BURGERS!!! - Part Four


Five Guys Burgers & Fries
Zen Burger (CLOSED)

It's been a while since my last burger update, and it's probably gonna be a while until the next one, but for those looking to find that next installment of burgerliciousness, here you go. This time, alas, not all burgers were quite that licious. In fact, some of them weren't even burgers.


800 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10017
(212) 922-1700

Goodburger sits right down the block from where I work, so I've been fortunate enough to be able to eat there whenever I work late if I have to, confident that I'll indeed be eating a very good burger. Naturally, since every silver lining must have its cloud, I have not lost weight doing so.

The location in the East 40s is not air conditioned, so sitting there waiting for the burgers to cook this past summer was uncomfortable, to be quite honest. But they serve cold beer, so clearly it's not all bad. The music they play is straight from the Global Underground and Ministry of Sound jukebox, so there's a cool vibe to the place. Well, a cool vibe when you can hear it. Come lunchtime, the place is so crowded that you barely hear your Europop.

Goodburger is like a cross between the class of BLT Burger and the fast foodiness of Better Burger. On the one hand, it has dark wood molding and serves beer. On the other hand, you order at a counter and wait for your number to be called. Also, prepare to share your table.

But let's get to the food. The burgers, here at Goodburger, are good. In fact, as I alluded to earlier, they are very good. But they're not great. In short, don't expect to wake up one day just burning for a Goodburger burger. It's about as far from a unique burger experience as one should expect. But if you want a really good burger, you really can't go wrong.

The fries are equally good, but... standard. Goodfries. You won't go wrong ordering them, but you're not going to remember them come tomorrow. For dessert, there are some cakes and brownies.

Wait for food: 12 minutes
Cost: roughly $11.00 for the burger, fries and soda combo
Burger: good
Fries: also good
Atmosphere: um... good
Verdict: did I mention the place was good?

North Side Plaza
132-01 14th Ave
College Point, NY 11356
(718) 767-6500

What can be said about Five Guys? Um... they sell burgers and fries. That's about it. No. Seriously. I mean that's about it. Here's their WHOLE MENU: Burger, Cheeseburger, Bacon Burger, Bacon Cheeseburger, Hot Dog, Cheese Dog, Bacon Dog, Bacon Cheese Dog, or Grilled Cheese. Ahh, healthy. Oh and they have fries, too, but not onion rings.

Five guys is from somewhere else (DC) and is dangerously close to disqualification from my list for being a chain. As of this writing, they had a presence in 18 states and only because they chose to open their very first NYC location in the middle-of-nowhere Queens did I keep them. And middle-of-nowhere it is. If you don't have a car or the patience to take the bus all the way out the College Point, you will, sadly, not be able to partake in the greasy goodness that it the College Point Five Guys burger.

The first thing you notice upon entering this suburban-mini-mall-located burger joint is the decor. Hold up, did I say decor. I meant total lack of decor. The walls are literally blank except for framed press clipping extolling the glory of the Five Guys burger and, while there are quite a few tables, the inside is large enough that they appear to be pretty sparce. Finally, for flavor, smack in the middle of the floor are crates of peanuts you can eat while you wait for the burgers to cook.

The hamburgers here are basic American hamburgers. They are so without flair or even anything remotely resembling flair that they make McDonalds look like a bastion of culinary experimentation. They're big and greasy and just what a hamburger should be, without any cutesy names or flashy billboards proclaiming their goodness.

If you want a side of something, I hope you like french fries, because that's basically all you're allowed to order. And they're made well, too. Take my advice and get a large. You won't be disappointed, though you won't really think that they're the best fries you've ever had, either. Of course, you could always go for broke and get a side order of hot dog.

For those of you opposed to any kind of serious travel, Five Guys has a location in Brooklyn Heights on Montague Street, in the West 50s and in the Village. You can get their specific locations online.

Wait for food: 8 minutes
Cost: not much
Burger: when you're the thinnest guy eating the food, it has to be good.
Fries: a decent side to the burger, but no better or worse than any other place's
Atmosphere: there isn't any.
Verdict: one of the best, especially for the price.

Note: Zen Burger has CLOSED.
465 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10017
(212) 661-6080

Where can I start with Zen Burger? It's vegetarian hamburger joint from the folks who brought you Zen Palate.

I know, BLASPHEMY!!!

Well, you know something? Some of us actually like veggie burgers. Some of us find fake meat tasty on rare occasion as a change of pace. And frankly, I feel no need to defend myself from anyone. Having said that, Zen Burger makes a truly awful burger.

The inside is like a trendy fast food restaurant. No booths or huge bins for your garbage that you stack brown plastic trays on, but as it's sterile-white with easy-to-mop tile floors. The service was, this particular day, bad. First, there was serious confusion as to what I had ordered and even my repeating it four times required managerial help. Although I suppose that it's possible they made my "burger" when I ordered it, there were about a dozen or so pre-made sandwiches ready to be handed out biding their time under a heat lamp. Same thing with the fries; made a while ago and kept warm.

Except that all my food arrived cold.

The fries were the best part of the meal and I gave them away because cold fries just don't do it for me. The Zenbeef burger I ordered tasted nothing like beef at all. Besides which, it was cold, I ate about a third of it, and then donated the rest to the Fresh Kills seagull population. Veggie burgers don't normally bother me. I've been known to buy and enjoy something from Morningstar or Boca or Gardenburger now and again. But this was simply wasn't making the cut.

Just because I always love how vegetarians try to make whatever it is they're eating look and taste like something else, I ordered Zen Burger's fried shrimp poppers. They were amazingly realistic. And they weren't half bad. You might really think it's a deep fried shrimp. It's too bad the other things weren't of this caliber.

Wait for food: 10 minutes
Cost: about $7
Burger: bad
Fries: would have been good if hot
Atmosphere: midtown fast food
Verdict: skip the burgers, try their other fake meat instead

Update: 01/07/09: Zen Burgers has shuttered it's doors, claiming high rent... will burgerdom ever be able to get beyond this loss? Only time will tell.

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