Our First Taste of Fatburger Goes Patty Well

Fatburger is here! Packed quite nicely at 1:15 PM on opening day, there was brisk business coming in and going out. Plus a full bar for those who want a more liquid lunch. Not a bad first day by any means, but the California burger debate has been rumbling for years now, and we’re just now feeling the aftershocks as if the San Andreas Fault had Chipotle for lunch. After getting a 24-hour Citibike pass to get all the way to 3rd from my office on the westside, I was hungry to bite down into something to invalidate the ride out and the ride back at the same time. Fatburger, prove your worth against the perils of physical exercise!

The opening day crowd had a good sized al fresco thing going on (ah people-watching on beautiful 3rd Ave.) Unfortunately that crowd translated to some pretty serious delays. After ordering (a line unto itself) I waited about 15 minutes. This assures nice fresh chow, but I was cutting pretty close to get back to the office. The nearest bike dock is at 32nd and Park, two long and two short blocks away, so a nice minor hustle to the dock was a good warm-up to bike off a small bit of lunch. (If my bosses are reading, by the way, I was PERFECTLY ON TIME getting back despite what the guy at the front desk may say)

The legendary burger stands not alone. When they say “the works” they mean it. In a drooling fog, I read “mushrooms” as “marshmallows.” It took me a while to think how that would work, but at least in the end it turned out to be our friendly staple ‘shrooms. Each add-on is 99 cents, save for the bacon – $1.29 for that. The Works comes free.

This is for the Adam Richman wannabes out there. Keep in mind two things: A) The XXXL is 1 1/2 pounds of beef (the Medium, smallest they serve, is 1/3 pound) and B) NYU Med School and Langone Medical Center are about two long blocks away.

Happy Hour-goers can have some carbs in the form of booze to go with their gut-bombs! Nice! Plus those are proper decanters, too. Fatburger is very serious about their wine program, apparently.

Enough talk, have at you! This is the Medium combo, $9.99 before tax ($10.88 after), thus hitting the absolute apex of reasonable Midtown Lunch limits. (Not including mass-transit costs to get there from the West Side, if you’re me) You can choose between fat and skinny fries. My request for half-and-half was begged off, the cashier telling me they were running behind as it was. That they were – it was about a five minute wait in line behind NYU med students eager to disregard their professional training and have a Fatburger. Is this some kind of social commentary by their very presence?

The fat fries are basically steak fries. I’m not a steak fries kind of guy, but I figure if it’s the namesake of the place then it’s worth giving it a shot. Judging on a pure neutral french fry metric, these were very thin and crispy on the outside. If you expected a massive giant crunch of outer fry skin, then may you fare better with the thin fries.

The inside is fluffy, moist, and lightly textured. These are very well-texture-counterpointed fries (how often do you get to say THAT in one normal day?) and I was fairly pleased with them. I wish they were cooked a little longer, though – perfect crispy is one thing, but a carbonized, ripping crunch is another. Then again, you’re talking to someone born and raised in North Jersey – we love things that are fried to the point of ripping open.

The big thing with these fries, though: they need salt, lots of it. They’re dry enough on the outside that the salt doesn’t stick, so I ended up rubbing them on salt that fell onto my napkin. They’re bland on their own, strictly a potato delivery vehicle. Even McDonald’s fries have a flavor thanks to the beef tallow; I wish there was something else to jazz them up at Fatburger.

This is not a fisheye view, this is me grabbing the burger from behind and dangling it in your face by means of digital camera. There’s a good amount of stuff on here, strategically layered.

The altitude of this sucker is pretty decent – next to your standard commercial saltshaker, it’s nothing to laugh at.

C’mere, baby, you look good.

Aaaaand CHOMP. Look at that mustard dribbling down the burger. The tomato is a decent 1/4″ thick slice, the lettuce very fresh and crispy (ICEBERG! Come on, guys, no romaine hearts? Oh well – it piles nicely), the relish and pickles each lending good distinction. The toppings meld well, as burger toppings should. The bun is fluffy but dense; it holds up quite well.

