Zaitzeff’s Terrific Burger Worth the (Considerable) Cost

Thinking about writing this post, I spent a long time trying to come up with some excuses for the prices at Zaitzeff on the corner of Nassau and John: They use high-quality beef, they make all the sandwiches and fries to order, they’re sitting on prime real estate, etc. But I realized that the fact that I want to excuse them might just be endorsement enough.

I love this place. I wish I could get a burger and fries and a drink for my $10, but I can’t. I still love it. I also–and I’d loved to be proven wrong–can’t find a better burger in the area.

The meat they use is terrific, a burger ordered medium rare is actually cooked medium rare, and the fries–even though they’ll put your lunch well over $10– are awesome in both their regular and sweet potato varieties. We could argue until the cows come home (to be grilled) about whether this burger is “worth” the price, but I for one keep going back. Quod est demonstrandum, if you ask me.

A half-pound burger is how much?!?!

Yeah, it ain’t pretty, and those burgers don’t come with any fixins either: It’s meat, bun, grilled onions, lettuce, tomato, and condiments. Not even a pickle on the side. But man is it good. And these people know it:

That’s the line on a slow day. Zaitzeff is not big and can get very crowded. And because they really do cook to order, wait times can get up there. The good news is that you can order and pay online for pickup. They also do delivery, but I would worry about bun and fry sogginess upon arrival.

The other good news is that the 1/4-pound burger ($8.75 for sirloin, $9.25 for Kobe) isn’t skimpy by any means:

I usually get fries when I go because Zaitzeff’s fries are so frickin’ good, but I actually think this burger alone would be a satisfying lunch for me on all but my hungriest days.

The bun is a portugese muffin, which I really like but may upset some burger purists. I think a slightly heartier bun stands up really well to this meat bomb. To each his own.

The grilled onions are a great touch, too, unless of course you don’t like grilled onions, in which case, you should ask them to hold the onions. Or don’t and just be upset about it. Whichever you prefer.

So those right there are the free toppings. You can also get ketchup, mayo, or mustard, but after that you start racking up extra charges. Cheese is $1.25, bacon $2, and avocado $1.25. You can also get sausage on your burger – $2. (I’m not sure I want sausage on my burger, but I think it’s awesome that I could get it if I did.) Silliest of all by far is the 25 cent charge for raw onion. Really? Grilled is free, but raw is $0.25? Are they uncooking them?!?

But if you’ve gotten this without swearing never to set foot in Zaitzeff, great things await. Take a look:

That is a very generous quarter pound of very delicious kobe beef. It’s got just the right amount of fat – a lot – to keep it super juicy. This is a burger that really tastes like beef, and that’s something I’m willing to pay a premium for.

Another thing I’m willing to pay a premium for is really top notch fries, and Zaitzeff has me covered there too. I don’t love paying $5 for an order of fries, but the servings are generous and the fries are excellent:

The fries are batch-cooked in a real cast-iron pot, and they’re nice and crisp on the outside, soft and tasty on the inside. These are the sweet potato version, but the regular are excellent as well. I also love that they have a “mixed” option on the menu. I am a huge proponent of the “little bit of everything” style of eating, and I love it when restaurants endorse it. (Hear that restaurants?!?!)

The +/- for this place couldn’t be easier. Are you a burger aficionado who doesn’t mind paying top dollar for a top burger? Get to Zaitzeff pronto. Can you not imagine anything about a burger that would merit it costing more than $6? This is not the place for you.

And  don’t worry, I won’t be offended. My wait will just be that much shorter.

THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)

  • Just a really great burger.
  • Terrific fries including the-not-nearly-as-ubiquitous-as-they-should-be sweet potato fries.
  • A charming little joint that actually has some tables worth sitting at.
  • According to their website, the owner’s name is Zachary Zaitzeff. Color me very jealous.

THE — (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • I’m not going to blow my whole $10 on a burger without fries or a drink.
  • The wait can be reeeeeeally long.
  • Shut up about your portugese muffin and give me a hamburger bun!

Zaitzeff, 72 Nassau St. (at John St.), (212)571-7272

72 Nassau Street
New York, NY 10038

Tel: (212) 571-7272
Fax: (212) 571-7275



  • Kevin, you already see this coming: I think one of the negs should be why am I paying $5 for fries, and ML Lunch price range = only the burger. I don’t know…it would have to be a really good burger!

    The Kobe burger does look good though, but then 1.25 for cheese and the nonsense quarter for raw onion? ;P

  • This is not a midtown lunch!

  • maybe not in the ML price range, but it looks decent, and if I can pony 15 plus for a burger and fries at houstons, I will do the same at this place….but I will call it downtown dinner…

  • I hope going above $10 isn’t grounds for an automatic dismissal.

  • Alright, guys. I got it. I got it. I know that a burger AND fries is over $10. I thought I made that clear, but maybe I didn’t.

    I went ahead and reviewed Zaitzeff though, because you can get a burger for under $10, and I thought that since I was reviewing it anyway, I should praise their awesome fries for their awesomeness.

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    A few things
    1) Re Backing Up Kevin. Maybe midtown is cheaper than financial district, but it is HARD to get an interesting, filling, delicious AND cheap lunch down here. I have some gotos, but I have no problem with him skirting the rules to get some more info out there.

    2)Re Contradicting Kevin. I have to respectfully disagree re Zaitzeff. I only went once. I can stomach spending 15 bucks on lunch once a week or so. But I just didn’t find their burger or either type of fry that noteworthy. Perhaps he has more refined burger taste than myself though.


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