Lunch’er Chris Reports: Taste of Summer at Rock Center (and Midtown’s First Taste of Bill’s Bar & Burger)

Back in May Lunch’er “Chris” was kind enough to tell us about Arirang’s kal gook soo, and the soup from the Korean Noodle Soup cart on 49th. Yesterday he checked out the Taste of Summer event going on in Rock Center during lunch through Thursday, and filed this report for those who were considering checking it out…

There’s nothing like a generous tip, and thanks to yesterdays tip about the “Taste of Summer” thing going on in front of Rock Center (which includes a sneak peek of the much anticipated Bill’s Bar & Burger), I rushed over to check it out. Just like last year, Rockefeller Center has beckoned a selection of restaurants from the subterranean corridors in order to vend a budget friendly (almost all items are under $10) taste of their wares on the ground level main plaza. In the midst of the lineup of chain restaurants, harmless delis and upscale steakhouses, are there any bright spots in Rock Center? And what’s this hubbub over Bill’s Bar & Burger?

Find out after the jump…

Various vendors, both sweet and savory made an appearance to offer tasting portions of their signature menu items. The busiest booth by far of the event was naturally Magnolia bakery – mobbed by tourists, drawn like moths to Magnolia’s pink frosting flame.

Midtown lunch darling, Tri Tip Grill also made a showing, exuberantly pitching their admittedly delicious sandwiches to the crowd.

There’s also ‘penne caprese’ from Cucina Co at $6. A large-ish bowl of pasta is casually scooped from large steam tables, redolent of a grade school cafeteria.

At the ‘wichcraft booth, an enticing bite of braised beef short rib with horseradish cream & roasted tomato vinaigrette can be had for $3.

Meanwhile, the overachievers at Brasserie Ruhlmann, were putting together what was likely the most appealing product of the day – kobe beef burgers with blue cheese and sautéed mushrooms. At $9, the burger comes with a handful of homemade potato chips and a bottle of water.

I studied the Brasserie Ruhlmann operation for a few minutes, and was pleasantly surprised to observe that they were cooking burgers and toasting buns in frequent small batches, ensuring that the product remained fresh and hot. If I were to choose any vendor to patron on a subsequent visit, it would have to be Brasserie Ruhlmann.

But on this visit I was there for Bill’s Bar & Burger, the long awaited retort to Shake Shack’s ever expanding presence? Steve Hanson’s original Chelsea concept has received mostly positive reviews, making BB&B a much anticipated opening in Midtown.

Admittedly, I sampled their $5 cheeseburger at 2:30, which was near the scheduled end of the event- so the product that I tried had suffered an interminable wait in an enclosed paper box. As such, Mother Nature and Father Time had gotten the better of the burger, leaving Mr. Pat LaFrieda’s storied beef patty desiccated, and the bun uncomfortably stale. I’m sure had these burgers been cooked fresh, such as Brasserie Ruhlmann’s, they would have fared much better.

It’s easy to be critical of the line-up of restaurants in Rockefeller Center, but events such as these make it convenient and affordable to survey, sample, and single out the keepers. Taste of Summer will run through tomorrow (Thursday 7/22), ending around 2:30pm each day.

Photos and post courtesy of Lunch’er “Chris6Sigma”


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