Your First Look At (And My Humble Suggestions For) The New La Cense Burger Truck
Big surprise! It’s day one for the La Cense Burger Truck and by 12:15pm the line was already around the corner of 48th Street, and down Park Ave. Clearly Midtown Lunchers love the idea of eating a burger from a truck, although if that was completely true the Steak Truck (just one block away) would have a similar line. (It doesn’t.) I guess people love the idea of eating burger from a truck made from grass fed beef!
I bypassed the PR lady escorting other bloggers directly to their free burgers, and waited in line to pay for mine like a regular customer. Your first look at the thing is after the jump…
Considering that the beef comes for a beef supplier, and is grass fed, it’s not a surprise that it’s a good burger. But at $7.50 for a cheeseburger I knew this thing was going to have to blow me away in order to pull my business away from Burger Joint or Five Guys or even the occasional trip to Goodburger. That’s to say nothing about Carnegie John’s, the current “Best Burger from a Street Cart” in Midtown.
The verdict: it did and it didn’t. There’s a lot to like about this burger. It’s much larger than any of the burgers mentioned above, comes on a great sesame bun, and is topped with free grilled onions (which I love). The burger had a great char, which you could pretty much smell within half a block from the truck.
The major downside is they won’t cook the burger to order, which I completely understand. As a truck it’s going to be hard enough filling the orders quick enough to satisfy demand. So it has to be done this way. But at this price ($7 for a burger, $7.50 for a cheeseburger) their argument of “you’re paying for a quality steak burger” or “it’s a restaurant quality burger at half the price” doesn’t hold as much water when you’re forced to get the burger served medium (bordering on medium well).
There is no question it’s quality meat, has a good flavor (especially for coming off a truck), and if you don’t mind your burgers cooked medium- you will love this burger. Personally, I’d rather pay less money for a burger more suitable for the price point (like Burger Joint, Carnegie John’s or Five Guys.) But that’s just me. This truck will definitely have its fans.
In fairness to them, despite being cooked medium to medium well, the burger was still fairly juicy (unlike the unbelievably dry burger from the Steak Truck) and had a good flavor. But it wasn’t so freakin’ good, that I could see myself spending this kind of money on a regular basis. Of course for those who don’t work anywhere near Burger Joint, this is now one of the better burger options for Midtown East (but if you go out of your way expecting greatness, you may be disappointed. Especially if you’re already skeptical about paying this kind of money for a burger off of a truck.)
It’s unfair to criticize the service because this is very first day, and they’re obviously going to get faster. But as a public service I’m going to help them out with a few quick suggestions:
1. Pre wrap the pickles in tin foil. So much wasted time to wrap a pickle every time somebody orders one.
2. You guys are doing a great job getting the burgers out. It’s smart to just keep making default burgers (with cheese and onions) to save time. (Although as a warning to the customers, if you want a plain burger without cheese or onions, you are going to wait a lot longer.) There were at least 6-8 already made burgers sitting on the counter, ready to be served when I got to the front of the line. The only trouble was the guy taking the money kept changing his gloves between each order so as not to touch burgers and money with the same gloved hand. This is commendable for cleanliness, but terrible for speed. Either have the guy who is cooking the burgers also wrap them in tin foil, or you need to hire a third person to take care of putting the orders together while the other guy takes the orders and the money.
These two things alone will make the line go a lot quicker. (I’m scared to think of what it looks like at this point in the day.)
Finally, the most interesting thing will be to see how long they last at this really coveted spot. With XPL across the street, the Steak Truck one block away, and Magdy’s Philly Cheesesteak Truck two blocks away, I can’t imagine La Cense will last too long before being “approached”. They’ll probably get a pass today, since the operation looks more like some sort of giant marketing stunt, than a truck serving food. Once that wears off, and the vendors start to realize that the truck is there to stay, there could be some issues.
To see where the truck will be tomorrow, follow them on Twitter. (Personally, I’ll probably stick with Carnegie John! It aint grass fed, but what can I say? I’m more of a cheapskate than a burger aficionado.)