One requirement for our New York trip was good local knowledge on the food scene. We didn’t specifically want or need to know every little nook and cranny of the city, but a nice running sheet would be nice to have.
When it comes to burgers there is once place everyone said was a must – Shake Shack! Although Shake Shack is regarded by many as the best fast food burger joint in the US I really wanted to try a full-on, no holds barred, New York burger. I was told simply: Minetta Tavern. Their ‘Black Label’ burger was reportedly the best in New York City. I had no reason to dispute this claim, Minetta Tavern has one Michelin star and has done so for quite some time so off we went to experience this legendary burger.
Stepping into Minetta Tavern is like stepping back in time, the place is amazing. As soon as you enter you come across a massive bar with stools aplenty for that sneaky lunchtime burger away from your desk. Beyond the bar and many photos and caricatures you end up in the thick of it all, the main dining area that is decked out much the same as the bar, circa 1930’s.
We were seated and although we knew what we were going to order we had to peruse the menu anyway. Other than the burger the smoked marrow was really speaking to us (and had also been recommended) but knowing how big servings are in the US we decided against it and just ordered a Black Label burger each, cooked medium like burgers should be.
Minetta Tavern – Black Label Burger – selection of prime dry-aged beef cuts with caramelized onions and pommes frites (US$26.00).
It seemed everyone in the whole place was having the burger, I didn’t see a single other dish up on the pass the whole time we were there. Finally ours arrived and it looked damn impressive, a big juicy patty with some thoroughly caramelised onions atop. Even without cutting into the beef I could see the pink tinge and the big reveal showed me more of that medium beef goodness.
There was a good level of seasoning and it was really juicy, the onions were sticky and sweet and that was all it needed (no ketchup required) to be enjoyed. It was a knife and fork kind of burger as there was no way I would have been able to wrap my jaws around this one. While the burger was good and the bun spot on the fries were a little sad, but the pickle was damn tasty and I loved how well it worked with the onions and the beef.
Now before we even got to Minetta I had in mind that I wanted to do a bit of a comparison test. The best burger in NYC versus the best burger in Sydney. To make things as even as possible the comparison would need to be done close together, so less than a week later we were at Rockpool Bar & Grill. Why RB&G? Because this is the place I think has the best burger in Sydney.
One of the best things about Rockpool Bar & Grill (other than the food) is the location, it is quite literally 230m down the road from my work, so it is ‘the’ perfect place to have a sneaky burger and beer when I need to get out of the office. In the last 12 months I have been around 6 times and every time I order ‘David Blackmore’s Full Blood Wagyu Hamburger’ cooked medium.
A no reservations policy for the bar means that as long as you don’t stroll in during the lunch peak your chances of getting a table or a seat at the bar are quite high (I’ve always been seated right away).
Rockpool Bar & Grill – David Blackmore’s Full Blood Wagyu Hamburger with Bacon, Gruyere Cheese and Zuni Pickle (AU$24.00).
Much like Minneta’s I didn’t need to see the menu as I knew exactly what I was having. From the outset it is easy to see there is a lot more going on with the burger at RB&G. Not only do you get a patty of David Blackmore’s Wagyu beef but you also get bacon, gruyere cheese, caramelised onion, zuni pickle and pickled onions. And just like Minetta’s the lettuce and tomato are on the side and optional.
Straight into the big reveal and just like Minetta’s we had a perfectly cooked medium beef patty. For reasons unknown I dug into this bad boy sans knife and fork. Rookie mistake. Utensil fail aside the burger was everything it should be. Amazing beef seasoned spectacularly, it just oozed flavour. Amongst the beef there were hits of smoky bacon and rich cheesy goodness but then there was the zuni pickle. I just love the zuni pickle, so unique and easily my favourite pickle of all time.
Rockpool Bar & Grill – Hand Cut Chips (AU$12.00).
RB&G doesn’t include fries with their burger so we had to order a side of their hand cut chips to make it fair. Served crispy and perfectly golden the chips were sensational. Pillowy soft potato greets you as you crunch through the ever so lightly battered outer layer. Alongside you get a tomato relish that is closer to tomato sauce than relish but is every bit as special as the chips.
It did get a tad messy using no cutlery but that didn’t affect the taste at all. Not only was the bun soft and light (and somewhat sweet) but the hand cut chips were close to being the best I’ve ever had.
Once it was over I sat back and thought about what it was from each burger that really won me over. Minetta Tavern’s Black Label burger was definitely more about the beef than anything else, and by keeping it simple they have been able to put out a great burger worthy of admiration. Rockpool Bar & Grill’s Wagyu burger has all the trimmings, and by doing it this way they allow a sensational piece of beef to be accentuated by these additions and really create a burger that shines.
The verdict? RB&G wins this one for me with Lex echoing my thoughts.
113 MacDougal Street
New York NY 10012
+1 212 475 3850
Minetta Tavern Website
Rockpool Bar & Grill
66 Hunter Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Rockpool Bar & Grill Website