Way back in April '08 I offered up myself as an item for a silent auction to benefit Publicolor, a non-profit based in NYC. The lucky high bidder would win a hamburger triptych with me, a tour or three of my favorite burger spots in Manhattan, all for lunch, with the winner and 2 friends. Scheduling conflicts pushed the date of the lunch all the way to this past Saturday but I did make good on my promise. The winner passed on the prize to her husband Brad who wisely chose his new father-in-law Roy and new brother-in-law Matthew as his guests. Clearly, Brad was raised well.
My lunchmates for the day met me at our first stop, Zaitzeff down in the eerie weekend quiet near Wall Street. I explained the importance of pacing and we started with quarter pounders (though the 1/2 pounders are better). The burgers turned out a little overcooked but still moist and tasty. I caught Brad just as he was about to douse his burger in ketchup and let out a "WHOA". He smiled and said, "That's a no-no, huh?" I explained my position on ketchup (well documented here) and he agreed to go without. A wise move that he admitted later in the day was a the right move.
We jumped a 5 train for our next stop, one of my newer favorites, Stand on 12th St. After navigating their ridiculously confusing menu we pretty much settled on the same burger - the 'House' which is basically a burger with grilled onions and a mayo-based sauce (I usually avoid tomato and onion on a burger and so did some of guys). This time the burgers were cooked perfectly, dripping juices everywhere. Brad was tempted by a chocolate shake that he spied across the restaurant but I reminded him that we still had a few P.J. Clarke's burgers to put down.
We hopped on the 6 train and made it to P.J.'s only to find the place packed. The bar, so inviting, became the perfect excuse to start drinking. We were all pretty full at this point but managed to put down a beer waiting for a table. The guys all ordered the same burger as me, the Bearnaise burger, and within minutes we were eating. I took my first bite and found an almost cold center, dark red and way undercooked. Mine went back to the kitchen with apologies and returned perfectly cooked (and as a new patty with no bite taken, smart move on their part.) Brad, Roy, and myself had trouble getting past halfway on the burgers but the younger Matthew had no problem putting his away. It was actually Matthew that ate the most beef that day, consuming his own and half of his father's burgers all day putting his total intake at around 5 six-ounce burgers. Very impressive.
We tried to stay away from sides to save room for meat but the draw was too strong to indulge in the deep fried pickles at Stand and the onion strings at P.J.'s.
Overall the burgers were hit-or-miss at my favorites but that's bound to happen once in a while. The real winner of the day was Stand and I think my lunchmates agreed. I had a blast with Brad and his new family and I think they had a good time too. Would I do it again? Absolutely. Maybe next time in Brooklyn...