NYC's Strangest Burger? A Visit to Gourmet Dog in Staten Island
You wouldn't notice Gourmet Dog's small presence on the waterfront if it weren't for the bright signs and the cute dog.
Sometimes, the wildest gastronomic experimentation takes places in the most unexpected places -- witness Staten Island's Gourmet Dog (40 Richmond Terrace, 718-727-1234).
Patience is a virtue while waiting for your Warrior.
It stands two blocks west of the St. George Ferry Terminal, right on Richmond Terrace as it makes its scenic way along the Arthur Kill, the body of water that barely separates the island from Jersey. The building is squat and made of light-colored brick, and sits among apartment buildings -- you wouldn't notice it if it weren't for a garish sign featuring a needy-looking dog.
But around lunchtime, the day laborers, MTA employees, ditch diggers, and others wearing the uniforms of their trades line up in front of the place, and often wait as long as 30 minutes for a hot dog or a burger. I lingered just that long on a recent weekday, reassured by a sign inside the narrow and spare place (with zero seating) by a hand-lettered sign that said, "IF YOUR NOT PATIENT YOUR IN THE WRONG PLACE."
The voluminous menu is printed on the wall inside. Hot dogs and hamburgers are the focus, but you almost can't get conventional versions of these familiar staples. On the hot dog front, your choices run to the Reuben (topped with pastrami, sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese), the Judge (two franks split, put on a hero, and smothered in baked beans and cheddar cheese), the Hawaii 5-O (teriyaki sauce, turkey bacon, and pineapple on a conventional bun) and the Bus Driver (sautéed onions and bell peppers, jalapenos, diced tomatoes, and A-1 sauce).
The burger list was just as creative, and, since most of the fellas in line seemed to be ordering burgers, I asked for one, too. But not any burger. I'd seen bannered on another sign outside, "Home of the Warrior," and I had to find out what it was.
Tah-dah! The Warrior.
Interior view of the Warrior.
It took the congenial and incredibly patient guy behind the counter about 10 minutes to put it together: First he fried a half-pound Sabrett burger (who knew they made burgers?) on the griddle, not squishing it down with his spatula the way most fry cooks do, and thus preserving the juices. Meanwhile, he prepped a hero roll, and a good-sized one, too, annealing a couple of slices of yellow American to one side of the long bun in the salamander. Next, he removed the burger, put it on a cutting surface, and began vigorously chopping the beef with big slashing motions, as if he were one of those samurai guys in Benihana.
He applied the asked-for condiments (in this case, mayo and dill pickles), then, as a final coup de grâce, loaded the thing down with hot freshly made french fries before closing the lid. Since there was no place to eat it inside, I carried it around to the parking lot next door, where I set it down to take a photograph. A pigeon the size of a small dog immediately flew down, grabbed the end of it, and started a tug-of-war with me that ended, luckily, in my victory.
So what did the burger taste like (assuming you agree with me that it should still be classified as a burger)? Well, let me put it this way, it won't ever get a Fork in the Road accolade for being the best burger in town, or even the best on Staten Island, but it was edible just the same. And, at $5, it was a bargain, too.
The million-dollar view from the front of Staten Island's Gourmet Dog.
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