Burgers are everywhere, and they're zooming upscale. Maybe it's a sign of the economic downturn, but every name chef seems to be dabbling in ground-meat patties that were once the exclusive province of bars, diners, and fast food chains. Daniel Boulud stuffs his with foie gras and truffles and charges $29 at DB Bistro, while the Old Homestead sculpts patties from Kobe beef and demands $41. Danny Meyer, striving to re-create the hamburger of his youth in the Midwest, fabricates his Shake Shack burger out of short ribs and brisket. Now, new burger joints are sprouting in trendy neighborhoods like toadstools, charging double the price of a diner hamburger, selling fries as a side, and tempting you with toppings that range from sun-dried tomatoes to porcini sauce to fried eggs. Accept the offer of a milkshake, beer, or glass of wine, and you'll end up with a tab of $25 or more, for what was once a bargain meal. I recently set out on a burger-spotting expedition; below are my field notes and grades.
Dispensing with vowels to create a name like a growling cur, Brgr fabricates its third-pound patty from Black Angus beef, but the meat doesn't matter, because the griddle cooks commit the unpardonable sin of smashing the patty down with the spatula as it sizzles, evacuating all the tasty juices, resulting in a dry crumbly "brgr." Unexpectedly, the place makes superlative milkshakes, and the "onion hay" isn't bad, either. C
Seeking to please everyone, Laurent Tourondel's BLT Burger slings tuna, turkey, veggie, lamb, and Kobe ($62!) burgers, though the core product is five ounces of Black Angus. Sometimes the patty arrives done as requested, sometimes not, but even the lush toppings can't disguise the meat's fundamental flavorlessness. Fries are nothing special, and the Vidalia onion rings wretchedly sweet without tasting like onions. B minus
There is something refreshingly unpretentious about 67 Burger. The patties are made from "seven to eight ounces of 100 percent ground beef," demonstrating, at least, that each burger is hand-formed. Ask for bacon, and you get lots of it. The roster of veggie burgers is particularly beguiling, but the menu also flaunts chicken sandwiches, soups, and chef salads, making me think this place might be more of a deconstructed diner than a real burger joint. B
Inauspiciously founded by a guy who owns a fleet of garbage trucks, Brooklyn Burger Bar enjoys a prime piece of real estate just above Park Slope's F-train stop, and uses the same dull tasting (but fancy sounding) Black Angus beef to make burgers more generous in size (8 oz.) than usual. Alas, the burgers arrive overcooked, and the so-called Brooklyn burgertopped with sun-dried tomatoes and mozzarellarepresents the borough about as well as Marty Markowitz. C plus
The seven-ounce patty at Standwhich feels like an airport loungeis made from 90 percent ground chuck and an assortment of other cuts, and the specimens we examined were all cooked to the desired level of doneness. Plain doesn't seem to be an option, as even the stripped-down version comes with green peppercorn sauce. Homemade mixed-vegetable pickles are excellent, homemade ketchup tastes like spaghetti sauce. B plus
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