Minetta Tavern: Old School Dining in Old New York

“I never see any home cooking.  All I get is fancy stuff.”  Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

Minetta Tavern, Greenwich Village, New York City

As a continuation of my quest to sample each of the top 5 burgers in NYC (as declared by Thrillist.com), Husband and I set course for Minetta Tavern. This place – and its famous Black Label Burger – had actually been in my sights for quite some time.  Despite having been around in various incarnations since the 1930s, Minetta’s is quite the Village hotspot these days  - getting a table here at dinnertime was not the easiest thing to pull off.   The good news:   there is no lack of atmospheric charm at this eatery.  The original cozy interior is largely intact, with a few upgrades added in, and  the walls are dotted with framed photos of celebs from days gone by.  I must admit that evenings like this in environments such as these make me feel extra New York-y.

The evening started with one of the best dirty martinis I’ve ever had – pitch perfect with the exact right amount of olive brine. Plus, no blue cheese olives because……ewww.    Husband and I, plus what I swear had to be 85% of the other patrons, ordered the Black Label Burger, which really seems to be the the main event at Minetta Tavern (with honorable mention for the roasted bone marrow started, which also seems hugely popular).  The Black Label is made with dry-aged beef, placed upon a fairly straightforward burger bun, is topped only with caramelized onions (i.e. no cheese), and is served with a tomato slice, butter lettuce and a pickle spear. It also comes with perfectly golden brown, crunchy and tasty pommes frites.

Black Label Burger at Minetta Tavern

On the basis of the meat alone, I’m going to go ahead and say this is probably the best burger in the city.  Which, happily, aligns me with other burger-rating types. The beef is fabulous – fresh, perfect fat-to-lean balance, perfectly cooked.  You’re just not going to find better meat in a burger anywhere.  But what the Black Label (and Minetta Tavern overall, for that matter, with its supremely polite, beautiful people vibe) offers in perfection it somewhat misses in terms of warmth and sensuality.   It just seems  (probably only to me) that indulging in a burger should be more fun that this.  Fancy eateries have their place but – if I’m burgering it – I’m more at home in a casual joint, having a messier burger that  feels like a bigger sin, like the Juicy Lucy at Whitmans (a fellow top 5 lister).

Don’t get me wrong – I’ll come back to Minetta Tavern because it’s truly a lovely restaurant and the food is excellent.  But probably only when I’m looking for a fancy evening on the town or entertaining out-of-towners.  For letting-the-hair-down, burger-chomping rhapsody, I’m probably skipping this one.

Price:  Black Label Burger, $26 (ouch!)

Destination Burger:  Yes – all burger aficianados should try it at least once.

Fat/Calorie Worthy:  Yes, but the hedonist in me craves a naughtier experience.


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