I have a new favorite burger in NYC. HB Burger nearly grabbed this crown a few weeks ago, but its patty, while flavorful, was a little too thin. DBGB Kitchen & Bar, Daniel Boulud’s retaurant on the Bowery by 2nd, makes a burger as beefy and flavorful, moister than Les Halles grilled-to-order sirloin, and with artful toppings that compliment and exponentially amplify its signature flavors. We have a winner. There’s always a burger contender on the block; but Les Halles was the Matt Hughes of my burger world, to use a UFC analogy. It’s been there for a year. I’ll have to go back and see if they’ve improved, now that DBGB has stolen the jester’s thorny crown.
DBGB is a charcuterie, a French style sausage fest with an excellent beer selection. It is a bit pricey. After 3 beers a piece, two apps, burgers and desserts we were set back $170. But goodness were we sated. We both semi-starved because it was our 3rd anniversary, and I took Firecracker to Element Beauty Lounge for a massage and mani-pedi. I just got a massage. And the masseuse was a masseur. He was Korean, but didn’t look enough like Rain to made me want a happy ending. Anyway. The food! DBGB is a busy place, and even with 9:30 reservations it took us about 10 minutes to be seated at a cozy table by a pillar. The bartenders were friendly and knowledgeable, and when FC ordered a berliner-weisse, they offered a shot of creme de cassis to compliment its crisp champagne-like flavor. My first beer was Harviestoun Brewery’s “Old Engine Oil” porter, which is a perfect winter brew. Smooth but rich and malty, with toasty coffee and chocolate notes.
We waited long enough to have a second round, with the ‘Cracker having that classic Scheider Weisse, and I grabbing Six Point’s Mason Black Wheat. That was a lot like a Black Lager in concoction, with a smooth fruity wheat beer start and a snappy malty finish. Six Points is rising to the top of my new favorites- their Sweet Action, which I had at the Brooklyn Ale House, was superb. After being seated, our apps came out quickly. We ordered the bone marrow plate with toast triangles, and one of their house-made sausages- the Vermont cheddar wurst. Both were fantastic. I was expecting more marrow, but it is so rich, I’m glad there was just enough to dab each tiny bit of toast. They slathered some homemade stoneground mustard on the bone, and it came with a single slice of Katz’s pastrami twirled with watercress. For $17, you can put two on the plate for sharing, guys. But it was delicious. The sausage was a juicy, cheesy pork explosion. You can easily make a meal out of picking different sausages here, and you wouldn’t be disappointed.
But you know me. As much as I like a big meaty sausage, burgers are my true calling. And what was so good that it knocked Bourdain’s burger from the gold to the silver? We ordered two, the Piggie (topped with pulled pork) and the Frenchie (with thin, crisped pork belly). they are 6oz burgers, just the right size. Plump and juicy. They lean toward rare- Firecracker wasn’t thrilled with her “medium” being so pink, but I loved my “medium rare” leaning to rare. It was cooked and didn’t have the metallic tartare flavor of a too-rare burger. It was beefy bliss. The crust on the seared meat lent salty char to the flavor, and the note of well-marbled beef was uninterrupted throughout. The pork belly was thin enough to not overwhelm, and came off as rich bacon that wasn’t chewy enough to interfere with mouth feel. The bun, a mild and buttery round, just fit the burger and also complimented, without getting in the way.
One caveat. The pulled pork was amazing. Some of the best I’ve had. But it smacked you like Tony Danza, and made you wish you got a pulled pork sandwich instead of a burger. It’s really that good. They both come with excellent fries, crisp and tasty. I think Bourdain has the edge in the frites department, but it’s been a while. Another reason to go check. The Frenchie comes with some house-pickled, tart cornichons and the piggie is topped with a likewise pickled jalapeno, which packs more fire than many habaneros I’ve eaten. I’m no stranger to hot food. But from experience, let me warn you, if you eat this pepper wash your hands BEFORE you go to the bathroom. Sweet baby James, I was smiling like a Cheshire cat with Vap-o-rub in his jock strap through dessert.
And yes, we had dessert. They make a fantastic sundae. The mocha variety has tiny brownies and cookies in it, and manages to be airy enough to make finishing it seem possible. I had a pear ice cream sandwich, which had pear compote in it. It had great crust. Then again I prefer mild desserts that cleanse the palate and keep your gut from exploding, and this hit the spot. The final beers were Kiuchi, a Japanese white ale with spicy cardamom and lemon notes, and a Belgian pumpkin ale that tasted too much like a tripel to go with dessert. I wish our waiter was as beer-smart as the bar gal was. Overall, it was an excellent dining experience of the gastro-pub variety. Easier to get into than The Spotted Pig, but not as cozy and rustic. The food is a notch above, though I like the simplicity of a fried pig ear. So we’ll be back to the Pig sometime as well. Their roquefort burger is a contender worthy of battling DBGB’s excellent Frenchie. Until then, I tell Daniel Boulud: