On the final day of 2014, NY Eater released a list of the 11 Best New Burgers of that year. Out of that list I quickly picked out a handful of beefy sandwiches that I needed more than anything in life. One of the first burgers that made my “Holy Sh*t, I Gotta Have It” list was “The Burger” at Alder in the East Village.
Even though Alder is still pretty new, you may have heard of it. Does Chef Wylie Dufresne ring a bell? Yeah, him. Dufesne, if you don’t know, is widely considered to be one of, if not THE GUY, behind bringing new techniques that feature science into the kitchen, aka, molecular gastronomy. In 2013 he won a James Beard Award for Best NYC Chef and he was also the former chef/owner of the acclaimed wd-50. wd-50 was awarded a Michelin Star in 2006, but closed on November 30, 2014 so the real estate developer could put up a new building. I’m bummed that I never got to go 😦
Combine my gluttonous feeling after I read that list and the fact that I never got to wd-50 and a visit to Alder became a no-brainer. Shortly after the start of the New Year I hopped a subway after a trip to the MoMA, made the short walk from the Astor Place stop, over to Alder and snagged a barstool.
Before I dive into telling you how freaking great The Burger was you need to know a few things.
First: The Burger is only available Monday – Thursday beginning at 6 p.m. and lasting until “86” (sells out). You cannot get The Burger on Friday or Saturday. Don’t even try, sucka. The Burger is however obtainable on Sundays during brunch until supplies run out.
Second: You cannot order The Burger in the dining room. It’s a “bar only” thing.
Third: It comes two ways. Just “The Burger” for $13 or “All-In” for $21 which includes three French onion soup rings and a Greenport Harbor Ale.
Being the “beer and a burger” guy that I am, I went “All-In.” I noticed right away I wasn’t asked how I wanted my burger cooked. That’s a good sign, it meant they knew to cook it medium rare. While I waited, I scanned the menu and considered ordering a couple more items but I was so dead-set on this burger that I didn’t want to spoil my appetite (the echoes of every parent ever). I figured I would save those other things for another visit.
As I sat there I sipped the Greenport Harbor Ale, a solid brew that was very drinkable and only slightly hoppy. A perfect ale to go with any burger, I thought.
And out it came. A simple but creative burger. Simple in the sense that it wasn’t overloaded with toppings and creative in a way that everything that went into making it was burger bliss.
|Look. No, I’m serious. Look!|
Its blend is a mixture of brisket and chuck, ground in-house and infused with shio kombu kelp. It achieves that perfect amount of fat to lean beef, and super juicy and cooked the way I didn’t order it, but cooked the way I wanted it. Its only topping (don’t you dare use ketchup) is American beer cheese that is gooey but doesn’t run off the burger and all over your hands and lap like at some places; this cheese stays on. The bun is straightforward, a Martin’s Potato Roll, but it’s brushed with beef fat and griddled.
My god, man, my mouth is watering just reliving the experience in my head. I’m willing to bet that most of the bar crowd that night feels the same as I do. I don’t remember a person that sat there that didn’t eventually order one up and devour it soon after.
This appropriately sized burger was so good I could have eaten two and may have tried to stuff down a third but the gravy topped, slightly crispy and surprisingly light, French onion soup rings were a good accompaniment.
|Creamsicle Pudding, cream soda, frozen orange segments, butterscotch candy. Plan on dessert.|
I mentioned my desire to try more of Alder’s menu but it’ll be hard not to keep ordering The Burger every time. Normally I’d end with something cliché like, “Yeah, so go get one!” but something happened here that was way cooler…
Wylie Dufresne walked in after I quickly disposed of his genius burger and while I sipped on a cocktail (save room, the drinks are awesome too). I wanted to geek out, possibly ask for a selfie or something but instead I just said, “Thank you for that burger,” to which he thanked me for saying that and said it meant a lot to hear that.
Yeah, that’s a way cooler ending.
157 Second Avenue
Between 9th and 10th Streets
New York, NY 10003