Today’s guest review comes from a regular contributor to the Burger Baron, my friend Jeff. As I’ve said before, I trust his tastebuds almost as much as my own. He recently spent a few days as a Baron informant in NYC, tasting several burgers. For the first of two installments on New York burger joints, check out his review for The Little Owl below!
My weekend with Pat (and John)
NYC Part 1
A few weeks ago I decided to go to New York City to visit one of my best friends from college, John Ernst. He is kicking butt in medical school rotations out there and I thought it would be fun to head out for a long weekend to catch a Yankees game and to get some great food. The Baron knew I was going, and he asked me to review a few choice Manhattan eateries…. I obliged.
Our first spot was The Little Owl, a GREAT all around restaurant in the West Village that is also famous for being the red corner bistro of the Friends building. The waiter cracked me up by saying that tourists come in everyday to ask if they can get up and see the apartment…uh…that was a TV set…10 years ago…in Los Angeles!
A friend from Denver used to work at The Little Owl, so he got us hooked up with a table on a very busy Friday in a restaurant that is definitely smaller than my living room and is always on an hour + wait. Jorge and Lois took great care of us and did not lead us astray when they both recommended that the bacon cheeseburger was way to go. But first they brought us out a little starter of sliders.
(Side note: In this blog post, I am going to use the words “the best”, “great”, and “unbelievable” a lot. Please do not let the meaning get diluted because of the frequency.)
Back to the sliders. The were the best sliders that I have ever had. Period. They were not the traditional sliders (mini patties, american cheese, grilled onions), but rather were meatballs sliders made from beef, veal, and pork. They had this tomato/meat “gravy”, and were topped with pecorino cheese. All on a smaller version of their regular burger buns. Unbelievable. Seriously folks, I am salivating just writing about them.
Now on to the main event. The bacon cheeseburger. The Little Owl does not only use Pat LaFrieda (beef guru) meat and have their own blend, but the owner of Little Owl, Joey Campanaro, is buddies with Pat, and they get together and chat about burgers. They know beef. They know burgers. They know the way to my heart. The blend is brisket, short rib, and marbled fat. They actually add fat (read: flavor) to the meat. Crazy good. 8 oz patty, which is typically a bit bigger than I like, but like everything else on the burger it was incredible. Perfect mid-rare, juicy, tons of beef flavor. It was the best…it was great…it was unbelievable.
The buns are made in house and they were really different from anything I have had before. It was a fairly thin bun, almost like a thin ciabatta or an english muffin. They put a little molasses in the bun which gave it a great sweetness. The bun held up remarkably well. A lesser bun would have blown out two bites in.
The cheese was a nice cheddar, but as you can see in the pics, it melted like American. Of course the melt was perfect…of course it was.
I usually don’t get bacon on a burger, but not because I do not like it…honestly, bacon may be my favorite food. I just feel that bacon on a cheeseburger is a risk because it is so often screwed up. Either it is not crispy enough or there is too much of it or it is just an afterthought on the burger. It is not worth the usual up-charge. At Little Owl it comes standard, and it was amazing, it was the perfect amount and it was the perfect crispiness. The flavors of the beef and bacon were so well-meshed that there were times that I forgot there was bacon on the burger. GREAT.
In my previous (and until this post, only) review on the Burger Baron, I spoke about how all the ingredients from my Hillstone burger were good but they ultimately didn’t come together to create a great burger. Well, The Little Owl not only had the top notch ingredients, but it also all came together as a cohesive unit to collectively blow my socks off. For a sports reference, The Little Owl would be the’92 Dream Team, whereas Hillstone would be the’06 US world championships team that lost to Greece.
The toppings were as follows:
Lettuce = bibb. I like iceberg or green leaf better, but it was fine.
Tomato = thin sliced hot house, but they were a little thin for me. I really like to taste the tomato.
Onion = super thin red onion. Just right.
Pickle = a locally made half sour that was meant for the side. It was fine. I don’t love half sours.
The fries were pretty standard. I was excited because I heard they double fry them but they still came out a little soft. Good, but not mind-blowing.
Alright folks. In all honesty…it was the best burger I have ever sunk my teeth into. The beef, cheese, bacon, bun combo was unbelievable. Mixed with the sliders, the Mexican grilled sweet corn side (for sure get if you ever have the chance to go), the dessert, the Avery Beer, the company and the wait staff, it was one of the best meals I have ever had. Burger #1, meal top 5… not a bad Friday afternoon.
More from NYC to come…