Walk down sleepy 10th Street in New York's East Village some Saturday and you might miss the Brindle Room's understated signage or mistake it as an antique shop. Inside, it's just as understated, with unusual artwork, only a mere handful of tables and a small bar with less than a handful of stools. You can see into the kitchen behind the bar, but most of the action is out of view. Additional stools and narrow ledges along the walls up the headcount potential significantly.
Almost laughable in its simplicity, this bun isn't much more than the familiar Golden Arches model. But it succeeds anyway thanks to freshness, a flaky dome, good pliability and buttered-and-grilled inner surfaces that add some richness. This is one roll that knows its role: to provide a capable carrier for the beef, to soak up the juices without disintegrating, and to supply a little texture and flavor along the way without getting in the way. Check, check and check. If you're asking it to prevent beef juices from rolling down your arm and into your sleeves, it's not going to go that far, but that's not such a bad problem to have.
A six ounce patty delivers a sturdy crust speckled with salt, black pepper and possibly some other secret spices. It makes for a good visual, but the textural impact of the crust is quickly shoved aside by an explosion of beef juices on first bite that might just knock you out of your chair. They'll trickle steadily throughout the experience, then gush ferociously with every subsequent bite. But the flavor! This is some serious beef, with slight funk (that's a good thing) from a dry aged component but more so just simply delicious in the beefiest way possible. Only after a few bites—each one puncuated by expletive-filled exclamations of shock, wonder and pure joy—does an appreciation for the texture set in. There's crunch in every bite, giving way to silky, luscious meat that's ground with finesse. It's rare that you get both in the same burger, but here they're both not just present but accomplished with authority, and with a corresponding flavor progression from exterior to interior. Doneness hits the requested medium rare with pinpoint accuracy. If it sounds like this burger has everything, it's because it does.
Much of the flavor and juiciness is a byproduct of the high fat content and, more specifically, the choice of cut. Described by a server as "beef deckle," it's taken from the perimeter of the ribeye. It's cooked at high temperatures in a cast iron pan, where it winds up sitting in its own fat. Chef/owner Jeremy Spector says the fat content of the highly marbled patty is "a little higher than" 80/20, but won't say just how much. He does acknowledge that parts of the beef blend are aged.
There's a choice of cheese. Chef Spector recommends the American for its superior melting qualities, but my recommended cheddar melts just fine, covering much of the patty but not concealing it. Rest assured that while the cheddar adds another textural component and some sharpness to help the flavor along, it's completely deferential to the beef. Grilled onions follow the same pattern, adding just enough to accent but not enough to obscure or even distract. This burger is all about the beef.
If you're the kind of person who loves onion rings, potato chips, guacamole and barbecue sauce on your burger, God love you, but you'll be in the wrong place here. Lettuce and tomato are not included but can be added upon request. Trust me: you don't need them.
The Fries (and Such)
Fries: Crisp, skin-on, brown, well salted and fluffy inside, the fries hit all of the checkpoints as well. Not as otherworldly as the burger, but very good.
Donuts: The made-in-house beauties are small enough, light enough, affordable enough and fresh enough that you can order them without fear. I liked all three, but the salted caramel edged out the chocolate hazelnut almond and powdered sugar.
Be aware that this burger is available lunchtime only.
The original plan had our group of four splitting two burgers to allocate a half burger each, but a few bites in I knew there was no way in hell I'd be leaving without an encore. When my offer to split another burger fell on deaf ears, I ordered a whole one for myself and enjoyed it quietly, away from the table. I needed to be alone with this burger.
The word "awesome" has been misused, abused and devalued, so I'll simply say this: the Brindle Room steak burger left me in a state of awe. So in the most literal, non-hyperbolic way possible, this burger was that word.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that a "best burger" rec from food personality and burger author Josh Ozersky was instrumental in leading me to the Brindle Room. With as many burgers, New York City burgers and great burgers as he's had, that recommendation means a lot. It doesn't mean I'm not going to try Black Market (the joint he talked me out of) next time, but it's a safe bet that anytime I'm within ten blocks of the Brindle Room at lunchtime, I'm getting this burger again.
The Bottom Line
The Brindle Room burger has it all: aggressive seasoning, rugged exterior, silky interior, perfect doneness, flavor in spades and forceful juices that run down your arm. It's the best burger I've ever had and it's one I plan to enjoy as often as I possibly can.
Other Opinion/ Info
Josh Ozersky on the Brindle Room Burger
Food Curated's video of the Brindle Room Burger
Yelp reviews of the Brindle Room
Urbanspoon reviews of the Brindle Room
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