Last night a friend and I went to McHales, legendary dive bar of massive burger fame. I had only been there once before, for drinks, about 4 years ago. The evening was a late one, there was a good deal of beer involved, and my memory was hazy. Reacquainting myself at about 6:00PM last night I found that in daylight it was divier than I had remembered although not in an off putting way. The place draws a big crowd, a mixture of professionals and blue collar types as well as tourists lured by the cheap prices and Old New York atmosphere. The place was last decorated in the early 1950s and is a welcome change from the cookie cutter bars stamped out at the Pub-o-Matic factory in Ohio.
The staff is professional they get the orders right, bring the beers quickly, and remember to look for you at the bar when you ask for a table. There is none of that Hi, Im Steve and Ill be your server tonight routine. They are all business.
The burgers (and who would order anything else?) are some of the biggest Ive ever seen, probably about 12 to 14 oz. Served on a soft Kaiser roll and cooked to order, at $8 for the base model they are one of the best values in the city. I ordered the bacon burger for $9 (if Im going to Hell Ill take the express) and was amazed to find that instead of the stingy 2 slices served by other places I got about 5 instead. They offer 5 or 6 types of cheese for another buck. I had gruyere. Why not? Its like committing that second murder they can only send you the electric chair once.
Neither my friend or I managed to finish our burgers but we both had a fine time. He describes himself as frugal but also answers to cheap. Last nights burgerfest, along with a couple of beers for me and a couple of Cokes for him, came to about $28 and change before the tip. He was delighted and I was amazed. Thats a silly amount for that much food and drink and we left a generous tip.
The burger is with me still and feels like my 20 lb. cat is sleeping on my stomach. I dont think Ill have much of an appetite until tomorrow.
Are the burgers the Best Ever? Thats a metaphysical question that I cant answer, and in the end I think its a meaningless concept, right up there with the Perfect Wave. Certainly McHales is in the top tier and deserves its reputation. The combination of big burger, time warp 50s atmosphere and low prices make it a place worth a trip. Just allow 2 months between visits for the last burger to digest.
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