats on Lex, Pork Slope

Dram Shop

What I wrote:
Toasty bun. Mustard plays a big part. Medium. Double pattie. Ball game burger.
What I meant:
Based on this write-up, it sure seems that I interpreted this as a pretty standard example of a burger, which is to say neither bad, nor worth mind-blowing. I should note that I’m not usually a fan of mustard on burgers. Still, you could do worse.

We came here to kick ass and chew burger. And we were all out of ass. Wait, hold on, that didn't sound right...

We came here to kick ass and chew burger. And we were all out of ass. Wait, hold on, that didn’t sound right…

Jeepney NYC

What I wrote:
Like banh mi. Banana ketchup. Points for going off script. Carrots. Filipino. Good bun.
What I meant:
Jeepney was clear and away my favorite burger of the bunch. Not only did they eschew the typical lettuce-tomato-onion-ketchup formula, opting instead for what I remember as a nice, crisp Asian slaw and a ketchup that was deceptively savory, but the bun was out of this world. Jeepney won this year’s contest, as well they should have. Although I can tell you that my editor and I spent the rest of the evening wondering if we liked this best because it was the best, or because it was the second burger we tried. Evidently it was the former.

5-Napkin Burger

What I wrote:
Bloody. Like meatloaf. Caramelized onions. Standard.
What I meant:
I have to believe that I meant “this is a rare burger, and it has the flavor and consistency of a meatloaf” and not “bloody like meatloaf” because that simile doesn’t make any sense! Anyway. Sounds like I enjoyed this burger but wasn’t overwhelmed at the originality.

Everyone's first round pick (Photo: Thinkstock)
RELATED: Draft Day? No, Draught Day!

Eats on Lex

What I wrote:
Bacon-y flavor. Pickle a bit of a distraction.
What I meant:
That I’m a f****** snob. Who the hell do I think I am, noted sandwich critic Burgers McGee? Anyway. This restaurant put a pickle on top of their burger and for some reason it seems that I took exception to this. I’m sure it was fine.

Pork Slope

What I wrote:
Mustardy. good. Standard.
What I meant:
This probably had lettuce and tomato. Also, that I’m already running out of clever notes to describe a burger and I’m on #5.

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