Fresh Kill: The Black Label Burger

Had one of these at the Minetta Tavern in Greenwich Village the other day, right around the corner from Todd Robinson’s watering hole, Shade. The Minetta is a fancy brasserie which serves an excellent Manhattan and Sazerac and delicious appetizers like salt pond oysters with truffled pork sausage. The oysters were fresh and sweet. Having read Mannahatta, about the original forested wilderness of Manhattan island, I know the Minetta was a brook that still exists underground. There was a huge salt pond in the area as well, and both the Natives and the Dutch settlers ate enough oysters that the shells form a sedimentary layer all over the tip of the island. Nowadays if you ate a New York bay oyster, an alien will pop out of your chest.

Black Label Burger

The burger is twenty six bucks and ground from aged beef. They have a standard burger for seventeen bones. You do get fries with that. Sorry, frites. The fries are good, not as good as Bourdain’s at Les Halles. The burger is one of the few that tops the Les Halles burger, which is ground to order from sirloin trimmings. The Black Label one-ups it by using only dry-aged beef, giving the crust a distinct mineral tang that steakivores will appreciate. Inside it’s just a balanced, excellent burger- not too fatty but certainly not lean or dry. I will name it my new favorite, but let’s be honest- I’m not gonna lay down $26 for a burger that often. Krug’s is still my go-to.

Here’s the list for you new folks.

1. Black Label Burger, Minetta Tavern NYC
2. Les Halles burger, John St. NYC (the one on Park Ave’s burger is not as good)
3. Krug’s Tavern, Newark NJ
4. The Ghetto Burger, Ann’s Snack Bar, Atlanta GA
5. White Manna sliders, Hackensack NJ
6. HB Burger, NYC
7. The Frenchy, DBGB, NYC.
8. The Baconeator, Morris Tap & Grill, Randolph NJ
9. Triple Smokehouse Burger, Cloverleaf Tavern, Caldwell NJ
10. Jucy Lucy, Matt’s Bar, Minneapolis MN.

(if you like looking at Cheeseburgers, check out my buddy Mike’s blog )

These are opinions. Ray’s Hell Burger in VA closed; I haven’t been to Kuma’s in Chicago. In-N-Out and Elevation Burger, Shake Shack and the Joint at the Le Parker Meridien hotel are all up there as well. And I plan on a long road trip on the west coast eating nothing but cheeseburgers next year, so my opinions WILL change. If you have recommendations… please leave a comment. I will travel for a good burger, and I save places I’ve visited or want to visit in a Google Map: Tommy Salami’s Hidden Treasures.

Blitzkrieg Burger Bop

blitzkrieg burger

The Blitzkrieg Burger at the Cloverleaf Tavern. a 5oz patty grilled medium rare, topped with a split, grilled Guiness-boiled bratwurst and Guiness steamed sauerkraut, slathered with spicy brown mustard on a delectable, chewy pretzel bun.
I told them to call it the BierGarten Belly Bomb, but they opted for Blitzkrieg. For that name, it should be currywurst with curry mayo, if ya ask me.

Anyway, this was a great burger. The steamed kraut soaked the chewy bun and the flavors worked together. They make one of the best burgers around, so the meat wasn’t overpowered by a slab of seared sausage.

The real Blitzkrieg was how our trivia time plowed through the Maginot line to get 1st place. Once again my nerd powers of random knowledge assisted us. We have a solid team, though we almost lost due to lack of Passover knowledge and a weakness in geography…

Fresh Kill: Pasion de Mexico

Molcajete – platter for two (or one Salami) with chorizo, sirloin, grilled chicken, avocado, tomato, Mexican cactus, radish, scallions, queso blanco sticks, fresh lime, served with corn tortillas, black beans and rice.

It’s as delicious as it looks and fed this hungry hairy beast for two serious post-workout meals. Highly recommended. de mexico

Fresh Kill: Noir at the Bar Burger!

After reading at Noir at the Bar NYC, Firecracker and I went out for burgers with friends Paula Pahnke (a writer whose work appears in the Lost Children anthology) and her man Dennis. Paula led us through the freezing cold to Cozy Soup ‘n Burger on Broadway, a diner institution offering much more than burgers and soup. We all had burgers. But first things first… here is the greatest shirt in creation. Photo by Glenn Gray. I reviewed Giovanni’s a while back. They make-a nice sangweech, paisans.


They make a good burger but they overcook it a bit. Not competition for Krug’s, but this is a top tier diner burger.  I had the Santorini Burger- spinach and feta on an English Muffin- with purloined avocado and onion ring added.

cozy burger

Noir at the Bar was a blast again. Thanks to Glenn Gray and “Big Daddy Thug” Todd Robinson for having me again. This time the lineup had Hilary Davidson, Al Tucher, Matthew McBride, Kathleen Gernert Ryan, Reed Farrel Coleman, Justin Porter, Terence McCauley, SJ Rozan, and Seamus Scanlon. Glenn, Todd, and Laurie- bartender extraordinaire- plus all the crew at Shade NYC– thanks again for a great evening.noirbar

Also in attendance was Josh Bazell, author of BEAT THE REAPER, one of my favorites of the last decade. I reviewed it ages ago. It’s one of the books that showed me you could write a crazy story if you were good enough, and Josh sure is. Here’s my reading of “Tiger Mother,” a short story that appears in Noir Nation #2.


