If you have been reading my posts lately I have been craving a great burger. After hearing all of the rave reviews about the burger at Minetta, I figured I would see if I could get a table. Everyone says it is impossible to get reservations, but for some reason I usually have decent luck at these type of places. Called on a whim on Friday afternoon to see if they had anything for me and luckily they did! So that was it I was going to Minetta Tavern. Let me just preface the review by saying I think it is somehwat unfair for these places to live up to the hype that is bestowed upon them by restaurant critics, reviewers, and food bloggers. After reading all of the rants and raves, as a diner you go in with such high expectations and any little blemish makes you feel disappointed. That is why I always try to go into these experiences with an objective mindset, as if I did not hear about the hype in the first place (even though we know this is almost impossible to do). Alas, I guess if it wasn’t for such glaring reviews and publicity us foodies would never even hear about these dishes in the first place, so all in all I guess we need them. Anyway, back to the review.
I arrived for my 5:30 reservation and was told to wait at the bar until they were ready to seat me. There were lots of other parties waiting there too, which assured me that this place was definitely on everyone’s radar. The stories you hear about certain people getting preferential treatment are true. After I arrived, a party of three came in and without hesitation the hostess said “Take them to table 12”. Oh well, I guess it just comes with the territory. I waited around 15 minutes or so and wasn’t in a hurry so whatever I didn’t care. The service was incredible, my waitress was very informative and attentive throughout the meal, water was constantly refilled, and tablecloths replenished after each course. I was kinda disappointed in the bread because it wasn’t hot, but I liked the sea salt and of course the butter. Whatever, I was here for thegood stuff. Now onto the real food.
Going in the gameplan was to get that Black Label burger and nothing was going to stop me. Right? Well, as many of you know I am a steak fanatic. In addition to the burger, their cote de beouf has received much praise. So there I was staring down at my menu and that cote de beouf was staring me in the face screaming “order me, order me!”. And I won’t lie…. It crossed my mind several times in a span of about 10 minutes and I found myself waffling as usual as that devil on my shoulder was telling me to go for it. However, I vowed to myself after being disappointed by the cote at Momofuku that I would not order this high-priced of a steak in a non-steakhouse while dining alone. If I had someone else with me I probably would have ordered it because it would have cost me half as much, therefore alleviating a lot of the possible (inevitable?) disappointment that could occur. So after that mini-battle with myself I proceeded to order the lobster salad ($24), Black Label burger with cheddar cheese cooked rare($26), and a side of sauteed wild mushrooms ($8).
Lobster salad- It came out within 5 minutes of me ordering it. The lobster was delicious and very fresh- 2 chunky claws and a nice piece of tail about 5 oz overall. It came served over some nice lettuce and a refreshing light lemony dressing. While delicious, would I order it again for $24? No. For 12, I would say definitely. But this salad was more than most of their entrees and ironically only 2 bucks less than the”vaunted” Black Label burger.
Black Label burger- So here it was making its way towards me from the kitchen… the main event. Th brioche bun was nice and soft and lightly toasted. My first thought about the burger was that it wasn’t that large… I would say about 7 ounces or so, which was abit of a drawback for me (but it was good in a way which I will get to later). I grabbed the burger and took my first nibble without any ketchup just to taste the burger on its own. Right away you are hit with the funky smell and taste of that muskiness that all meat lovers like myself look for in a great dry aged steak. You can really taste the quality of the meat even with the cheddar cheese on it. I absolutely loved the caramelized onions and wish they actually gave me more. After the first bite, I proceeded to construct the burger to my liking and added my ketchup because hey I HAVE to have ketchup on my burgers.. tough. I also always cut my burgers in half to make sure they are cooked properly, and this was cooked to my requested rare (although it could have even been a tad more so). This for me was a big plus, that’s the number one obstacle when winning me over. If my meat is not cooked to my requested temperature, I have no interest in continuing to eat it. The first few bites of the burger were really delicious. However, after awhile I kind of felt like my tastebuds were getting used to the taste. I ate half the burger with the bun intact, which actually got soggy on the bottom which was a little disappointing. For the other half, I separated it from the bun which is what I usually do with my burgers because I just wanted to eat the meat sans the bread. No question, the quality of meat in this burger is top notch. Would I say it is worth the $26 price tag? No, but then again I don’t think any burger could be worth that. I mean.. it’s a burger.. comfort food not haute cuisine. When I go out to a nice restaurant such as this I actually like to order something that is more of an entrée (steak, duck, fish, lamb, you get it). I would usually never order a burger at a place like this, because I feel you can get a great burger in a more casual spot for much less. But, the reason it is so much is because of the quality of the meat that is put into the burger. For me I believe that prime dry aged steak should be used in its natural and intended form= STEAK, not ground into a burger patty. For some reason, it just loses something. When I go to a place and have a signature dish I always think of that show “The Best thing I ever ate”. And I ask myself is this the best (burger in this case) I ever ate? And I cannot say emphatically yes that it was. Actually, I think the burger I had at Rare Bar and Grill and the kobe burger at Uncle Jack’s may have been better. Still, there is no question this is one delicious burger and I glad that I ate it as it hit the spot for my burger craving. I haven't had to opportunity to sample many of the top burgers in the city (like I have steakhouses), so this is kind of like the start of a new project for me. Next stop Spotted Pig.
