New York is not short of burger purveyors and with only four days in the city I needed to know where to go for the best. A quick poll on twitter saw many showing love for popular fastfood spots Shake Shack, Burger Joint and Smashburger, but a staggering percentage named the haute Black Label Burger at Minetta Tavern as their favourite. I was warned that a table here was hard to come by, but opentable revealed plenty of daytime availability (they open for lunch Wed-Fri) so we snapped up a late lunch slot.
Minetta Tavern may have been spruced up by restaurant magnate Keith McNally when he acquired it in 2009, but much of the original 1930’s interior has been retained and as I stepped through the heavy red velvet curtains shielding the entrance I felt like I had travelled back in time to that era. It seemed only appropriate to order a cocktail from the well-stocked bar (a refreshing Sucker Punch) before making our choices from the condensed lunch menu.
To start we shared the Huîtres et Crépinettes and Veal Carpaccio. The former featured a quartet of mignonette-topped Salt Pond oysters and two fat rounds of truffled house pork sausage resting in pools of rich jus. Both fantastic on their own, but as a pair the incredibly tasty caul fat wrapped sausage balls overshadowed the delicate briny oysters.
The Veal Carpaccio was light and tender, well-matched with black truffle shavings, raw artichoke slivers and a scant drizzle of olive oil.
The much anticipated Black Label Burger was indeed a fine specimen – a thick hand formed patty consisting of a mix of ribeye, skirt steak and brisket, cloaked in caramelised onions and sandwiched between a toasted custom made seeded brioche bun.
We had ordered it medium rare but took the advice of the waitress to change to medium as apparently the chef cooks the patties under. She must have been referring to another chef as the burger we got was a textbook medium. Despite it not being as pink as we’d like, the dense patty was wonderfully juicy and full of depth, thanks to the dry-ageing of the beef. The bread to meat ratio was spot on and each well-proportioned mouthful was perfectly complimented by the gently-pickled gherkin, neutral salad garnish and unassuming comfort of the bun. Excellent fries too.
B declared it a great burger, but we agreed the star of the show was the Minetta French Dip, which stole my heart. Only offered at lunch, this belter of a sandwich features layer upon layer of succulent rare steak (sliced to order), dusted with grated horseradish and tucked into a beef jus-moistened, butter-toasted, garlic-rubbed baguette. Alongside is mustard for spreading and a bowl of the intense jus for further dunking. Messy, and so bloody good that I couldn’t help grinning with each delightful bite.
It’s true what they say about Minetta’s Black Label Burger – it’s one of the best you’ll ever have. If you are planning a visit I would urge you to go at lunch and bring a friend, so you can split a burger and french dip. You won’t regret it.
113 MacDougal Street
(between Bleecker & W. 3rd St)
New York, NY 10012