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This is another of what I hope will be frequent departures from my usual review of barbecue joints throughout New England and New York.
A lifesize cow statue makes Harry's Bar and Burger easy to spot from the street. Inside is a much-funkier-than-expected vibe, with a bar and several nooks of dining on separate levels. It has a lived-in look that's homier and less corporate looking than sister restaurant Luxe Burger Bar. Ironically, my first visit to Harry's came on the heels of a disappointing visit to Luxe, where the burgers—even the Kobe—were downright tasteless (there's too much emphasis on modern furnishings and pop art decor, and not enough love put into the burger, which relies more on the toppings than on the beef).
Unlike its sister beef bistro, Harry's Bar and Burger is all about the meat and less about the toppings. Aside from pastrami and pulled pork options, most of the limited permutations focus on whether to include bacon and cheese, and how many patties. Because the patties are small, you get two sliders with every burger option. Chili, wings, dogs, a veggie burger and a few sandwiches offer alternate choices. Some creative adult (read: alcohol-infused) milk shakes abound.
If this isn't a Martin's potato roll, it's the best reproduction ever attempted. The ones that housed my burgers were all super fresh and light on the outside, lightly buttered and toasted inside. For the double meat sliders, it affords an ideal bun-to-meat ratio with good pliability and a lightness that ensure top billing for the meat.
The patties are small, probably an ounce and a half each, shaped into squares whose foot print fits the potato rolls perfectly. The beef is never-frozen, ground-onsite certified Hereford, though I'm not sure—and manager/namesake Harrison Elkhay didn't specify when I asked—what part(s) of the animal they're from.
Because of the thinness of the patties, you can't specify a desired cooking temperature, but every patty on every burger that hit our table (three burger fans) came out velvety tender and so moist that the word "moist" doesn't even come close to describing how gushingly explosive the meat was upon first bite. That juiciness lasted all the way through the last bite of the second burger on each tray.
The patty thinness not only avoids hurting the burger moisture, but also contributes to the high marks for taste and texture. The exterior gets a good crusting from the high heat of the griddle and deliberate smashing of the patty into the griddle. It picks up a lot of the extra-done, extra-flavorful crunchy bits, along with griddled onions that get mixed into the meat. Flavor overall is very beefy and very pleasing despite what I perceive as a lack of any exotic elements (odd parts, aging, etc.). The onion flavor is a nice accent that flavors the beef without stealing the show as is done at some of the old-timey joints (White Castle in New York) and wannabe-old-timey joints (Stanley's in Providence).
Since I'm already mentioning names of other joints, let me pay Harry's the ultimate compliment: it's at least in the same league as Shake Shack (NYC), which I consider the best of breed for the thin patty burger. I'd give Shake Shack the slight edge for beef flavor, Harry's the slight edge for texture and call it a draw on seasoning— both joints are thankfully not shy in this area.
Cheese is interspersed between each patty. It's basic American, but supplied in a perfect amount and fully melted. Onions aren't really a topping, as they're integrated into the meat, but they do their job adding flavor. Special sauce sits beneath the patties, in a quantity so small I couldn't really notice it. Bacon is thin and crisp. As I've already said, this burger is all about the meat, not the toppings, so in that regard, all of the toppings do their job of supplying just that little bit of extra oomph without calling attention to themselves.
The Fries and Rings
Fries appeared to be the almost same as at Luxe: frozen and skinless, but competently prepared. A decent straightforward fry that's not too thick, not too thin and not too exciting, unless you count the distinguishing salt and pepper finish. Onion strings, on the other hand, were a huge upgrade over what's available at Luxe. Instead of thick-cut, heavily breaded, artificial tasting rings, Harry's went with very thin, super delicate strings that echoed the burger's oniony crispness and vigorous seasoning. The dipping sauce is a chipotle ketchup that has a nice fruity component with a Jamaican feel.
The Bottom Line
Simply put, the best thin patty burgers I've had in New England, and a steal at under $7 per pair.
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