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.)