» Big Nick's Burger Joint and Pizza Joint | 2175 Broadway (Bet. 77th & 76th Sts.) | 212.362.9238 | bignicksnyc.com | | |
WE ARE IN A WHOLE NEW ideology when it comes to food. Although we had the well-watched and popular Julia Childs and The Galloping Gourmet generations ago, it wasn't until the birth of the Food Network, and not just Emeril, but also the advent of the original Japanese version of the Iron Chef and both shows' multiple spawns, that we get to an age where we have such a thing as National Burger Month, and celebrate it with more than a modicum of seriousness and fervor.
But back in the day, as a kid, I wasn't aware of many adults who stood on line an hour for a burger, and paying ten bucks or more than one, even in the affluent 80s, was untenable. Yet, here we are in 2012 ardently arguing over the lean/fat ratios of ground beef, the preferred proper bun, and everyone, celebrity chef or not, feels a need to have their own signature burger.
So how refreshing it was to cap off a nostalgia tour of my prep school alma mater, The Collegiate School, some 28 years after graduation, likewise with a revisit to the little claustrophobia-inducing diner of a restaurant—just across the street at Big Nick's Burger Joint and Pizza Joint—where I enjoyed downing burgers and shakes pretty much every week during my ten years at Collegiate.
The place has become even that much more of an Upper West Side institution since high school, more regularly busy that they routinely have seats outside. (That wasn't the case in the 80s, despite its popularity even then.) The menu boasted an even greater variety of burgers than the long list I remembered. And unlike every room, desk, and chair from my alma mater that seemed much smaller than when I last used them, the burgers at Big Nick's, including their ever-delicious bacon cheeseburger, was much bigger than my memory allocated. Still juicy, flavorful, properly salted and caramelized on the outside, this DINER-STYLE BURGER on steroids also featured nicely sharp melted American cheese and tasty bacon on the better side of crispy over chewy.
Conversely, the bun was a little bland (and the burger was set on the wrong bun, so this particular burger wound up with the bacon under the patty and the cheese melting up) but the fresh lettuce and firm, plump tomato made the forgettable bun mostly inconsequential. The thick, hot steak-style fries had perfect crisp on its exterior while maintaining great airiness on the inside, and staying so throughout the whole burger. The biggest kicker yet might be that the whole behemoth of a yummy meal came at such a comparably small price
So I find great comfort that in today's food culture of Pat Lafrieda special meat blends, homemade Portuguese rolls, and onion jams, that the burger I had most when I was little—besides the ones made at home—can still be a big hit.
Bun Apple Tea!
Big Nick's Burger Joint and Pizza Joint | 2175 Broadway (Bet. 77th & 76th Sts.) | 212.362.9238 | bignicksnyc.com | | |