Without question, worth the wait.

It’s not often that I feel like standing in line for a meal, and it’s even less often that I feel like standing in a cramped, stinky space for an interminate amount of time while starving.  Just about the only place you’ll ever find me doing so, in fact, is the Corner Bistro, on the corner of West 4th Street and Jane St (at 8th Avenue).

Let’s be frank: the Corner B is a dive bar poorly adapted to restaurant status.  Its atmosphere reminds more of O’Connor’s than Burger Joint, and the place is unlikely to please your neat freak friends.  Add to this the fact that at any normal mealtime (and late into the evening indeed on weekend evenings), you’ll need to wait in a line that can stretch outside – and if you’re not inside, you’ll be scarfing McSorley’s ale (a small-ish mug of which is only $2.50, thankfully) as fast as possible to deal with the complete claustrophobia of the situation, as well as the wait staff, some members of which get surlier as the line gets longer.  Look out for flying elbows and burgers, in other words.

Though it is tempting from a purely logistical standpoint to denigrate the place (translation: if I slag it, will I be able to get a table faster?), I can’t even begin to do so, because the Corner Bistro is, hands down, the best burger I’ve ever been served in a restaurant.  I should disclaim that I haven’t tried every burger in town (P.J. Clarke’s and Peter Luger’s being two strong-but-yet-untested competitors), but the Bistro has thus far slain the legendary Shake Shack, the well-regarded Burger Joint, the less-regarded mini-Burger Joint, the also-miniature burgers of Schnack, Roll N’ Roaster’s old-time fast-food-style sandwich, the faux-Californian Blue 9, the late and lamented McHale’s, the eponymous Goodburger…plus probably dozens of places you’ve never heard of in cities across the nation.  It even bests Sophmoricles’ famous burger recipe, somehow.

Making their status even more impressive, Corner B doesn’t utilize any fancy cooking techniques – they broil the burgers ($5.50) in a continuous process, in an oven that’s not much bigger than something you’d find in a small apartment kitchen.  You want cheese?  It’s added towards the end, and, for a quarter extra, it doesn’t make or break the experience.  My girlfriend loves the Bistro Burger, which adds a couple of slices of bacon to the mix for a few quarters more.  Just stay away from the chili burger, which drowns your perfectly medium-rare patty in, well, needless chili.

The patty itself is a thick, juicy, fall-apart-if-you-put-it-down beast – I’d be very surprised if this meat was ever frozen, and I’m nearly certain the patties are hand-shaped.  Again, I’m continually amazed at the accuracy of cooking temperature – when you order a burger medium-rare, a medium-rare burger emerges from the kitchen.  Same with medium and medium-well, though there’s no telling what might happen if a patron ordered his or her burger well-done (my preference would be to take them out back and shoot them, but I’m a bloody burger partisan at heart).

The condiments, in case you care, are raw onions, tomatoes, pickles, and lettuce – ketchup is left to be applied tableside, but the burger oozes enough liquid without it.  The fries, cut even thinner than Goodburger’s, taste of beef and are probably cooked in beef fat.  No vegetarians need apply, I guess.  The potato-shard-like taste is improved when adulterated with salt or ketchup, I’d say, and two people can probably share a plate ($2.00).

Last night, my girlfriend’s father and sister accompanied us to the Bistro and found the burgers as good as we had promised – no small feat, as North Carolina has its fair share of amazing burger shacks.  Of course, the dinner conversation, in between bites of burger, covered a few more bombastic meals; the yet-unreviewed Uncle Bino’s and its delectable pig’s ear/liver stir fry was surely the most popular topic of conversation.  I’d be happy to take you there this summer, Liz – just say the word.

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18 Comments

Filed under NYC

18 responses to “Without question, worth the wait.

  1. Stupid

    Yo, I like your blog. Very good info. My bf and I are going to NYC for a few days over spring break and are wondering if you have any suggestions for us, not just food, but other cheap thrills. Thanks.