Fries- One really huge let down for me was the fries! I was really looking forward to them since they are supposedly the same ones used at Balthazar which is supposed to have some of the best fries in the city (never been). But they were nothing special at all and after a few I totally lost interest in them. But then again I am not a fan of thin fries anyway. Gimme thick steak cut fries. So overall, the black label was delicious and a great burger. I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t larger which would have definitely given it more points in my book. But the good thing was you can eat this whole burger and not feel like you have a bowling ball in your stomach. It is definitely not a gut bomb, leaving you room for dessert. Life altering? No. But if you are big into burgers, I think everyone should go at least once just to experience it.
Mushrooms- At first bite the mushrooms were kinda bland and underseasoned. But it was nothing a little salt, pepper, and copious amounts of butter couldn’t fix. Once I added these condiments they were great. I actually wound up eating most of them. I like to play with my food and make my own flavor combinations, so I actually spooned some of the mushrooms on a bite of my burger and they went great together.
Dessert- Now this may have been the best part of my meal. I love souffles and when executed right it is one of my favorite desserts. Like I said, the good thing about the burger not being offensively huge is it leaves you room for dessert and for me when dining out I need dessert. We came this far and if you’re gunna do it do it right. So I got the grand marnier souffle ($18), side of strawberry ice cream, and whipped cream which the waitress assured me was whipped in house. This thing was incredible and HUGE! Yeah it is 18 bucks but it is really meant for two and could easily satisfy three sweet tooths (or one of mine ha)). The top had a nice browned crust, giving way to that perfectly eggy interior that wasn’t too liquidy where it was undercooked and not to cakey that it was overcooked. It was the perfect balance between the two. Dig into the souffle, dip your spoon into the ice cream, then the whipped cream and all of these flavors together were magical. The tartness from the citrusy souffle, sweetness from the strawberry, and the creaminess from the whipped cream was flawless. If you come here get the damn souffle. A couple of tables down from me a couple got the chocolate one and I could smell it from my table so needless to say I know what I am getting next time!
Drawbacks- One thing that was annoying was how cramped the place is. I was dining alone and basically was sandwiched between two parties of two, which led to me feeling like I was eavesdropping on their conversations. This caused some awkwardness when I made eye contact with them because I obviously could hear everything being said haha. But whatever, were all there for the same reason..eat.
Atmosphere- Definitely a great atmosphere. This place was buzzing from the time I got there til the time I left. Usually when I dine that early, places are empty but not Minetta. It was packed and yes you will be surrounded by some characters and personalities there. Some people from the village really are weirdos haha, but that adds to the fun. Didn’t see any celebrities, but there were definitely some characters there- maybe from Broadway or something. I loved how it was bustling, the pictures on the walls, dim lighting, red leather booths. You really do feel like you are in some kind of exclusive club. Reminds me of Strip House, which is one of my favorite restaurants, instead with pictures of caricatures instead of..strippers lol.
Verdict- Ok, so there is my usually long-winded and detailed review. I really enjoyed my meal at Minetta Tavern. Food was delicious, service was top notch, great atmosphere. I saw some other diners chowing on the cote, the bone-in strip steak, and a special pork rib chop and they all looked fabulous. So it definitely warrants a return trip. Would I run back for that Black Label burger for that price? No, I wouldn’t but I recommend you go and try it once as it’s a good experience and a mighty tasty burger. Minetta Tavern is definitely a fine restaurant. I will however definitely be back to try that ribeye for two and I assure you I will have someone with me when I do.