Have to share one of the worst meals I've suffered through in a long time. Was coming home late from something in the East Village and was in the mood for a good burger. There's this place on Second Avenue below St. Marks (the egg cream neighborhood) called Paul's Palace, the one where they spell out in the window (in neon, no less) "WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU HAD A GOOD BURGER? I MEAN, A REALLY GOOD BURGER?" I had been there before but not for some time (usually when I crave a really good burger I wait until I'm next in the Times Square area and head to McHale's).
Paul's Palace is a place where I think the owner has a really good concept, but is no longer bothering to make sure it's properly executed. It's a place/idea I would really like to see succeed (lots of East Village funkiness, with all sorts of kinetic toys, sculptures and signs inside, and an anthropomorphic burger photo-op outside), but the difference between the promise and the product was like a chasm on my visit.
I ordered my burger and fries. They feature an oversize burger but (supposedly) use a better quality meat than Cozy Soup and Burger (which I've always found rather tasteless), and they also don't steam their burgers -- to cook them faster but it changes the texture and color of the meat -- like Kozy Soup and Jackson Hole do.
The fries were crispy, large standard frozen steak cut fries, thicker than I like. The burger suffered one of my pet peeves about places that try and build a better burger: they make a giant patty, then put it on the cheapest mass-produced white-bread bun they can buy, which usualy falls apart under the weight and juices of the patty as you try and eat it). The mayo came as a big schmeer on the side of the plate, fine, except that halfway through the burger I started tasting a good deal of mustard, which apparently had gotten slopped into the mayo bin at the counter, or remained on an unwiped knife they served it up with. Yuck.
But the real problem was the meat itself. Again, they try and do the right thing by using good beef (you can taste the flavor), grinding it coarsely, and handling and pressing it as little as possible to form the patties. Unfortunately, they neglected to pick through the beef before grinding it, and with the coarse grind I kept getting these awful gristly bits. After spitting out the fourth nasty piece, I finally gave up.
The service only added insult to injury. The waitress and rest of the staff seemed more intent on watching the game on the TV monitor and doing their late-night refilling of the salt and ketchup dispensers than serving me. One of the staff started spraying and wiping down the walls with Windex just a couple feet from where I was eating!
It was such a horrendous dining experience that, while it was most likely an anomaly (it seems to have rather high ratings at Citysearch), I'll never give the place another chance.