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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