The burger itself, though? Wow. No, seriously, I am wowed. The patty isn’t super thick, but it’s got an AMAZING, crispy sear on it. The outside of the burger is an amazingly pleasant crunch, the likes of which I’m not used to. It’s FLAVORFUL, too. Very beefy, very real.

The inside? I hope you can make out the glistening in the middle of the shot there. Fatburger does not joke around – I dare not ask about what percentage of fat was in the burger. It’s enough to keep it juicy at medium, though. Not spurting all over the place like a medium-rare pan-seared burger, but enough for a pleasantly liquid release in the mouth (that’s what SHE said). It meshed so darn nicely with the toppings that I may have to give medium-rare another shot, a real departure from the bloody rareness I normally order and prefer in my burgers.

Fatburger’s presence is the stuff of legend and rumor to us Right Coasters, and we now get a chance to see what the fuss is about. Should you Citibike your way across town to get one of these? Not until the delays die down, and not unless your burger cravings direct you to make like you gotta catch ‘em all. Their fries aren’t Five Guys, which is a bad thing, but their burger isn’t Five Guys either – which is a GREAT thing. I enjoyed this experience and am all about burger fiends hitting them up. Is it a food revelation, the latest Cali craze to hit NYC? I wouldn’t say so until we get a shot at an In-N-Out to compare against. Until that time, though, Fatburger is not just our nickname for Zach – it’s our latest real fast-casual burger Midtown Lunch option.

The + (What the Californicating ex-pats would say):

  • The best of the West is the best for a reason – that burger patty is the reason.
  • You want a burger-fries-drink gut bomb that’s worth the indulgence? This is it.
  • Fresh stuff really shows, doubly so on this burger and its toppings.
  • It’s so hard not to kvell, but this patty REALLY is great!

The – (What Four out of Five Guys would say):

  • The fries are okay at best, but closer to the “meh” end of the spectrum.
  • Ten bucks for a burger and fries? I expect better than meh all around for my ML dollars!
  • Damn near inaccessible at its present physical location. Open another one on the West Side!

Fatburger, 509 3rd Ave. (at 34th St.)

34 Comments

  • Every restaurant(even the bad ones) deserves a review like this one. Thank you.

    • I’m glad I got the chance, despite the bloated “I can’t believe I ate all that” feeling I had all day. It was a really good burger for the price, but given the choice between Fatburger and a LaFrieda burger done rare, the choice is obvious.

      Still, though, the burger space deserves invigorating competition.

  • was there an available dock station at the closest Citibike station?

    • The dock I used near Fatburger was 32nd and Park. On Tuesday, the dock was out of service – I could dock the bike I took out from 8th and 33rd and it locked into place, but it wouldn’t let me get another code. The touchscreen was down.

      I ended up walking back to 32nd and Broadway to get another one, but it said my trip was still on. I had to call customer service to have them terminate the trip, initiate a refund for the overage (It was definitely NOT a 30-minute ride across town) and allow me to undock another bike. That went smoothly.

      Wednesday, I went to the other dock near Fatburger – 31st and 3rd – but that dock was out of service. A CitibikeNYC employee was directing dockers elsewhere. Back to 32nd and Park, which was now fully armed and operational. I was able to pick up a bike from there to ride back to 8th/33rd successfully.

      So yeah, there’s still kinks to wring out. My hypothesis: the poles on the docks are solar chargers, and nobody ever thought about the shadows of trees blocking ‘em. I don’t know the battery capacity of these things but they may need to implement some really aggressive power management on the touchscreens and electromagnets (if they use ‘em) on the docks themselves. It’s still a good system, though – I dunno if I’d buy the annual membership being an NJ commuter, but it’s a fun change of pace. Plus it extends lunch range.

      Plenty of docks were available wherever I went, though. It was just an issue trying to find one that works.

      • Growing pains. It’s work itself out.

      • great thanks for the informative response. working at 6th/53rd, i would def think about using a citibike to get over there… The issue i’ve been having is stations being completely full and not having an available dock. So just may make the trip one day.

