Okay, folks—now for equal time. You saw in my post “Burger Meister” that I’m a fan of Kory Wollin’s burgers at BSF, whose slices of plain ’ol Pullman bread (think Wonder) get slathered in a mayo-based sauce and then crisped on the griddle.
But here’s the thing: BSF is a burger stand, like a Dairy Queen, with a shake machine, order counter, and gingham-printed cardboard baskets. It’s wholesome: bright, clean, family friendly. Most important, there’s no beer, which takes it out of the running for this week’s challenge. Today, we’re giving time to the other burger—the one that made America great—the big, ’ol, greasy bar burger. You know this burger: eaten in the blue light of the TV, on a sticky wooden bar, next to some highly dubious character with prison tats and an invisible friend. He’s drunk; it’s lunchtime. Call us romantic, but we love this burger.
Here are the criteria. No great bar burger can be slung by someone wearing “pieces of flair.” In that vein, I feel that all restaurant names ending in “’s” must be disqualified right off the bat. Third, the bar must be truly funky. There’s gotta be an ancient beer fug—preferably emanating from a once-green rug—the floor has to creak, and the menu must be neck-deep in fried food. And, obviously, unsavory characters must be present and inebriated at any time of day or night.
Here’s my top three:
(Rte 22, Purdys 914-277-4424)
Here’s the thing about this burger: it’s nearly spherical, and it comprises an extremely fatty beef mix. Now, if I were not indulging one of my dirtier pleasures, I would take exception to the beef—which is not flavorful chuck, or anything close to it. Nor was the sear particularly well developed when I last visited. However, biting into this burger is like chomping into a water balloon—juice shoots everywhere, the bun disintegrates, you need to shower. I kinda like that.
Plus, this joint is as funky as Bootsy Collins. Cheap pints of beer ($6 for local microbrew Captain Lawrence) are served in a swaying enclosed porch packed with families, bikers, serious drinkers, and regulars. Allegedly, Rip Torn—who was so hilarious in the Larry Sanders Show – likes to party here, and I’d like to meet him. It’s just got that dive-y charm in spades, so we love this joint—though they might want to shore up the porch a bit and hire a bus for end-of-the-night customers. A credit-card machine would be nice, too.
(433 Rte 22, Eastchester 914-779-5772)
This family owned Eastchester pub is a local institution, with loyal fans claiming that its big, loose, drippy burgers are the best in the county. As with the Blazer burger, the point here is juiciness—with sear and big beef punch running a distant second and third. But here’s what I like about this burger: it’s served in a real pub. It’s got that wholesome, multi-generational family vibe that mimics village models in the Auld country. You might be drinking with your rowdy friends up front, and in walks your grandmother and her blue-haired buddies from Bingo Night. The eclectic mix of customers means that nothing too terrible will happen—basically, ’cause someone will tell your mother.
Yet with an aroma-sponge green rug, the smell of pre-ban cigarettes still lingering in the air, and the ever-present red-faced bar-supports (wrapped around bargain beers), the Piper’s Kilt is a classic in the bar-burger category. We just love the vibe—though we’re not alone, the joint is mobbed.
(519 Central Ave, Scarsdale 914-472-9706)
This weird frame building rings cherries in bar burgers. We’re talking F-U-N-K, fizzzunk, funk, with a ramshackle floor plan (with obligatory sway and creak), masses of cheap fried food (most available with sides of extra “cheez”), and loads of “friendly” folks drinking at the bar at any moment from 11 am to 4 am. Look for mounds of chicken wings and big, greasy burgers with fries. Plus, you can buy gallons of beer—dirt-cheap.
Sadly, the secret’s out, so this joint is packed solid—but the management’s made a bizarre choice. They deliver! I don’t know about you guys, but ambience is critical in this genre. What about the creepy drunk on the next stool—isn’t he strangely important to your enjoyment? Plus, who wants to eat chicken wings near the upholstered surfaces of their own home? Nightmare.