Fresh Kills: Krug’s Tavern Burger


I’ve waxed poetic about Krug’s Tavern before. This is my favorite burger. It is big. It is tasty and unpretentious. It is always cooked well so it is juicy yet has a char on the outside. It is twelve ounces of the American heartland stuffed in your mouth.

Krug’s has a history. This is a destination, not just a burger. The tavern was originally opened by boxer Jake LaMotta in 1938, and remains in his family. LaMotta was the subject of Raging Bull. And this is one raging bull of a burger. To the family’s credit, they keep a poster of Jake and don’t name menu items after him or the movie.


The bacon cheeseburger is $7.50 and is the size of four patties from Five Guys. And tastes even better. The fries are steak fries. The onion rings are perfect battered hoops of crunch. The pickles, the hot peppers given as appetizer also serve as my favorite toppings.

The bar is what you’d call an old man bar. Not a gastropub. They have Harpoon IPA on tap next to the Bud, but nothing craftier. The TVs show local sports. The stools are crammed with broad-shouldered men in work boots with their elbows on the scarred mahogany. The grill sizzles, the whiskey flows freely. It has atmosphere and attitude. A Chinese woman will pop in at lunch hour with a bag of bootleg DVDs. Across the street is Sassy Ass lingerie shop and up the block is Five Corners, the heart of “Down Neck,” or Ironbound as it is called these days.

This burger and the place that serves it is a prime cut from the heart of Newark, and year after year, it remains my favorite.

Fresh Kills: the Reuben at Harold’s NY Deli

harolds reuben

Harold’s NY Deli is in New Jersey. There are a couple of them, actually. And like Ray’s Pizzas of New York, they are unaffiliated with each other. The Lyndhurst one is run by the guy who ran the Carnegie Deli in NYC, and my once favorite now-defunct diner, the Claremont.

While they may not be the best Jewish style deli restaurant around- my buddy Warren Bobrow can point you to Newark’s best– they are around the corner from where I work, and they make a damn tasty and enormous Reuben. So tender, so juicy, so flavorful. Whoever corned this beef had a way with meat.

This one is corned beef, and it is a junior. Yes, you can pay $43 for three pounds of meat that will serve a family of twelve, with free trips to “the world’s largest pickle bar” (my BS detector went off), and a loaf of rye with caraway seeds. It will be worth it.

This sandwich was twelve bucks or so. The meat was piled high. I did not want to look at food. It was the perfect size. I didn’t hate myself when I finished it, it was more of a mild disdain. Their pickles are forgettable and mushy, sadly. Smuggle in a jar of snappy Bah-Tampte half sour dills to make the experience complete.

This is a good Reuben. I’ve had them at Katz’s, the Carnegie, the Stage, Canter’s in Los Angeles. Not the best but a damn fine specimen.



Fresh Kill: the burger at Les Halles downtown

Bourdain Burger

Les Halles, Anthony Bourdain’s downtown brasserie, makes one of my favorite cheeseburgers: ground to order with chopped sirloin, perfectly cooked with a good sear, served alongside some of the best fries in the city. I’ve had the burger at their Park Ave. location and I prefer the John Street joint, in the Financial district. They also serve good beer, from Allagash White to Kronenbourg 1664. Not a fantastic selection, but good. The Brooklyn Winter Lager was my favorite on tap.

Their burger is good because it is simple. A solid sesame bun, some caramelized onions, tomato. And good beef. Nothing crazy fancy, no claims of “single steer” or other nonsense. They grind it from the sirloin trimmings of their many tasty steaks. This time around it felt a tiny bit smaller and a little less fatty. I suppose it depends on what they have. But it is still one of the best burgers in the City. It’s not cheap, but not ridiculous. For great cheap burgers, there’s HB Burger, Shake Shack (AVOID the awful Times Square one), and the Burger Joint at the Parker Meridien (behind the curtain). Those are around seven bucks and really damn good.

The best, I am told, is at the Minetta Tavern. We have yet to try it. It is $26 for the top end burger. The burgers at DBGB, the beer & banger joint, are half that and are fantastic, one of the best. So is the roquefort burger at Spotted Pig. So it’s tough to go pay that much for a burger, even as a treat. How great could it be? If it is as disappointing as the “single steer” burger at Pig & Prince in Montclair- I’d rather have a $7 burger from Krug’s Tavern- then it’s money down the drain. But I will try it eventually, and report back to you. My standard is still the Cloverleaf Tavern. They make a consistently good burger, if you get it medium to medium rare. Sometimes the kitchen overcooks them, but when they get it right they are one of the best around, especially for the price.