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Bill's Bar and Burger

Bill’s Bar and Burger is restauranteur Stephen Hanson’s burger joint in the old Hogpit Barbecue space in the Meatpacking District. Burgers are the centerpiece of the menu, which also features hot dogs, wings, fries, and milk shakes. The most expensive item is a Grouper Sandwich ($9.95).

Hanson is the king of low-brow food. Except for the shuttered Fiamma, his restaurants have never been at the vanguard of culinary ingenuity. He sees a trend and figures out how to down-brand it for popular appeal.

So you figured that a Hanson burger joint would at least be competent. The alleged hamburger experts are officially impressed. Mr. Cutlets, A Hamburger Today, Hamburger America, and the BLD Project are all smitten. We’ll let Cutlets’ comments stand as a proxy for all of them:

The Bill’s burger, at least the one I tasted, is the next step in the evolution of mainstream hamburgers. It takes the aggressive “smashing” technique from Steak n Shake and Smashburger, and applies it even more aggressively, and using LaFrieda beef — a rich blend I couldn’t exactly put my finger in, but lush and sweet in a way that suggested lots of brisket. It’s flatter and wider and browner that the Shake Shack, so much so that it hangs outside of the bun. It’s just luscious and enveloping and compuslively edible. And beneath that crust, which is complemented by a butter crisp toasted Arnold’s roll and a slice of deliciously viscous American cheese, is a torrent of juicy, salty, beef flavor that really lets you know you’ve eaten real meat, not just gray burger tissue. The thing is just fantastic, and there is not one weird topping or middlebrow trope anywhere to be seen. Is it too soon for me to say that this is the best hamburger in New York? I don’t think it is. Certainly it’s the best cheap hamburger in New York, if not the world. Daniel Boulud, Josh Capon, Nick Solares from Serious Eats…we all tried it and were knocked out. But better still than the taste was the fact that it was a blow for orthodoxy, and proof that our national sandwich is still best presented unadorned, in all its rude glory.

I don’t get it.

I dropped into Bill’s Bar & Burger the other night and ordered the so-called “Fat Cat” ($6.95) basically a burger topped with caramelized onions, with tomato and pickles on the side. The burger was over-cooked, and what little flavor it had was overwhelmed by the onions. It’s absurd that this is touted as one of the city’s better burgers. It ain’t in the top 50.

It’s not just a question of taste. The photo (above) doesn’t even look attractive. Those on sites like A Hamburger Today aren’t much better.

This tolerable burger was nothing compared to the awful fries ($3.50), which were over-salted and too greasy. What was worse, it appeared I was served a basket made in two separate batches, as some were burnt and others hadn’t been in the fryer long enough.

The beer was pretty good, and so was the service. There were plenty of empty tables at around 6pm, and there were still a few when I left, around 45 minutes later. By 9pm, I understand there was an hour wait. Don’t waste your time.

As I was getting ready to pay the bill, Mr. Cutlets sauntered in. Acted like he owned the place.

Addendum: It took a while, but finally there’s a pro reviewer who agrees with me: Alan Richman in GQ. I was about 90% certain that I spotted Richman there, but I only caught a brief glimpse of him, and wasn’t positive. He actually looked happy, smiling and waving to the staff. They’ll probably be surprised to learn he hated the place.

Bill’s Bar and Burger (22 Ninth Avenue at 13th Street, Meatpacking District)

Reader Comments (3)

Did I really saunter? It's good to get my balls busted like this every once in a while. I am in Bill's a lot (it's like four blocks from our office) and I probably do act bossy. Didn't realize I was coming off that way. Anyway, I love the fat cat....but I agree, I've had a few that were overdone. The one to try though is the basic Bill's burger. I've had the sunset and vine, their In-and-Out tribute once, and I have no interest in it at all.


October 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJosh Ozersky

Point Break - A Perfect Bar Experience in NYC

A local friend recommended and took my Cali group to this amazing bar. He said that mostly locals came here so I didn't really know what to expect ambiance wise... but screw it, the view at this bar was absolutely breathtaking! No joke. I felt like a celebrity w/ superstar treatment as the staff are friendly and amazing to say the very least.

I don't know who the house DJ was but he definitely was playing music right up my alley. It would've been my dream for people to start dancing, but it's all good.

It's a bit sceney for my taste, but it really didn't bother me much. the bartenders knew their stuff, although their 1st cocktail was a little weak, when he saw i understood cocktails the next 2 were stronger. I also liked that even though the place was really hopping the bartender remembered what i was drinking when i came to order another. (he also understood how good a gin hendricks is, and not to overpower it with the mixer). It was amazing to see their “das boot” which is shaped like a boot filled with beer. Don’t get me wrong, I am not drunk…it’s an actual boot shaped beer container ready to be emptied..try it ..you will love it!! Oh..how can I forget, they even have a wheel o' shots where you just have to spin it and have to drink whatever shot it lands on!! Now call that bar creativity at its best!!!

We ordered the Veal and Fish Tacos. They were delicious. Mm! We ended up asking for spoons to polish off whatever remained in the platter. (Faux pas? Who cares as long as it gets in my tummy.) The fries were crispy, but not overcooked, just the way that I like them.

So take in this scene: You walk in to what seems like an overly crowded place, but soon fine an empty table. Time seems to stop and the only indicator of the night moving on is the moon and your brain cells slowly going to bed forever. The music is not to loud and the people around look good, the only thing left for you to do is to enjoy that drink you paid ridiculously low for and laugh at the joke your co-worker just told.

The vibe of the place just never seems to die out and if you happen to spot some NYC socialite, sports player, or star, don't let it get to you... because for that moment, this night they are no long more important than then you. In fact go up to them and introduce yourself!

All in all just a great place to meet new people, or just have drinks with people you already know. I've been to numerous bars in the city but i would say this place is just great. Very welcoming staff, very laid back ambiance. I’ve been here twice after my first visit with my Cali group . I would say its worth the every penny you spend!!

April 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDavis Miller

The preceding comment is a shill. I could have deleted it, but I thought I’d leave it around for the sheer entertainment value.

—The Management.

April 15, 2010 | Registered CommenterMarc Shepherd

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