1291 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10021
New York is a pizza city. It's a bagel city. It's a hot dog city. But, by and large, it's becoming a hamburger city. JG Melon, on the Upper East Side, has long been ahead of this particular curve. They've been on the best-of lists for burgers for as long as I can remember so, when Bro was in town and we found ourselves in the Lenox Hill area, we decided to go check it out.
JG Melon reeks of old New York. It's dark inside but not because it's trendy (they were a gastropub long before the word existed). It's because the lights are 25 watts to keep the electrical bills down. It's tight. Tables are practically on top of each other. It's loud and even the little old ladies are raising their voices. The waitresses are so busy that they barely look at you when you're ordering and only grunt at you when you tell them what you want. If you grew up in a small town where things move a little more slowly, then you might mistake this as rude. But it's not. We're just busier here in New York. Having to literally tug on a waitress' shirt to get her to see you is part of the charm. Cash only, no free refills on soda, and a meat-centric menu of old-school bar food. It's like going back in time.
Anyway, as I said, I came for a burger. And so that's what I got. The Cheeseburger, served with pickles and red onion and a square of Kraft American on top. Nuthin' else. Nothing else is even offered. But hell, it doesn't need it. It was everything they said. When you just want a perfectly made patty on a toasted bun, without forty different sauces that just end up hiding the taste of the meat, now you know where to go. I also ordered a side of Cottage Fried Potatoes, JG Melon's version of french fries. They were okay, but too thin. I would have preferred big honkin' steak fries. Bro ordered the Grilled Breast of Chicken Sandwich. It's exactly like what it sounds like. A butterflied chicken breast on a hero roll with lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickle. There's a choice of salsa or barbecue sauce which comes in a cup on the side. Bro went with the salsa. I'd have gone with barbecue. Either way, it's an all around yawn-inducing dish. This sandwich is one that cries out for one of those forty sauces I mentioned. It couldn't have less taste if it tried. On the other hand, if you want a traditional sandwich, it doesn't get more traditional than this.
Everything you see in that picture up there, plus soda, tax, and tip came to $40. Get the burgers. You won't be sorry.
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