HB Burger May Not be a “Midtown Lunch” But It’s a Damn Good Burger
I fully admit that my Midtown Lunch pricing rules have always been a little vague. Under $10 is the rule, but does that mean with or without tax? Does it have to include a drink? And how much food do you have to get for your $10? The answer to all those questions is… uh… maybe? The truth is, it’s all about feel. You could easily spend over $10 at many of the places that are written about on this site, and there are places I refuse to write about that have items under $10. Sometimes it just comes down to instinct.
My original instinct about HB Burger, the newish Heartland Brewery owned burger spot on 43rd btw. B’way+6th, was thumbs down. Even though their burgers are well under $10 (in fact, they boast that everything on their menu is less than $9), it is a sit down restaurant where a burger *and* fries will cost you well over $10. I will occasionally write about sit down restaurants on ML, but the bar is much higher for those places, and the ideal Midtown Lunch spot is a place where take out is the norm or they have a free seating area for once you get your food at a counter. Heartland Brewery (and by transitive property HB Burger) is not one of those places. In fact, it’s the kind of place this blog was created to combat: the slightly-overpriced-for-what-you-get, tourist magnet, that might also appeal to the type of Midtown worker who doesn’t want to walk the extra few blocks for something more interesting.
But in the end taste and price can go along way to help me ignore a bunch of tourists, so when HB Burger decided to offer that $9.95 Midtown Lunch special for one this week only- I figured it couldn’t hurt to give it a try. It’s only fair.
Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way. You’re still in a Heartland Brewery/Midtown kind of mid-priced sit down restaurant. The waiters don’t have pieces of flare, but it’s still the same general idea. It doesn’t bother some people, clearly, but if it bothers you then be aware that HB Burger is cut from that kind of cloth. (It’s part of the reason why it’s not really a Midtown Lunch.) The owners will make the distinction between themselves and the other big touristy places in Midtown… and to a typical eater, they are completely right. HB Burger is probably the best possible version of one of these places. It’s warm, inviting, not nearly as cheesy as it could be, and most importantly- their menu is probably as cheap as you can get for this kind of sit down food within a mile of Times Square. But to a Midtown Luncher, all these places seem the same.
But who cares about all that? What about the actual food? I ordered the Midtown Lunch Special ($9.95 gets you a beef cheeseburger, with choice of fries, onions strings, or tator tots.) And went with the tots. A lot of the toppings at HB Burger will cost you extra, but they have a nice list of free toppings, which includes onion marmalade, chopped raw onions, sautéed onions and BBQ sauce. I love grilled onions (especially when they’re free), so I asked the waiter if I could get grilled onions with the lunch special or if they limited the toppings because of the deal. He said he would find out. He never answered the question, and my burger came out without the grilled onions. He also didn’t ask how I wanted my burger cooked, and it came out the default medium (I would have asked for it medium rare if given the choice.) No big deal overall, just a warning. You are entitled to the free toppings, so if you want them- make sure you get them. And, if you don’t want your burger cooked medium, make sure you tell them how you want it. I blame myself just as much as I blame the server. (Although I did miss my grilled onions!) I’m sure it was just a fluke.
Alright, now that the bad is out of the way- let’s get to the good stuff. I don’t have anywhere near the same burger eating experience as those who have already christened this a delicious burger… so all I can say is, to a burger novice who doesn’t really know what he’s talking about: this is a really tasty burger. I can’t tell you about char, or how long the meat was aged, or whatever. I just know that I took a bite, and it tasted good. Despite being medium, it was totally juicy (they cook it on a griddle, so juicy could mean greasy to some), and was really flavorful. As far as size goes (which is always a concern for me), it was bigger than a Shack Burger or City Burger, but smaller than the monstrosity you would come to expect from a sit down touristy restaurant in suburbs. (They said it was 6.5 ounces.) In the end, for a sit down restaurant it’s a completely fair (if not cheap) price for what you’re getting. By Midtown Lunch standards, it’s slightly more questionable.
Of course once you add the tator tots, the $9.95 price tag is a deal (too bad it’s only for this week.) The HB Burger version of tator tots are more like fried balls of mashed potatoes, than some kind of bite size hash brown creation (does that make sense?) and they are clearly better than your average tot (and most likely made in house). But if I’m going to rate them on a scale beyond “fried mashed potato ball = automatically good”, I have to say my order had no salt, and I couldn’t taste any of the bacon or jalapeno jack the menu promised. (I just tasted mashed potatoes.) Admittedly they did grow on us as the meal went on…
The onion strings and french fries were much better (IMHO), although they were both really well salted- which probably helped a ton. (Yes, I did order extra side orders just to try them. It was “research for work” and it had to be done.) The onion strings were my favorite, and completely made up for the onion rings fiasco at Heartland Brewery. At $3.50 each, they also lay directly on the thin line between being completely worth it and not being Midtown Lunch’ish.
In the end, it’s all about what you are looking for. When I get a burger craving, I don’t know if HB Burger is going to replace Five Guys, or Carnegie Johns, or even Goodburger and City Burger. But it’s not really meant to (and that’s why it really isn’t a Midtown Lunch.) But, if you compare it to the other sit down restaurants in Midtown, with similar food and decor, it’s not hard to declare that HB Burger is easily the best burger you’re going to find, both on taste and price.
- It’s a damn tasty burger
- The $9.95 Midtown Lunch special is a great deal (but it’s only good Noon to 5pm until July 17th)
- The onion strings, french fries, and tator tots are all crowd pleasers
- Every once in awhile you want to have a sit down lunch (possibly accompanied by a beer), and this is one of your better options
- HB Burger is still just a Heartland Brewery spinoff… and these were the kind of places Midtown Lunch was created to fight against!
- The price… if you compare it to other Midtown Lunches it’s just slightly above where it should be. i.e. it’s impossible to get out of there for under $10
HB Burger, 127 W. 43rd Street (btw. B’way+6th), 212-575-5848