5 Napkin Burger | 630 9th Ave. (at 45th St.) | 212.757.2277 | Reserve Now | fivenapkinburger.com

I AM STARTING TO FIND it ironic that summer, the season that dictates a person wear the least amount of clothes—making more necessary the need for a visually fit physique, is also the season that offers, by default, and ubiquitously, the most unhealthy, yet yummy, food. Every day, or at least every weekend, is like Thanksgiving.

Fried chicken, ribs, potato salad, hot dogs, hamburgers, etc. And it doesn't seem to be enough that these foods be offered at the more than occasion BBQ, rooftop, beach, or backyard party; now, more and more NYC restaurants are creating and shaping their menu around these girth-expanding comfort foods.

This summer has been the summer of the burger (hot dogs and sausages running a close second). New York Magazine recently listed online their list of New York City's Best 82 Burgers. Eighty-Two?! We have that many burgers that we can list the top 82 different burgers! (This is why other countries hate us!)

On that list, as well as Time Out New York's Eat Out Awards Best New Burger of 2009 (with Black Iron Burger getting an honorable mention)—and a fave of The New York Times—is 5 Napkin Burger, located on 45th Street and 9th Avenue.

My friend, Marcy, and I had planned all year to enjoy a "foodie" date and finally got to do so last night, with 5 Napkin Burger being our chosen destination. We were to meet at 6:30 p.m., and although she walked and got there earlier, I cabbed it to get there on time from the Upper East Side. Jumping out of the cab, the awning was hard to miss:



Walking inside, I was surprised at the cavernous expanse of the restaurant's interior.



I met Marcy at the bar, she already enjoying a tall glass of wine. The bar is a nice waiting area, as wait we did before and after Marcy went to the hostess to tell her that her other party (me) was present. We got one of those light/buzzy things you get at Shake Shack and continued to wait at the bar. And wait we did, both of us fortunate taht we had read the reviews of 5 Napkins Burger on MenuPages and were made well aware that the wait times were a common complaint (and pretty much the source of all of them; very few complaints were about the quality of the food). The bar was a nice place to wait...


...however; the bar staff is cute and seem to make really good—even complicated and upscale—drinks, although I got to enjoy the one male bartender making a Manhattan while wearing baggy jeans that somehow hung on to the bottom half of his boxer brief-covered butt.

After about 20 minutes, and running into a couple of schoolmates from Collegiate, our Buzz Lightyear contraption started lighting up, as we presented it to our hostess and were seated at one of the outside tables. Marcy was so impressed with the bartenders Manhattan-making skills she ordered one for herself as we waited for menus.


The menu is creative, simple, and oddly eclectic (they serve sushi too?!), and obviously built around their main burgers. Marcy and I were creative ourselves, as we decided to start with an order of the Fried Pickles and Pastrami, mostly in honor of our good friend, Shannon, who, from Louisiana, is a big fan. They came out looking brilliant.



They tasted brilliant too. Nice crunchy exterior, with a bright burst of sweet, vinegary kick. The pastrami tasted really and was a welcome stranger—fried pickles are excellent without a partner when done properly!—and the grain mustard sauce added a little sweet heat that opened up your sinuses and let you taste and smell every flavor a hint more.

The saurkraut, Marcy and I both decided, was not only unnecessary, but actually was a hindrance, since it kind of made the crunchy parts soggy. So we just separated the fried pickles and pastrami from the saurkraut on the plate and cut right in and, from there, enjoyed every bite!


Then the burgers came, and in our effort to be creative again, we both ordered different house burgers and substituted two separate side dishes for the fries that come with each burger. (I'm sure the fries would have been swell, but after a while, fries are fries....) I ordered the house 5 Napkins Burger, 10 oz. of ground Angus chuck topped with Comté cheese, caramelized onions and a rosemary aioli, with a side of Cornmeal-Crusted Onion Rings while Marcy ordered the Cheddar-Bacon Burger, the same 10 oz. mound of meat topped with sharp cheddar and bacon, with a side of tater tots.

And then, quicker than we expected...






Yeah. I know. And, yes, it was as good as it looks. The burgers had a great steak flavor and were so thick and meaty, that they were nicely assisted by the other accoutrement and condiments because, even at this thickness, it maintained that perfect meat-to-bread-to-topping ratio. Did it need 5 napkins? If they were paper napkins, probably, but oddly enough, we were given oversized linen napkins, which wound up being very necessary.

We very much enjoyed (of course we shared!) the subtle aromatic of the rosemary and the sweet mellowness of the Comté cheese on the 5 Napkin Burger, and the Cheddar-Bacon Burger had all of those rich familiar flavors with the added texture the generous number of slices of the on-the-thicker side bacon. And, like me, lettuce, tomato and raw onion are not default burger toppings, and we enjoyed the Bacon-Cheddar Burger much more without it.

Marcy and were also prescient in ordering the burgers medium (as opposed to medium rare, as I like them). The thinking was, if we're going to risk the "margin of error" on the doneness of a burger, we'd prefer to have it more cooked than less. We should have played Lotto because they were cooked to our liking close to perfectly.



The sides were likewise an exercise in simple happiness. The onion rings had a nice gritty and flavorful crunch while the thick-cut onion maintained their firm bite. The tater tots too crunchy on the outside, and surprisingly light and somewhat, nicely, creamy on the inside, with a hint of herbs and very possibly some cheese.



We couldn't figure out exactly what was mixed in with the potato, but we didn't care. The sides went down easily, although not totally; the burgers had to be finished—we couldn't help ourselves!—and there was not that much room left to continue gorging (food coma was eminent).

We had seen a dessert at another table; don't remember what it was, but we couldn't figure out how anyone could have any room left in their stomach for dessert. And I don't know how much room I have left in summer to keep eating burgers and sausages and making fried chicken and steak.

Anyone have any great vegetarian restaurants they recommend I try out...? No, seriously.... ;)

Bun Apple Tea!


Five Napkin Burger

5 Napkin Burger | 630 9th Ave. (at 45th St.) | 212.757.2277 | Reserve Now | fivenapkinburger.com