Today, sadly, we must temporarily change the name to 4 Napkin Burger, as it took FOUR TIMES for poor Spoon to still not get a burger cooked properly! We have been to 5 Napkin Burger before and truly love their burgers, but there was something off in the kitchen this day. But, please don’t let this criticism of only one burger keep you from experiencing one of the BEST burgers in New York City.
Let’s start with the place……
5 Napkin Burger is THE hip place to be after theatre, before theatre – well, any time you want to have a great meal (yes, they have more than burgers!) in a great looking place. 5 Napkin Burger is a huge, industrial looking, jumping, trendy, meat hooks and rolling tracks hanging from the ceiling, tiled, light, fun. Well staffed with courteous, hard working people. Loud. Great music.
The menu is a little eclectic. Seriously, how many places have you been to that have sushi and burgers on the same menu? There are a variety of appetizers, entrees, burgers, sides, even a foot long kobe beef hot dog. Their beer list is extensive. Nice wine selection. Their specialty cocktail list is inviting – all Fork can say about the Perfect 5 Napkin Manhattan is YUMM-O and may I have another!
But, let’s not forget, 5 Napkin Burger is about the burger – the 5 napkin burger. The first restaurant owned by Andy D’Amico and Simon Oren was Nice Matin. THe most popular thing on the menu there was the 5 Napkin Burger. With the popularity of the 5 Napkin Burger, D’Amico and Oren decided to open 5 Napkin Burger and give the burger its own stage. There are 7 different burgers on the menu, each different. There is a tuna burger, a turkey burger, a veggie burger, and even a lamb burger.
We sat down in a booth supposedly for four people. These would have to be four rather tiny people. Our server, who was wonderful, came right over. We ordered iced teas and asked for water as well. We were ready to order when he returned and ordered away.
For a starter, we ordered the Pork Taquitos. Six tiny little tacos sitting on a bed of shredded lettuce. Across the top was sprinkled queso fresco, sour cream and a fresh tomato salsa. The tacos were crisp, maybe just a bit too crisp. As you bite into the tacquito, it crushes. The tacquito is slightly bigger than simply popping it into your mouth. First bite great, second bite a mess – but a delicious mess! The pork filling was slow cooked and very tender. The queso fresco added the perfect salty addition to this appetizer, with the tomato salsa bringing in a sweet freshness. While these were very good, Fork and Spoon both agree that these needed lime and a little hot sauce. Once we added a squeeze and a shake, they were perfect. Definitely a ‘must’ order item!
We both ordered the Original 5 Napkin Burger. 10 oz. of ground chuck, gruyere cheese, caramelized onions, rosemary aioli all atop a wonderful roll. All burgers are served with a very generous serving of french fries. Spoon asked if we could swap out one of the fries for the Tuscan Fries (a must!) and they were happy to do so. Tuscan fries! MY OH MY!! Let’s start with the fact the fries at 5 Napkin are perfect – thin cuts of potato, crisply fried, lightly salted. The Tuscan fry is a slightly thicker cut, crispy fried, and then covered in rosemary, garlic and parmesan cheese. All that goodness on a crispy fry!
Now, sadly, here is where the problems started. Fork ordered the burger medium. Spoon ordered the burger medium rare. Oh, that troublemaker Spoon! Burgers arrive. Burgers get cut in half. Fork’s medium burger is perfect. Spoon? Not so much. Not only is not medium rare, it isn’t even medium, it’s closer to well done. We call over our waiter. Burger No.1 is whisked away. Burger No.2 arrives. Spoon waits a few moments to let the burger rest. The burger is cut in half and it is so rare it practically cries when cut. Burger No.2 is whisked away. So now Burger No. 3 arrives – which really is just a re-fire of Burger No.2 – and you are really not going to believe what you read next – moo-ing Burger No.2 is now way over cooked Burger No. 3. Burger No. 3 is now whisked away. The waiter is mortified – mainly because he has looked at each burger and realizes we aren’t being difficult diners but somehow this has become a burger debacle. The manager comes over, explaining that they make a lot of burgers there (really? The name gave us no clue!) and he can’t imagine what is wrong. We explained this unbelievable chain of events and our sweet waiter looked at the manager and said sadly, Spoon is right, that’s what’s been going on. The manager, who isn’t quite sure whether he is going to be angry at the cutlery sitting before him or the chefs in the kitchen whoa re obviously having a difficult burger day! He assures us he is going to personally watch the chef cook Spoon’s burger to an absolute medium rare perfection. Burger No. 4 arrives. Spoon waits. Spoon cuts. It is again totally rare in the center, but instead of having Burger No. 4 whisked away, Spoon eats around the edges. By now, this is seriously ridiculous. Fork’s burger is a distant memory, the fries are gone and Spoon’s burger is still not right. Perhaps the confusion lays in the words medium-rare. It’s almost like two instructions. Every burger came out either medium OR rare. Maybe the combo of medium AND rare throws the kitchen into a tailspin.
I must say, the restaurant did the right thing and removed the offending burger – I should say, burgers 1, 2, 3 AND 4 – from our bill.
Additionally, they sent over a WOW of a dessert! We must have looked like the type of cutlery that could be wooed with dessert. Okay, we are, but don’t let that get around! We were staring at the plate with Spoon’s Burger No.4, shaking our heads sadly that our experience at one of our favorite haunts was so ridiculously bad. Really, does any of what happened even seem possible? Anyway, back to dessert! The manager sent over an Espresso Brownie Sundae. This description doesn’t even come close to what was delivered to the table. Tall sundae glass, fudgey espresso flavored brownies, caramel poured over, vanilla ice cream and salted peanuts. Oh, what a devilish way to make us lose our angry!
The situation was handled really well by the restaurant. The waiter is probably still walking by our table apologizing. I don’t mean this in a trite way, but the poor fellow was mortified and couldn’t figure out what else to do to fix the situation. The manager turned out to be very kind and generous in the solution to the burger dilemma. At first we are sure he thought we were just some sort of difficult cutlery – as if!
Will we go back there? You bet your spork we will! These are still the best burgers in town and everyone is entitled to a bad day!
Not sure if the iced tea is bottomless. More investigation on that later!
5 Napkin Burger ~ 45th Street and 9th Avenue, NYC, NY ~ 212.757.2277