In this solo dining adventure, Gary enjoys dinner at The Spotted Pig when good friend JP makes his way into New York City late on a Friday night.
A few months back, friend of the blog JP and I came up with a list of restaurants we wanted to try in New York City. Being the huge tech geeks that we are, the list lives on Google Wave. As the list expanded, forcing us to come up with different categories, one we didn’t use was “burgers to try” despite the fact that there were some places listed solely on the existence of a standout burger. One such place was the April Bloomfield’s The Spotted Pig in the West Village.
The reason we were clamoring for their burger that night was because of A Hamburger Today having published a how-to on making The Spotted Pig burger at home. JP and I had been talking throughout the week about going but the article just tipped us over the edge, making it a necessity we go and a major disappointment if we didn’t get in. When I mentioned our plans to another friend (Dave G.), he said that trying to get in “on a Friday night is a hipster bloodsport, son,” something that may have been made more difficult with the AHT article going up the same day. Surprisingly, we got there at 10 pm and were told it would be an hour and a half wait, but we were seated within an hour. Mission accomplished!
By the way, lest I be chastised for distilling the place as just another spot with a hyped (or over-hyped depending on who you ask) burger, I’m well aware of the fantastic menu there. The Pan Fried Calf’s Liver or the Braised Rabbit are things I would normally order, especially at a restaurant of the esteem that The Spotted Pig is held. One of the specials that night, a the Stuffed Pig’s Ear, was almost enough to push me off my plans for a burger that night. But, no, a burger is what I wanted and, goddamn, that’s what I was gonna get.
We started with one of the special appetizers of the day, the Potted Beef on Toast. When I saw that on the menu, I immediately thought of chipped beef or, as those in the military would put it, Shit On a Shingle. To my relief, this was nothing like you’d find in an MRE. This was a creamy, beefy tasting pâté-like spread which, served with toast and cornichons, made for a nice start.
Ordering the deviled eggs was a fait accompli – The Spotted Pig is known to make a great deviled egg and to not try it in my first visit here would be foolish. The filling was mustardy as expected and, with the addition of the chili flakes, had quite a bit of kick to it. Loaded on top with chives, sitting in a pool of olive oil, and sprinkled with plenty of salt, they were not, to quote JP, “discreet about flavor.”
Appetizers consumed, it was time for the raison d’être, the infamous The Spotted Pig burger. We ordered it medium-rare as the chef intended for it to be served (JP asked for the burger to be cooked whatever way the chef thought it should be; I just dittoed that) and, when I cut the sucker in half, I quickly confirmed that it was cooked precisely to that level. On my first bite, I actually bit into the middle of the burger from the cut side so I could be sure I got the whole strata of burger – soft brioche bun, a healthy dose of the Roquefort, and the differently cooked levels of ground beef. The tangy saltiness of the cheese and the wonderfully chargrilled beef went perfectly together and even the brioche bun, which is something I normally would not go for to hold a burger, managed to hold up.
All the flavors on the burger work well together, at least at the beginning. As I took more bites of the burger, it became obvious to JP and myself that the cheese was just too strong, overwhelming the beef’s more delicate (by comparison) flavor. This was compounded by the shoestrings which, don’t get me wrong, I loved but had way too much salt. I could only finish half of the fries on my plate because all I could taste on my tongue was salt. On the other hand, JP managed to finish all his fries (that Irish constitution), leaving behind only a sea of fried garlic chips, something that I am proud to say that I did not leave unfinished on my plate.
Despite the overpowering cheese (simple solution being to just scrape it off, leaving as much as you can stand), the burger here is outstanding and deserving of the pedestal others have placed it on. Is it as good as the Minetta Tavern Black Label Burger? No and it’s not even close. Even at $26 for Minetta’s Black Label and $17 for the The Spotted Pig’s, I think the Black Label is actually the better value. Don’t take that as a slam of the Pig’s burger but as a qualifying observation. I’d gladly order this again when I come here (oh, there will be future visits) though maybe I’ll try to work my way through the other enticing entrees before I circle back to the burger.