  • So you are the one person I saw riding those god awful bikes?

  • Why is it so dark inside the place during lunch that a flash is required to take photos? Also, in many years of living in LA, I never ate at Fatburger that much, but I think the topping to get is the egg, rarely found elsewhere at other chains.

    • The walls are black with red and yellow accents, so it’s fairly subdued even when it’s a nice day outside. As to egg, I’m not a big fried-egg guy, so it’d be lost on the likes of me.

      Weirdly, though, I got addicted to beets as a burger topping when I was studying in Australia. They love beet on burgers and it works surprisingly well.

    • i’ve been to the fatburger at the Borgata in AC, and topped it with bacon, egg and cheese. it was glorious.

    • Fried egg is the original hamburger topping, according to one story.

  • Looks like an OK burger, especially since many of the kinks will get worked out. I still don’t understand why anyone goes opening week to anything, I guess people are just morons.

    Those fries on the other hand…steak fries are an abomination. Should have gone for the skinnier more crispy ones.

    • I’ve always been a shoestring guy. I figured there’d be something Very Really Special if it’s Fatburger and they have Fat Fries. My personal opinion is more or less in line with “steak fries = meh” so I leave it to the future to confirm/refute their fries based upon the thin cut ones. I definitely wouldn’t get the steak fries again. Hell, next time I may only get the burger and no fries to fend off the Itis.

  • I don’t think it should get a minus because it’s far from YOUR office.

    • If it’s a chain and its first location is at a pretty far periphery of Midtown, and we’re Midtown Lunch, it gets a minus because it’s a schlep to get to under any circumstances for 3/4 of the region we cover. The closest subway stop is the 33rd St stop on the 6, which is pretty much a schlep from all of Midtown West. I don’t think it’s unfair to say they’re in a kinda tough location to love.

      It’s also far from plenty of other readers, contributors, and just as important, potential customers.

      If they were a little more centralized then it wouldn’t be that huge of a factor, but it’s definitely something potential lunchers should consider. “Do I want to go to Fatburger on 34th and 3rd, or do I want to go to Shake Shack on 8th and 42nd?” The answer is very different if your office is in the Garment District vs. Murray Hill.

      • It is, however, very nicely located for the after-work-before-bar crowd, the after-bar crowd, the what’s-that-kinda-tall-building-on-Fifth crowd…

  • So you’re saying there’s Carl’s, a Li’l Shorty’s, and a Fatburger within a couple blocks of each other? That’s terrible. Just… terrible.

    I also know I’ll be winning that challenge in short order. Once the crowds die down I’ll walk over after work.

  • I’ve had Fatburger once in like, Vegas, I think. Don’t remember it leaving a lasting impression but maybe it was just me. There was also a shortly lived FB in Jersey City . The burger racket is tough.

    I for one am all for iceberg lettuce on burgers by the way, maybe it’s a nostalgia thing…as long as it’s shredded. Too bad Rutt’s Hutt didn’t have some other outpost, also you can’t get an Italian Hot Dog anywhere on this desolate island.

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    Wow 26 comments on Fatburger? 9.99 for a medium combo? I remember 15-20 years ago they used to give out coupons in LA buy one combo get one free so you could get 2 kingsize burgers for 6 bucks…THOSE WERE THE DAYS

  • You lost me once you talked smack about 5 Guys.
    The burger looks dry and very well done. (I know it’s fast food so not cooked to order). Still, hockey-pucked burgers will have a crispy exterior right off the grill.

    How does it rank to shake shack and other higher-end chains, in your opinion?

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    I actually found the patty too be pretty dry. I got a large and found it hard to believe that it was a half pound, as it was pretty thin. The service was also atrocious, even given that it was the first week. That being said, I thought the thin french fries were pretty good. Willing to give them another shot, but disappointed by the first one

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    This is absolutely positively my number 1 burger chain and i’m thrilled to have it finally come back into town. But you MUST get the egg, its just what makes the sandwich!

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