GREENWICH VILLAGE, NYC | For those of you who were worried that the new Greenwich Village J.G. Melon couldn't possibly be the same vibe/feel as the UES location—well, you're right. It isn't, but how could it.
How do you open a place—even a duplicate of the original—in a completely different NYC neighborhood, and expect it to feel as "lived in" and familiar as the place where many of us have been going to for decades with our grandparents, our parents, and now, for many of us (you), our own kids?
Of course, you don't. And it doesn't seem the team helming the new space is trying to at all either. The neighborhood demographic is too different to evoke any deep-rooted nostalgia from us natives, yet the folks of lower Manhattan no less deserve a proudly tenured, highly esteemed, and perfectly uncomplicated delicious NYC burger.
And on that front, the new J.G. team succeeds, having extended themselves making sure the meat, grinding equipment, produce, grills, cheeses—and even the delivery process of them all—is exactly the same as has been the decades-long process for the UES burger tavern favorite.
And it's not like most UESers will make even a remote habit or routine of trekking out of their (very) comfort(able) zone down to MacDougal Street for the exact same burger they can throw on some Ralph Lauren pajama pants and slippers and go across the street for. Yorkvillians should actually be happy that in all greater probability, the tourists and Yelpers are far more likely to now skip coming uptown in favor of being just blocks away the Washington Square Park and Blue Man Group—making the "element" left still going to uptown Melon's more "their own"
Finally, the verdict on the burger? You'll be happy (relieved?) to know that the burger and cottage fries are near vintage Melon's. The cottage fries were nicely airy of the inside, and held it's exterior crispiness throughout the 10 minutes it took me to scarf down my cheeseburger. As for the burger, the loosely-packed beef patty (mine cooked to medium rare) was properly and recognizingly flavorful and crumbly, running with clear, nearly aromatic juices.
My one negative was that I would have preferred the burger more "front-salted"—as I told the waiter and floor manager. That's a very difficult thing to master—and maybe the original Melon's has long ben benefitting from having a flattop grill seasoned from years and years of cooking burgers (and bacon) on it. It would have been the palate pick-me-up that I've always liked about the original J.G burgers, that slight salinity to the smokey, slightly charred exterior. The snappy pickle slices added the right amount of salt and acid, the onions heady, snappy bite, and the barely toasted bun as usual maintained its soft integrity (just) to the very last bite, soaking up the beef juices without fully disintegrating.
This day in late July when I visited, it was also National Cheesecake Day, and as one of the new operators of the downtown local is from Magnolia Bakery, it is no surprise to see the bakery's wares on Melon's dessert menu, including a smooth, creamy yet firm, very pleasant vanilla bean cheesecake that sat on a moist yet still crunchy graham cracker crust.
So after that very full and satiating meal, I can inform you all that not only am I satisfied from the meal, but also satisfied with the knowledge that the original J.G. Melon's is in no danger of changing, and that Greenwich Village has a new change it can hope to have around for generations itself.
(Hopefully they realize how lucky they are sooner than later—the restaurant-friendly room is more spacious than its 74th Street counterpoint, and unlike it as well, the starting-to-gather crowd were largely situated at the bar for drinks, the rest just settling into tables for grub—I, the only one sitting outside. I also may have been the only customer above 40 years of age, which is not at all surprising realizing I was in NYU central.)
Or at least have an option for a top-notch, old school NYC tavern burger, without having to pay over twice as much for one a block away at Minetta Tavern!
J.G. MELON | 89 Macdougal St., New York, NY 10012 | (212) 460-0900 | jgmelonnyc.com