The moment I walked into Burger and Lobster, I knew that it was not a typical seafood restaurant. Huge lobsters swam in tanks by the door, and a whimsical chalkboard announced the restaurant’s grand total of three menu items: the burger, the lobster, and the lobster roll. When Burger and Lobster opened in January of 2015, no one knew whether its limited menu would appeal to New Yorkers. Vanessa, the general manager, was especially skeptical. “But after just a few weeks, ” she told me, “the restaurant was a huge success! I couldn’t believe it. ” Since then, Burger and Lobster’s reputation has continued to grow, and the wait on weekends can be up to an hour. When I stopped by on a sweltering July afternoon, I could see why the restaurant has become so popular. Housed in a former tae kwon do studio, Burger and Lobster feels both casual and upscale, with high ceilings and simple décor (I especially liked the lobster trap light fixtures). With seating for up to 300 people at a time, the restaurant can easily accommodate large groups, and the downstairs space is available for private events. Even better, every item on the menu is $20 and comes with generous portions of salad and fries. Burger and Lobster has a distinctively American feel, so I was surprised to learn that the company is based in the UK. According to Vanessa, it all started out with four friends who had known each other since high school. They already owned several high-end London restaurants, and when they decided to do something fun and different, Burger and Lobster was born. The first restaurant was so successful that the business multiplied, and now has eight locations in London and several others in Manchester, Wales, and Dubai. All of Burger and Lobster’s locations have the same laid-back atmosphere, but Vanessa told me that the New York restaurant is the most fun. “A lot of our servers are actors and actresses, ” she explained, “and they’re always having a good time. Last week, two of them performed a scene from Dirty Dancing, and everyone loved it! ”In spite of its relaxed environment, Burger and Lobster is very serious about the quality of its food. Vanessa explained that they buy all of their lobsters from the same group of lobstermen in Nova Scotia, while their beef comes from carefully selected Nebraskan ranchers. “We work really closely with them to make sure all of our food is of the highest possible quality, ” Vanessa added. We had the opportunity to try the food for ourselves just a few minutes later, when the server presented us with all three of Burger and Lobster’s menu items. The lobster paired perfectly with the lemon garlic butter (as did the fries), and once we managed to bite into the towering ten-ounce burger, we found that it was juicy and filling. The Manhattan Sideways team especially enjoyed the creamy lobster roll on soft butter brioche, a choice that felt refreshing and summery. Though we did not sample the drink menu, Vanessa told us about the signature cocktails and wines that Burger and Lobster has on tap, as well as its many beer options. When we had eaten as much burger and lobster as we could—the portions were quite large—Vanessa took us on a tour of the restaurant’s lobster lab. This area, which was designed by a marine biologist and is regulated by a complex computer system, can hold up to 4000 pounds of lobster at any given time. “We go through a lot of lobster, ” Vanessa told us. “On weekends, sometimes we use as many as a thousand per day. ” While the smaller lobsters are kept downstairs in the lab, the “big boys, ” as they’re affectionately known, are kept on the main floor for customers to admire. Between six and eighteen pounds, some of these lobsters are estimated to be eighty or ninety years old, and they are quite an impressive sight. We even got a chance to hold one of the big boys, a six-pounder who remained surprisingly calm as we lifted him by the claws. Burger and Lobster’s Manhattan location has received rave reviews, and Vanessa told us that the company will soon bring its high-quality food and impressive service to other locations in New York and the United States. But until then, anyone hoping to experience Burger and Lobster will have to make their way to this cool, casual spot on West 19th Street.
One night, the Manhattan Sideways team went on a burger crawl with Brad Garoon, of Burgerweekly. com, and tried out a number of his favorite spots on the side streets. New York Burger Co was in for a challenge when our group arrived. We had come armed with vegetarians, meat eaters, ravenous burger lovers, and those that were already a bit full from our previous stops. Fortunately for us, this place had just the right combinations to please everyone: mini burgers, big burgers, vegetarian burgers, and a giant sauce bar with eight different options for every possible palate. By this time... we were each at least a full burger in, plus French fries, but everyone managed to have another tasty feast.
Voted the second best burger joint by Zagat in 2015, Black Iron Burger is a combination of rustic décor, chill vibes, and great eats. Ketchup decorates the walls, burgers the plates, and the beer flows from the tap much to the joy of a consistent crowd. This particular location opened in August of 2014 and became popular after serving at the food market, Broadway Bites. I lunched here with a fellow Sideways member on a summer afternoon and the two of us sat up at the bar, well taken care of by Manager Jay and his ever-present smile. Jay started with the company after falling in love with one of their burgers the first time he tried it. “Nobody beats our meat, ” Jay added. The meat-lover I was with enjoyed her classic burger, and I was very happy with my veggie burger and some herb garlic fries. Before continuing our walk, we had to try out the homemade Oreo shake. Definitely a good choice.
Located within the lobby of Parker New York (formerly known as Le Parker Meridien) in a windowless room about the size of a New York City studio apartment, burger joint is the definition of a hole-in-the-wall, but only in the most positive sense. From outside burger joint, the only indication of its existence is a small neon burger sign - and, of course, the crowds of people waiting their turn for what has been voted "best burger in New York. " Inside, the walls are wood-paneled with iconic movie posters hanging on them. A back white brick wall has the signatures of celebrities who have eaten at the restaurant - everyone from hip hop artist Talib Kweli to Heidi Klum. The other walls - and even some of the tabletops - are also covered in writing, though these signatures are less recognizable. It is not actually encouraged to write on the walls; rather it was regular customers who noticed the celebrities' signatures and decided to carry on the tradition themselves. The menu is no-frills and written on a chalkboard: burgers, fries, sodas, milkshakes, Sam Adams, a brownie and that's about it. Having opened in 2002, burger joint has gained a "cult following" due to its unlikely location. According to the hotel's marketing person, Marisa, who kindly gave us a tour, she explained that people enjoy the juxtaposition of Le Parker's sleek elegance and burger joint's underground feel. Though its customer base was once mostly locals in the know, today the restaurant is overwhelmingly populated by tourists, including plenty of international visitors. Burgers are part of the American experience, and a burger joint burger has evidently become part of the New York City experience. When I commented to Marisa that I could not believe how long the line was at 3: 30 in the afternoon, she took one glance at the hectic scene before immediately pronouncing, "This is quiet for us. " Indeed, the employees often find themselves churning out up to "1000 burgers per day. "After so many years with only the one location, burger joint has recently begun to expand, opening a (much larger) restaurant on 8th Street along with outposts in far-flung locales like Seoul and Dubai. Marisa told us that there are plans to expand further, but the original location will always have a special place in the city's heart - all 600 square feet of it.