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BREAKING NEWS: Prime Burger To Close?

May 22, 2012

UPDATE: Unfortunately, the news is true, and Prime Burger will be closing this Saturday. For more information, click here

Truly upsetting news, folks.

The iconic, wonderful, delightful, excellent, in all ways wonderful, joyful, makes me happy to just think about it, superlative Prime Burger is reportedly going to close this Saturday after 74 years.

If true, this represents a heartbreaking loss to New York City foodies.

Prime Burger, put simply, is a New York City institution. Frankly, I hadn’t written it up as yet because it is one of those classic places that you never think is going to go anywhere.

Let me say it loud and clear: I adore Prime Burger.

They’ve been slinging quality burgers since, well, forever. Long before New York City got overrun by this specialty burger joint or that, or the Shake Shack and other such crappy imitators, there was Prime Burger.

Now, Prime Burger’s burgers aren’t the juiciest, biggest, fanciest or whatever. They are very straightforward burgers. It is a quintessential burger joint. It is perhaps THE quintessential burger joint and a window to the city that once was. Where neighborhood joints had counters and small booths. No frills, but welcoming.

The Prime Burger Deluxe is well worth your attention.

Most places, when you order a “deluxe,” you get a burger with a side of fries, lettuce and tomato.

At Prime Burger, the “deluxe” gets you a second burger!

And what puts Prime Burger over the top? It’s all about their relish. You take the little container of relish and tip it over your burger and an ordinary patty becomes extraordinary, juicy and delicious.

This is really heartbreaking. Run out and get yourself a Prime Burger with relish while you still can. Go take a seat and soak in the atmosphere. Watch the excellent video at the top of this piece, at a bare minimum.


Prime Burger

5 East 51st. 
New York, NY 10022

Roast Suckling Pig At The Breslin Is An Experience In Salt, And Courage

April 2, 2012

Try not to think of it as cute.

Like most guys, I love getting together with the boys to go eat too much meat, get a bit drunk, and have  a few laughs. Most of the time, this time-honored ritual involves beef. But once in a while, after one has given Keens and Peter Luger a thorough walkthrough, someone comes up with the wacky idea of trying “theme and variation.” To wit: How about a whole roast suckling pig at the Breslin?

After receiving my invitation to this event, I consulted with contributor Hugh. His line on it was “don’t go.” He described his own whole roast experience – which did not take place at the Breslin – as traumatic and unpleasant.

Nonetheless, I opted to sign on. I’m glad I did, as the experience was well worth doing, but I don’t know how quickly I would do it again.

A promising menu.

The Breslin is a big, dark bar in the Ace Hotel. It has a vaguely hipster vibe. The “Chef’s Table” is a large table just in front of where the servers pick up the fare from the kitchen. You secure a reservation in advance (I don’t recall if they have two or three seatings at the Chef’s Table per night). Obviously, the pig requires preparation. The impact of that is once you sit down, there’s scarcely time to order a cocktail before all of the fixings start landing. As you can see by the menu, those fixings include a deliciously mustardy Caesar salad, the crazy delicious pork fried potatoes, and more.

The pig as it is first presented at the table.

The pig lands and everyone breaks out their mobile phones to take snapshots. There’s paparazzi for the dead pig. Even people not at our table came over to snap shots.

It’s quite easy, surprisingly, to make the leap past “cute little piggy” to “that looks delicious.” The butchering then begins.

Butchering the beastie.

Your hipster waiter arrives with tongs and a butcher knife and starts chopping the pig up. He severs the head, legs and then starts serrating the various areas of the meat. He’ll introduce you to the various parts: The ribs, the butt, the shoulder, etc… .

Now like most folks, I have had all of those various pieces individually elsewhere. And as you might guess, I think ribs taste differently from shredded pork shoulder which tastes different from butt and so on and so forth. This was monumentally naive on my part. What makes those various cuts taste different from each other, more than any other thing, is how they are prepared. This was such a “duh” moment for me. For whatever reason, I had it in my head they would taste as I had previously had them. Fool – the whole thing is done one way. Duh!

