Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Schnipper's Rocks

Holy crap did I have a great burger yesterday. The brothers Schnipper, after successfully creating and guiding Hale & Hearty Soups, have tried their hand at hamburgers and the result is amazing. They invited me into their 8 week-old Schnipper's Quality Kitchen for a taste and I was not about to turn them down. I had a feeling this would be good.

Expert burger taster Kris B and myself decided we need to see the place in full swing at lunchtime. Thanks to the built-in lunch crowd that works right above Schnipper's in the new New York Times building the place was packed. The restaurant is enormous and can seat 170 inside and out.

The menu goes beyond burgers but Andrew Schnipper, the business end of the two, explained, "About 50% of our sales goes to burgers, fries, and shakes, 25% of that just burgers." The other 50% includes staples like hot dogs, and a large selection of salads and sandwiches (that we did not try).

The burger at Schnipper's starts as a 1/3 pound hand-pattied beauty. Jonathan, the food side of the Schnippers, told me, "Every morning I take a handful of the fresh-ground beef when it comes in and throw a burger on the griddle to test." They get their beef from Master Purveyors and comes in as an 80/20 chuck blend (my favorite) that has dry-aged trimmings thrown in. Jonathan told me, "Master supplies many of the best steakhouses. Our trim comes from those steaks."

Kris B and I sampled 3 burgers: the bacon cheeseburger with carmelized onions, Schnipper's version of a green chile cheeseburger (which is not really a GCCB but made with a decent replacement - Jon's blend of poblano and jalepeno), and the Hickory Bacon Blue Burger.

All of the burgers were cooked to temp, crunchy on the outside, moist on the inside, and served on a toasted white-squishy bun. The brothers have their own house-made sauce called Schnipper Sauce that was excellent. Jonathan told me he was inspired by the Pacific Northwest goop sauce recipe in my book but added a few more ingredients to his version.

Upon his first bite, Kris B exclaimed, "MAN. It exploded when I bit into it!" Sure enough, juices were running. My bacon/cheese/onion burger was a taste explosion as were the green chile and blue burgers. The Blue, Jonathan's opus, piled high with bacon, lettuce, tomato, hickory bbq sauce, melted blue cheese, and deep fried onion strings, was dreamy.

The Schnippers clearly care about how burgers are made. These aren't bloated gourmet burgers or tasteless steakhouse burgers, these burgers are made with an attention to what goes into the American classic. The brothers apparently spent months on the road doing burger research all over America (much like yours truly) and it shows.

And it should be noted that the chocolate malt I ordered actually had malt powder in it. Very few in NYC seem to understand this concept. Also, we were presented with awesome cheese fries that were identical to the ones you may have enjoyed (at 1:30am after a night of hard drinking) at Chicago's infamous Wiener's Circle. I think that may have been the first time I've guiltily enjoyed that cheese goo sober, and I liked it.