On Friday afternoon, I finally made my first visit to the much vaunted Union Square Cafe in eager anticipation of a marvelous cheeseburger and hot and crispy fries. I ate at the bar as a solo diner. Even at 2:15 pm, the bar was still crowded with other solo diners.
I enjoyed the complimentary black olives provided as I sipped a Jever lager. A hoppy brew with which I was unfamiliar prior to tasting it at USC. I definitely recommend it. I requested the burger medium-rare.
The burger arrived after several minutes, and my hopes were high. Too high. I was suprised that the plate had no lettuce or tomato on it. There was some parsley and a tiny amount of very thinly sliced red onion hiding underneath almost as an afterthought.
The burger itself was large and had almost a spherical quality to its shape. However, it was cooked medium and was dry to my taste. Another disturbing characteristic was that the bottom bun was noticeably soggy on one edge. I ate that part first so it would not come apart in my hand later.
The menu provided the options of "melted cheddar" or "bacon". I opted for the melted cheddar, and was it ever melted. It was melted to the degree that it ran down the side of the burger and created an something akin to an orange filter through which the meat was visible.
The fries were nothing to rave about either. They were simply warm and seemed unsalted. My corrective attempts with the salt shaker were unsuccessful as the salt simply bounced off and down onto the plate.
As much as I wanted to like this burger and the fries, I can not recommend them. What I did enjoy about this dining experience was the Jever lager, the complimentary olives, and the amiable bar staff.
As a suprising counterpoint to this disappointing tale, I had a really wonderful medium-rare cheeseburger with again so-so fries at the Burger Heaven location on 54th and Madison on the previous Friday. Now, that burger was juicy and delicious, and accompanied by two large red tomato slices and two large green pieces of lettuce. Their version met almost all of my expectations for what a cheeseburger should be. After having had that kind of burger experience at a pedestrian venue such as Burger Heaven, I do not think my great expectations for the USC burger were unfounded.
To provide a counterpoint to the disappointing fries at both USC and Burger Heaven, I have simply loved those available at Les Halles in Gramercy and B. Frites in Mid-town.