Believe it or not, that's a rib.

Another thing that was surprising to me (and perhaps will get you thinking about going Kosher) is what the best part of the roast pig was. It was the skin. Crispy, salty and delicious. Of course, it is somewhat revolting to think that you’re licking your lips (and fingers) after horking down some skin, but that’s what you’re in for.

Where there is a difference in the experience has to do with the texture of the piece you’re eating at any given moment. The ribs, for example, wound up being “barely there” while the shoulder and butt were fattier and meatier.

Some salsa to add diversity.

Honestly, the whole thing is a swim in a salt sea. The meat is tender and delicious. The salsa verde and roja add some necessary diversity to the flavor profile after a while. And once you’ve gone through the bulk of the pig, they then bring on the “Truth or Dare” portion, where things do get pretty digusting pretty quickly, the butchered head.

Yes, that's the eyes, nose, cheeks, and brains.

As you can see, the butchered head reveals the brain, eyes, jowls, snout, etc. And of course that is totally gross, no matter what. And when you dump that in the middle of a group of men, machismo will assert itself, and there emerges a “dare” component to the meal. Several of my amigos scooped out brain, which they described as being like foie gras, but I contented myself to taking their word for it.

I did sample some jowl, which was essentially a gel of pork flavored fat.

So yes, there is a gross-out component, but essentially you are in for a mass quantity of salty salt salt pork.

A brief aside to again tout the amazing pork fat fried potatoes. They were ridiculously good.

I’d say on balance, if you’re a true carnivore dedicated to eating, it is a worthwhile experience. I don’t know that I’d repeat it any time soon, but I think I wouldn’t say no if asked again at some point in the future.

The Breslin

16 West 29th Street
New York, NY 10001

Jeff’s Cuisine Offers Surprisingly Good Barbecue In… Connecticut?

February 29, 2012

Is that barbecue joint in there?

In the middle of South Norwalk, among the pizza places and restaurants, lurks a surprise. How could you possibly guess, according to Zagat, that behind this unremarkable storefront lurks the best place to find barbecue in Connecticut? Jeff’s Cuisine: Imagine my surprise at stumbling upon it.

Not only is it delicious, but it is well better than almost all barbecue I’ve had in Manhattan. Granted, there’s a dearth of good ‘cue  in town, so the bar is low, but I think this place eats Dinosaur’s lunch.

I admit, I was skeptical because of the presentation. Trays? Really?

The layout of the place initially had me worried. Trays of food kept behind glass. It seemed likely it would all be reheated, tepid and luke warm. I feared microwaved ‘cue. My fears, however, were immaterial once we actually got to tasting it.

Ordinarily I don't go for sauces. This time, though...

We tried the mac, pulled pork and ribs.

The mac was ok, but not overwhelmingly special. It wasn’t especially rich or cheesy, flavor-wise, but it was pleasant. Things picked up considerably, however, with the first bite of the pulled pork. It was shredded nicely, tender and delicious.

As you can see there was a considerable volume of sauce on it, which also had me worried. I don’t usually go for a sauce, let alone a lot of it. Typically I find it masks the flavor of the meat. Here, though, it complemented it well. It was not especially sweet and lent some additional moisture and faint salty, spicy kick.

The ribs were the star. They were fall off the bone tender and delicious.

All in all, lunch was a big win in the middle of nowhere.

I should also mention Chef Jeff Esaw himself, which ordinarily I wouldn’t. He is a gregarious, affable man who’s likely to give you a pound when you walk in the door. The place has been in business 10 years and Chef Jeff will gladly regale you with tales of his remarkable journey in life that ultimately brought him to cooking. He goes to great lengths to make you feel at home.

I know where I’m eating next time I’m up this way.

