Week 50: The 28-Dollar Burger

Sandwich 50: Minetta Tavern

My 50th post deserved something a little bit more. Let it be known, I am not a believer that fancy or expensive or high class cuisine is somehow better. I do, however, have a soft spot for high-end ingredients, stupid amounts of innovation, and restaurants frequented by writers. With that in mind, the Michelin-rated Minetta Tavern seemed like the ideal 50th sandwich location with their legendary, twenty-eight dollar Black Label Burger.

The idea of paying twenty-eight dollars for anything that will be indifferently processed through my body over the next fifty-three or so hours may seem frivolous, wasteful even, until you do the research into this locale and this burger. Minetta Tavern has been a West Village institution since 1937 and has maintained that old-timey, Italian-saloon-meets-restaurant-vibe since. The walls are adorned with hanging caricatures of regulars with names like “Jim’s Ice’s Jim” and “Tammy ‘Big Mike’ Scapoli.” Greats, like Hemingway and Cummings, have ingested artisan steaks within Minetta’s walls  and you can actually feel it. Eating here gives the sensation that you are being consumed by a modern relic.

The burger itself is a monument of construction and forethought. A combination of several different cuts of meat, including the devastating Minetta ribeye (going for a cool $90 on their menu) and some skirt and brisket; when you bite into this super-secret-ratioed burger, you can taste every molecule of delicious complexity. It is topped with only caramelized onions, lettuce, and tomato, and laid within a nutty brioche bun (made exclusively for the Black Label). The goal, always, is to accentuate the meat. Never before have I experienced a meal where every bite was a new discovery; it told a profound story to my taste buds, no different than a fine wine. Anything more (cheese, additional toppings, etc.) would only serve to distract you from this magical meat.

I like to focus on the sandwich, and am rarely awed by sides. That being said,  their shoestring fries were fantastically delectable. Stripped of their starch by soaking them in water overnight and frying them up in peanut oil, they were addictive and perfect.  To drink, I sampled the Surf & Turf Bloody Mary, made with oxtail and clam broth and topped with a fat shrimp.

This may have been one of the top three meals I’ve had in this glorious city. A wild ride of taste buds and old-timey nostalgia, no New Yorker should live without experiencing Minetta.