Monday, October 19, 2009

Bill's Bar and Burger, Best Burger in NYC?

I have seen so many places labelled as the best burger in New York City I was understandably trepidatious when Citysearch's resident Burgerholic Josh Ozersky named Bill's Bar and Burger as the best burger in NYC. I'd read a lot about the different methods used in making burgers in the US. Bill's was using Pat LaFrieda beef mix, the same stuff my previous favourite NYC burger place uses, Shake Shack:

Shack Shack Burger
Shack Burger, picture by A Hamburger Today.

In addition to that, they were using the smash technique for cooking the burgers that Smashburger and In-n-Out burger. Smash technique basically means you slap the fresh mince/ground beef down with a spatula, making as much surface area hit the pan creating a thin burger with a nice charred crust but it also means you have to be very careful not to overcook the mince.

So on to the review, Bill's took us a while to find as it had only opened the night before and I don't think they had a sign up. Once inside we were greeted by very friendly staff who informed us there would be a thirty minute wait. No problem we said and and so we hit the bar.

After about 5 minutes the host said that someone had not turned up for their table and it was the best table in the house, at the corner, by the big windows, great for people watching.

On to the menu, it's VERY simple, and as was explained later, they were going for that approach deliberately. I had no problem with this, so for the review I figured I'd need a control, and since In-n-Out and shake shack both use lettuce and tomato with a special sauce I figured it made sense to try the Sunset and Vine which is a clear reference to the West Coast chain In-n-Out (which I always make a trip to when on the west coast).

Bill's Bar and Burger
Sunset and Vine.

After tasting the burger I felt that something was missing and half way through I realized what it was, pickles! So after adding the pickles I tried to be blown away and I simply wasn't, I'm not saying that this is a bad burger, but best in New York? No. Better than shake shack? No. Better than In-n-Out? definately not. The patty was too thin, not juicy enough, and I got a chunk of gristle in mine.
The burger also looks like grey brain matter as you can see in the autopsy shot below, I like my burgers to show a little pink:

Bill's Bar and Burger
Where's the beef?

I know it's a thin burger but to me it felt overcooked with not enough flavour. It was also quite messy and had me wondering since both The Feedbag and AHT had raved about it, maybe those advance tastings meant the chefs were under less pressure and could season and cook the meat better, also, there is no way the burger was 1/3lb of beef.

My friends ordered the Bill's classic with cheese and The Bill's classic with Cheese and Bacon. They said it was one of the best burgers they had eaten but they havn't had shake shack or smashburger.

Bill's Bar and Burger
Bill's Classic with cheese.

Bill's Bar and Burger
Bill's Classic with bacon and cheese.

The sides were the real star for me, I ordered the deep fried vegetables which we all said were delicious, and the french fries were skin on thin cut which were also delicious. Both well seasoned and the former a great way to get some greens into your diet, albeit battered and deep fried!

Bill's Bar and Burger
Bill's Bar and Burger

Overall it's a fine attempt at a burger, the atmosphere is great and the waiting staff are very friendly and put you at ease instantly, but it's going to need a bit more refinement before they can produce well cooked and seasoned burger and deliver it consistantly. Until then, I'll be queuing at the Shake Shack when I want New York's finest.

22 9 Ave, New York, NY 10014
(212) 604-0092

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fatty likes his Burgers.

New York City has it's perks. One of which is instant gratification. You can get everything from a 3 course meal to fast food delivered to your door pretty much 24 hours a day.

The happy medium between the two are diners. They're everywhere, they're affordable, and If you find the right one you can get a nice meal at a reasonable price. I'm not saying these diners ever use the best ingredients, what I'm saying is that when you're hungover, and couldn't bear to feel even more disgusting by eating fast food... They're an option which can hit, or miss.

About a week ago I ordered eggs benedict for delivery from a local diner, and it was FANTASTIC, eggs poached to perfection, hashbrowns nicely browned, suffice to say I really enjoyed it. So much so I didn't even think to blog about it. Maybe next time:)

So I decided a few days later while nursing a rotten hangover to order a cheeseburger and chips with a drink from the same place to see if maybe they could hit the bulls eye twice and make my hangover go away in the process.

My order arrived as usual, some poor immigrant guy biked a few blocks to my place, I gave him the obligatory decent tip and a smile since these guys usually wash dishes AND do deliveries and get paid jack shit.

I opened up the wrapping and I was faced with this.


Now before I even tasted a chip (french fry whatever). You can actually see in the picture what the problem is, and one of the main reasons I decided to write this. The chips were soggy. In the history of man necessity has always driven innovation, and I think it's about time someone did something about the necessity to have decent chips delivered. I mean they're basically impinging my human rights giving me these chips. I almost rang the Samaritans. I was not only hungover, I was now depressed.

