The Burger Battle of the Best continues…
When you walk into a hole in the wall tavern like Krug’s in the Down Neck section of Newark, you expect a row of old men manning the barstools, no light but the sun peeking through the front window, scattering dust motes across the aged linoleum floor. You don’t expect a juicy 3/4 pound burger with a fresh made sesame roll for a mere six bucks, maybe seven if you throw 4 slices of bacon and cheese on there. But that’s what you’ll get, and an pint mug full of beer and atmosphere.
Krug’s Tavern has been slinging jumbo burgers, fried shrimp and calamari slathered with spicy marinara, and mugs of beer since 1932. The LaMottas, grandson of original owner Frank Krug and relations to boxing Jake of Raging Bull fame, still run the joint 77 years later, and serve much the same food they’ve always been famous for. Maybe one time I’ll try the shrimp or the “gollamod” but the burgers are so good, and enormous, that I try to come here no more often than every 6 months and digest my meal like a python in between visits.
My boss, “Pallie,” and I went there for lunch this week. It’s near the docks where I work, and buddy Rob W on facebook asked if I’d ever been there after he read the last burger joint review. I have, but it had been years- too many. So we went back. Tucked in a brick building on Wilson Street, but with free parking round the corner on Napoleon, Krug’s barely fits in its now Brazilian and Portuguese neighborhood. But it draws in a big lunch crowd from the whole town. It’s rep precedes it. We snagged a table and ordered our burgers right away. This ain’t fast food. Grilling a burger of this magnitude to medium takes time, but it’s oh so worth it. Grab a beer while you wait. They only have Bud, Coors and Yuengling on tap but have a good selection of longnecks to supplement.
We got onion rings as well. The oil was fresh and the batter was crispy and light, like the first batch of zeppoles at a summer festival. The burgers come on fresh sesame seed buns of proper size made especially for Krug’s, that don’t fall apart while you dig into it. Look at the meat- not too densely packed. If you look closely in the top photo of the bar you’ll see huge meatballs pre-made in the fridge, ready to be slapped on the grill as burgers. The burger is plain or very lightly seasoned, letting the pure beef flavor speak for itself. I got bacon on mine, and it was just right. Not crumbling, not fatty. You get a huge sour pickle and some hot cherry peppers marinated in vinegar on the side, so I put pickles, hot peppers and an onion ring on mine with just a bit of ketchup, and it was one of the best burgers I’ve had in a long time.
Don’t get me wrong; this is good old ground round, not brisket, sirloin, Kobe or whatnot. But as far as plain Jane burgers go, Krug’s is one of the best since I went to Miss Ann’s for a Ghetto Burger in Atlanta. It’s definitely in the top ten for best burgers I’ve had, and the onion rings were some of the freshest. The Ironbound, or Down Neck, is more famous for Portuguese food such as rodizio and seafood, but Krug’s has been there for 3/4 of a century, selling 3/4 pound burgers for less than 3/4 of a ten-spot. I highly suggest you go try one. And don’t forget to check out Sassy Assy’s exotic dancewear across the street, for some more local Newark culture!
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