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Burger Smackdown 2013: Counter Burgers in Manhattan

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Patrick McGinnis
Patrick McGinnis

New Yorkers, it seems, love their hamburgers. The proof is in the lines. It says something that harried, impatient New Yorkers are willing to queue up at places like Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien Hotel or Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. They stand in these long lines just for the pleasure of having a burger, some fries, and maybe a shake. Of course, in the most capitalist city on the planet, restauranteurs have taken notice. Over the last few years, there has been an explosion of counter-style burger restaurants in New York City. Chains like Shake Shack and Five Guys started the trend and are now joined by Clarke's Standard and Schnippers. In 2012, New York even got its first Steak n' Shake, which I've now learned is like the In-N-Out burger of the midwest.

I must confess, I'm not much of a hamburger guy. I eat them occasionally, and though I especially love the burgers my dad makes on the grill at home in Maine, I'm not a regular at any of New York's burger joints. Still, when a friend suggested that we make the rounds of the hottest burger counters in mid-town Manhattan, I couldn't resist. The challenge was thus: six burgers at six of New York's most popular burger shops in one afternoon. We'd also order fries and, if available, a shake at each location.

In the interest of giving something meaningful back to society from these shenanigans, the very organized @JHealeyBklyn devised a scoring system. @JHealeyBklyn, @JasonCFry, and I (@PJMcginnis) rated the following on a scale of 1 to 10: decor, burger (meat), bun, toppings, shake (if available), and fries. We then compiled two summary scores in excel spreadsheets that we built with the precision of hedge fund managers: Burger and Overall Experience. The Burger score gives 3x weight to the meat and 1x each for buns and toppings. the Overall Experience score gives 3x weight to the Burger score and 1x each to decor and fries. Given that not all shops offered shakes, we excluded them from the overall score.

So...drumroll...the results are in! The slideshow below counts down to the best of a crowded field. Make sure to read the comments section for specific color on each of the qualities shown by the various contenders.

By the way, I'd recommend that you try some of these burgers, but I warn you not to try to replicate this exercise on your own. Too many burgers makes Jack a fat boy. And on that note, I'm going to take another drag on my kale/spinach/carrot smoothie and run a few more miles on the treadmill.

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