These chips truely were minging, and reminded my of the chips you get delivered from Chinese places in Dublin. They made me pine for Leo Burdocks and Beshoffs, for drizzles of salt and fountains of vinegar... ok maybe not, but you get the idea.

So... I'm calling on all you great minds out there on the internet to devise a method of transporting chips from one location to another, without the steam ruining them.
I've had this problem with other foods too, like wings, spring rolls, pretty much anything that should be crispy, but the one I think we can all identify with is the chips issue. Mizzoni garlic bread I'm staring right at you.

There are people claiming to have solved this issue, but until I get proof and not waffle like this load of old bollocks, I'm going to consider it very high on the list of problems man has yet to conquer. Man on moon, check, chip problem......... unsolved:(

However the burger was very tasty, cooked medium rare as requested, juicy and grilled so it had a nice char. Bun was soft, tomatoes and lettuce and onion all were in the right quantities so nothing slipped or fell out. It was a little greasy but I can't really can't fault it for that considering it's a CHEESEBURGER.

The only issue I had to apply the ketchup myself and I don't like pulling apart a burger after the cheese has melted but that's a minor quibble. I like the word quibble. Quibble.

Burger porn below.


Autopsy shot:


Highline Cafe, 360 9th Ave, New York, NY, 10001.

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Falafel in Pita with a Salsa Verde.

I've always liked middle eastern food, and from when I was first introduced to falafel I've always enjoyed the mix of spices, soft inside with a crispy exterior against a backdrop of salad and chili.

One thing that has always struck me though is how hit and miss they can be. So I undertook the job of making them for myself to figure out why that is.

I decided to make it from another recipe posted here.
However I experimented with this to include a mexican style salsa verde, lettuce, hummus, tahini and chili.

The Ingredients:
Falafel in Pita


  • 1 cup dried chickpeas or 16 oz. can of chickpeas or garbanzo beans.
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Oil for frying
  • pita
  • Tahini-Hummus.
  • fresh tomatoes
  • iceberg lettuce
  • chilli (adapt number for heat, mine's very hot)
I went for the tinned chickpeas since I didn't want to have to soak the chickpeas for a day and I wanted my falafel now damn it.

Drained them off:
Falafel in Pita

And stuck them in a pot to boil for 5 minutes then simmer for 40 mins, since these are tinned you don't have to boil for the full hour.
Falafel in Pita

Now to make the salsa verde:

I wanted to use a fresh tomato base so I used a trick I've seen on tv where you stick the tomato in boiling water for 30 seconds and the skin comes right off. Then mashed it up into a pulp and removed the excess.
Falafel in Pita
Falafel in Pita

Then I added olive oil, balsamic, lime juice, salt, pepper, garlic, coriander, parsley, 3 Serrano chilli peppers and onion very finely julienned then diced. Mix that all together in a bowl and then leave to one side.
Falafel in Pita
Falafel in Pita

Now that was done it was time to enjoy my wine and admire the state I had left the kitchen in.
Falafel in Pita

Now I just had to cut up some tomatoes and lettuce, spread the tahini hummus mix inside the pita and add the veggies, don't add the salsa until the last minute or it'll go soggy and crap.
Falafel in Pita
Falafel in Pita

Now for the bit I had been waiting to try, the actual falafel.
Get the chickpeas and drain them. Then cut up 3 tablespoons of parsley and 1 tablespoon of coriander.
Falafel in Pita

In a bowl add the chickpeas, cumin, coriander, parsley, salt, pepper and flour.
Falafel in Pita

I mashed it up with a fork until it took on a consistency not dissimilar to pastry dough.
Falafel in Pita

Now you can add water here if you like to get it a bit more pliable, but I didn't because I'm not a retard. Voila, falafel.
Falafel in Pita

Get at least an inch deep of oil going in the pan, I used veg oil as it'll go to higher temperatures before it smokes. Get it super hot, then dump your balls in it.
Falafel in Pita

Leave them sit for a while until they're sealed and the oil stops going mental, then roll them around until they're done all over, then remove your balls from the piping hot oil.
Falafel in Pita

Then add them to the pita, and mash them down for ultimate crunchy/soft contrast and enjoy one of the best sandwiches you will ever make.
Falafel in Pita
Falafel in Pita
Falafel in Pita

The recipe on makes approx 6 falafels.
The parsley and cumin are both essential, it really gives it the overall middleastern flavour.

My falafels came out perfectly crispy and tasty, I didn't get an answer to why some you get on the street or at festivals are shit except that maybe they're buying in crap ingredients or more likely, reheating pre cooked balls.