Friday, December 19, 2008

P.J. CLARKE'S



've heard about this place for a long time from all my friends who are fortunate enough to live in the self-proclaimed center of the world. The thing is, for all the talk about how everything is better in new york, that type of arrogant nonsense never transferred over in describing the burger at P.J. Clarke's. Here's what normally happens when you deal with a New Yorker, you open a can of diet coke and all of a sudden you hear them screaming at you "what the hell, the diet coke out here is horrible. You live in farm country, how the hell are you supposed to get a decent diet coke, it ain't like the diet coke in the city, man the diet coke there is so much better because of the water." Or you pick up a scissors and all of a sudden "what are you doing? Trying to cut a piece of paper with that thing, it's gonna take ya an hour and a half. Back in the city, we got scissors that cut the paper by themselves, you don't even have to touch them. You just look at the paper and the scissors gets up and cuts it right in half every time. Symmetrical too, one half ain't ever bigger than the other."

I've never heard that in reference to P.J. Clarke's. In fact, it could be the only place in all of New York I've heard described in such calm, hushed tones. One time when eating a burger with a friend from new york, we were commenting on the burger and others we've had when Charlie Kornman said, "next time you go to New York you have to go to PJ Clarke's, it really is my favorite burger I've ever had." Now notice the difference, no huge audacious claims of grandeur. Nor have I ever heard that the burger there is better simply because it's a burger served in New York. Rather this is a burger that is a favorite for those who live in New York, and to sample it would be no different than to sample someones favorite place to get a burrito in Cleavland.

All that aside:

I stroll in and I gotta admit right off the bat I'm impressed. The place looks a bit like a businessman's place to get a burger instead of a two martini lunch from the outside, but inside, it's quite welcoming. I post up at the bar and look at the menu. I'd heard the prices were a bit steep, but a $10 burger in New York ain't that bad. Turns out the fries and all that are separate but still, a restaurant owner's gotta make a living so yeah, it's cool, charge me for the fries. I'm cool with that. I decided not to go with the Cadillac as it has bacon and I don't like meat on my meat (no homo) so I just got the burger with cheese and grilled onions. They call them smothered onions and therefore are allowed to charge two bucks or some shit for it. So I sit. I'm watching tv, I'm reading, all the while anticipating this burger. And let it be known, I've been wanting to get this for like five years, just every time I'm in New York it's hard to convince the kids out in Brooklyn to track across town for a burger. So the plate arrives.

Upon first glance, I felt a pang of disappointment. The burger was presented on a huge white plate, with the meat sitting on the bottom bun right square in the middle. The top bun with the lettuce and tomato was flipped over nest to the bottom bun. I felt this was an attempt to make it look like there was more food because at first sight, the burger did not look that adequate. I was wrong. Once I lifted it up to my mouth, I realized it was gigantic. (no homo)

I put a little mustard and ketchup on it and took my first bite. Juices flew everywhere. They soaked into the top bun, the bottom and a some oozed onto the plate. The onions were evenly distributed so no bite had too many or too few. It was fabulous. On my second bite, I realized there was something odd beneath my bun that I had not yet seen. I put my burger down to find a whole slice or raw onion I had accidental picked up. Although I had ordered and received a burger with grilled onions, I was pleased to see they included the raw onion. After all, in the words of Ariel Sharon, "my burger will not be the next Czechoslovakia."

I ate the whole thing and it was awesome. We're talking top ten burgers of all time. It must be something they have in the water out there. HOWEVER, no free refills, and they fronted like there were, so two sodas ran six bucks. Offensive to say the least. I got a good mind to say something to Mr. Clarke.

2 Comments:

Blogger Neil said...

Elsa's burger poops on the PJ Clarke's burger you described. Sho nuff.

12/22/08, 1:39 PM  
Blogger john murn said...

elsa's v. clarke's...that's a tough call and a tough comparison, but clarke's is choice for sure, especially compared with other food options in that neighborhood. despite your soda up-charge, loeb, one thing i really like about clarke's is that the bartenders are honest. without getting into specifics, i'm just going to say that more than once the bartender's honest - though not always flattering (no homo) - opinions of the menu have guided me to gastric happiness more than once.

12/29/08, 5:48 PM  

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