Jersey City’s Best Burgers

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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.

The Embankment
234 10th St.
201-222-6115
theembankmentnj.com

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.
201-432-7639

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

Park Tavern
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

White Star
230 Brunswick St.
201-653-9234
whitestarbar.com

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

White Mana
470 Tonnelle Ave.
201-963-1441

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

LITM
140 Newark Ave.
201-536-5557
litm.com

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

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 a senior entertainment reporter covering the New York theater scene for Broadway.com.

4 Responses
  • Tom
    Jan 21, 2010

    You may be surprised, but Fire & Oak has the best burger around.

    Tom Jan 21, 2010
  • Jon Whiten
    Jan 21, 2010

    Thanks for the tip, Tom. I believe this piece was written before Fire & Oak opened, but I have definitely heard good things about the burger there.

    Jon Whiten Jan 21, 2010
  • Paddymike
    Mar 24, 2010

    Try Skinners Loft for an excellent burger!
    146 Newark Ave.

    Paddymike Mar 24, 2010
  • Jan 24, 2012

    Should go to CitySide Bistro and try the Home Made Lamb Burger…..  70 greene st . jersey city

    joses Jan 24, 2012

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