Jersey City’s Best BurgersBy Kimberly Kaye • Jun 19th, 2009 • Category: Featured, Food
Photos: Dominic Perri
Editor’s note: This story appeared in the Summer/Fall 2009 issue of NEW. You can download the entire issue here.
Burger reviewing is damn near impossible. Like carne-based cousins the hot dog and the cheesesteak, the hamburger inspires near-evangelical fanaticism among its worshippers and, if you’re going to stretch the metaphor as far as possible before the groaning starts, offers nearly as many denominations as modern organized religion: purists, cheese-heads, broilers, fryers, California-stylists, slider supporters, bloody rarists, gothic parishioners of the sinful “well-done” school of cookery — even vegetarians can argue their case for style and flavor fervently, and conversions are rarely made.
With literally hundreds of restaurants, bars and diners blessedly strewn within the borders of Jersey City, many slinging their own version of the quintessential American menu staple, burger-seekers from all backgrounds can quickly find themselves disoriented, lost in a sea of meat pucks and toasted buns. Whatever your personal doctrine might be, the heavenly pleasure of a warm, hearty burger and a cold beverage is one no hungry wanderer should be denied.
We scoured the city, seeking out the juiciest patties, best bites and ideal locales and then rated the best burgers on a 10-point Craveworthy scale to satisfy your own personal hamburger pilgrimage.
Burger Name: The Embankment Burger (customized w/ bacon and aged cheddar, $16)
Served With: Tomato, lettuce and steak frites
Pros: Juicy, thick, cooked to perfect med-rare with caramelized grill-marks outside; crusty, toasted bun won the bread competition
Cons: Glorious, peppery bacon and top-notch cheddar overshadowed a slightly underseasoned burger; slivery steak fries need more crunch
Improvements: Kick up that grade-A beef with more seasoning; always layer the menu’s excellent burger accessories on that meaty foundation
Pair It With: Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar, Sam Smith’s Nut Brown Ale
Dining Vibe: High-ceilinged, airy and a little trendy; deep, dark wood bar boasts dozens of microbrews and beef-friendly wines (ask for James to pair your pour)
Best For: Given the ambiance and accoutrements, this is a sit-down dinner burger. Perfect for a sexy date where eating with hands is still OK
Craveworthy Rating: 9
Subia’s Organic Market
506 Jersey Ave.
Burger Name: Vegan Burger ($6.95)
Served With: Microgreen garnish, tomato, “veganaise” spread
Pros: Hearty homemade patties spiced with black pepper and turmeric are made fresh on premises daily; satisfying without the guilt
Cons: Nutty, lightly toasted multigrain bread had flavor, but burgers need buns — otherwise it’s just a sandwich
Improvements: Bake that bread flavor into a real bun and we’re happy
Pair It With: Fresh-squeezed juice, Oolong Tea
Dining Vibe: Sunny and snacky if you’re sitting outside; friendly, heady and a little earth-crunchy (without getting holistic-er-than-thou) if you’re inside
Best For: A can’t miss for alterna-burger lovers, it’s also a guaranteed healthy snack even meat-eaters can enjoy
Craveworthy Rating: 8 for herbivores, 6.5 for omnivores
575 West Side Ave.
Burger Name: Tavern Burger ($6.25)
Served With: Lettuce, tomato, red onion (seasoned fries are extra, but recommended)
Pros: Moan-inducingly juicy without being soggy; perfectly seasoned patty with peppery, tangy and savory notes and just enough char
Cons: Limp lettuce; simple bun was toasted but otherwise forgettable
Improvements: Impotent lettuce aside, this one was near-perfection
Pair It With: Harp Ale, Guinness Stout, Woodpecker Cider
Dining Vibe: Park’s all unassuming tavern style — there’s no sign outside, and the dark, well-worn inside keeps it low-key and relaxed
Best For: For those seeking a great, old-fashioned burger and a pint, look no further; an unbeatable hangover cure
Craveworthy Rating: 8.5
Burger Name: The Heights Burger ($9)
Served With: Sauteed onions, roasted red peppers, swiss cheese, romaine, pickle, thick-cut steak fries
Pros: Best beef flavor of the bunch; melty, savory/sweet add-ons compliment — rather than overpower — a dense, moist meat patty
Cons: Lifeless tomato; cheese, peppers and grease overwhelm paltry, flavorless bun
Improvements: Ditch the tomato (with roasted red peppers, it’s overkill anyway); bigger, better buns
Pair It With: Peroni, Dos Equis, Blue Moon
Dining Vibe: Ball games on multiple screens, vinyl on the walls. A neighborhood sports-bar feel with a “wear your nice t-shirt” kick (but we cry party foul on the mood-killing techno playing during Sunday brunch)
Best For: Between the cheering fans and the manly, meaty flavor, it’s an ideal weekend sports bar burger
Craveworthy Rating: 7
470 Tonnelle Ave.
Burger Name: Double Cheeseburger ($2.05)
Served With: Sauteed onions (fries, onion rings, etc. are extra)
Pros: Cooked to order on the griddle in front of you; cheesy, savory palm-sized sliders go down in just a few slick bites
Cons: Slim patties taste almost entirely of onion and grease (but then again, they’re “sliders”); long waits for a short meal Improvements: We appreciate this burger’s Spartan nature, but a thicker puck would offer more meat flavor
Pair It With: No need to mess with the classics here — nab a Coke or fountain drink and call it a day
Dining Vibe: Old-fashioned greasy spoon in style and soul from paper plate to aluminum accents; no-frills service matches road warrior clientele
Best For: Sorry, White Castle: this is the drunken-munchie binge destination of choice; slider fanatics strongly encouraged
Craveworthy Rating: 6.5
Burger Name: Short Rib Sliders ($9)
Served With: Caramelized onions, blue cheese
Pros: Mouth-wateringly moist and juicy with beefy sauce; tender morsels highlighted by rich blue cheese and sweet onions
Cons: Only two sliders per order
Improvements: A third burger would be a welcome addition to an otherwise sexy, satisfying plate
Pair It With: Flag Porter; Aecht Schlenkerla “Smoked” Rauchbier
Dining Vibe: Tall, open space packed with a staff that knows its food and drink; approachably artsy and young without being too hip for its own good
Best For: A bar-friendly, high-end snack that won’t leave you stuffed; short-rib junkies with a taste for art (LITM hosts shows regularly)
Craveworthy Rating: 8
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Kimberly Kaye is a food/culture writer, author and proud Jersey native currently living on, and writing from, both sides of the Hudson. Her writing has appeared in City Belt, NEW, Draft and Gourmet magazines, as well as on sheknows.com and oldcookbooks.com. She is currently a senior entertainment reporter covering the New York theater scene for Broadway.com.
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