  2. Cheap thrills? Hmm. Well, you’ve got the food angle covered. Some recommend concentrating, if weather permits, on the various geographical niceties that NYC has to offer – i.e., beaches, waterfront, parks etc. I agree, to a point, though I think these places mean more to the people who live here and need a break from the city (translation: why would you come to NYC to go to a park if you’re from the country to begin with?).Plan to spend time subwaying it around from place to place, and don’t be afraid of the outer boroughs. Your enjoyment of unique things about NYC is contingent on your ability to figure out how the subway works, and cabs are both un-cheap and hilariously unavailable outside Manhattan.I enjoy wandering neighborhoods, if the weather permits – avoid tourist trap areas like Little Italy and Chinatown west of Bowery, but seek out the ethnic neighborhoods in outer boroughs (for example, the Chinatown in Brooklyn, running north along 8th Avenue fron the N stop, or Flushing’s, at the end of the 7 line).Though you stand a good chance of getting hopelessly lost if you don’t have a good sense of direction, if you decide to go the park route, Brooklyn’s Prospect Park offers more unique terrain and more peaceful surroundings than Central Park, at the possible expense of people-watching.The Staten Island ferry is a unique view of the city, and you should also consider picking a bridge to walk over (best views from the Williamsburg, in my opinion).Should the weather be poor, there’s probably a blog or list or area of Time Out NY/the Voice that lists cheap/free things to do.For example, MOMA is free on Friday evenings – check website for hours, though it’s usually packed, it beats the hell out of paying to get in.

  3. Anonymous

    You should try 5 bucks a day, now that would be a challenge. Why attach yourself to the VV list? Oh right, I’m stupid, then you’d have nothing to work with.j-holio

  4. I think I could do New York City for ten bucks a day in fact when I was so poor I did it in seven bucks a day. You should try that.

  5. Anonymous

    Dude, I weep openly every time I read your blog, because I am a NYC transplant now living in Washington DC. Where there is no, I repeat NO, good cheap food. I visited NYC recently and hugged the man who sold me coffee and a bagel for $3. Here, that would be $7 easily. I love the recommendations you give and look forward to your further adventures!

  6. [points to mout] –> droolMan. I. Reallywannatrythisburger. One of my friends said it was good, but she didn’t describe it like you did, sooo…yeeeeaah. Dammit. And when I say I want it, I mean I could eat it now. Or tonight. Lordy.

  7. Anonymous

    i would throw a cedar tavern burger or maybe a bonnie’s grill burger with jalapenos and cheddar up against a corner bistro burger any day.

  8. I do like Bonnie’s burger – forgot to mention that one. And Cocotte’s burger is my fave in Brooklyn. Forgot to mention those two.Cedar Tavern, though…never heard of it. Will investigate.

  9. I’ve been a vegetarian for eleven years, and you just made me hungry for a burger!

  10. Anonymous

    Next time your there, look behind the toilet – you might just see a rat feeding its babies (as I did this summer). I’ll never eat at the CB again, though I’ve given myself a pass on drinking there (hey, if dead rats worked for Guinness. . .).

  11. Hey, rats like a good burger, too!

  12. Laura

    MK, the fries taste so damn good because they deep-fry the bacon in the oil with the french fries. (Pretty sure they use regular old vegetable oil.) I could wax poetic for pages about my love for the CB, but I’ll save it. Add Donnovan’s in Queens to your list of contenders for best burger in NYC. I’m hopelessly devoted to CB, but the Donnovan burger gives it a run for its money.

  13. Hey Mike, Don’t get me wrong, I love Corner Bistro and think that the monkey haters who posted and wrote semi-literate responses to your article have bloated egos… but I think you’re mistaking the ability to cook a burger correctly to the actual order (i.e actually getting a med-rare burger) with burger perfection. CB does cook a mean burger, but when I’ve been there it’s been more like “Wow, this actually tastes like someone hand-made this and threw it on their backyard grill rather than over-charring it on an industrial blowtorch…awesome!” than “This is the greatest burger I’ve ever had. Hands down.” Indeed, the CB is solid, but I’ll have a cook-off any day.

  14. You may well be right, but where the hell we gonna get a charcoal grill in this two-bit town, pal?

  15. At Schnack, we are happy to be rated #2 by the Citisearch user poll and rated in the top 4 by Hamburger Documentarian George Motz.A Schnack we feel a lot of burgers are a bit like Gauguin’s women.Our mini-burgers since April 2003, have a high ratio of grilled surface to total mass (because of their 1.5 oz size). That leaves the outside of them nice and crusty and yet juicy on the inside. Certainly not for everyone, but at $1.65 a piece not a bad deal either.

  16. Hey Harry – love your burgers, man!

  17. Anonymous

    in case anyone was wondering, the boston equivalent of corner bistro is bartleys.

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