Jeff’s Cuisine

54 Main Street
Norwalk, CT 06854

Adventures In Foodblivion: Justino’s Buffalo Chicken Pizza Is Surprisingly Tasty And Utterly Disgusting All At Once

February 21, 2012

A tiny, hole-in-the-wall pizzeria along 10th Avenue.

It is a cruel fate to be a foodie on Manhattan’s far west side.

The easiest lunch can be found at the office cafeteria. It’s good that there is a cafeteria, as the options nearby extend to delis and so forth, none of which have really stood out. Is it really necessary to discuss the cafeteria food?

It's like a secret code, or something. Somebody there knows something about food.

There is a neighborhood pizzeria – Justino’s – that has Staten Island credentials, however. I noticed it carries the signature of a quality joint – the Manhattan Special soda. That stuff is rare nowadays, seems to me. Last time I saw it was at Sal, Kris & Charlie’s in Astoria, and you know how that went.

The Justino’s sausage slice is pretty good– more on that later – but I was struck by the deep bench of pizza styles they have stacked up.

Admit it - that's a lot of pies for one small shop.

At Justino’s, you’ll notice a parade of pies, a la Two Boots, with a variety of toppings. Somewhere buried in the stack is the plain slice, but it’s quickly clear they’re quite concerned about offering a variety. So with that in mind, I asked the counter woman “What’s popular?” Imagine my surprise when she told me the most popular slice there is Buffalo chicken.


I am not one to really mess about with pizza. Cheeseburger pizza etc. are all generally “no no’s” in my book. Stick with the basics: Mushrooms, sausage, meatballs, onions, garlic – all acceptable. Start going crazy, and as my office colleague put it, “It’s no longer pizza.” Nonetheless, I opted to try it and the vodka slice.

As though proof of its popularity, another person walked in just after I placed my order and ordered a slice of it for himself.

Just look at that... thing.

It’s $4 a slice for the Buffalo slice – not cheap. But you get a whoppingly loaded slice. The crust is very thin, and the slice is heavily topped, so I could see how hefting it could prove challenging in terms of it not collapsing under its own weight.

There are fat chunks of chicken and rivers of blue cheese dressing. It bears no resemblance to pizza, except it is served in a triangular slice.

Essentially you get a Buffalo chicken wrap with a surprising – but mild – heat zip to it. There’s a creamy undercurrent that occasionally jumps to the forefront when you bite into one of the globby blue cheese rivulets. If you like Buffalo chicken, you’ll really enjoy this… whatever it is.

I mean honestly. It looks disgusting!

It’s not pretty. The slice looks like vomit. It looks like a cartoon of food. It looks like something that terrifying kid in the Twilight Zone movie would dream up to eat. It is both tasty and atrocious. I found myself both enjoying it and being disgusted by it at the same time. It tastes like the food equivalent of Mountain Dew.

It’s certainly filling: A single slice would suffice for lunch. For sheer novelty, it’s worth trying. And if you’re a Buffalo wing nut, this is a pleasant diversion. I enjoyed it in the same way you might enjoy deep fried Twinkies or something else you know should be detestable but is in fact tasty.

Oddly, I can understand why it is popular – but it’s not for me.

A good looking slice. The white at the top is fresh mozzerella.

Fortunately, the rest of the pizza at Justino’s is very tasty. They do an excellent job with thin crust. I was too stuffed and disgusted from the Buffalo slice to finish the vodka slice, which also has a cream current (and I was creamed out after the blue cheese bomb above). There’s a flavorful parmesan topping on the vodka slice.

Mama mia, that's a lot of sausage!

I’ve previously had their sausage slice, which I enjoyed quite a bit – they cut fat chunks of sausage onto a plain slice nicely.

I can’t put Justino’s in the same pantheon as Sal & Carmine’s and Joe’s yet, but I will say it is a proud carrier of the “thin slice” torch and worthy of careful consideration from pizza enthusiasts.

Just steer clear of the Buffalo slice.

Or not.

Justino’s Pizzeria

881 10th Avenue at 57th Street
New York, NY 10019
No website
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