We didn’t plan this. The stop at The Patriot on the southern fringes of Tribeca was mostly spontaneous (admittedly, the desire for the bar’s superb sliders increases with relative proximity to bar).
And the decision to order a steakhouse burger from Rare Bar and Grill in the West Village, a couple of hours later, was entirely spontaneous — if tangentially indebted to the previous consumption of sliders. (The decision was prompted by the discussion of the $21 burger, which was prompted by walking by Rare and picking up a take-out menu, the interest in which might have been prompted by the fact that we’d just polished off a couple of beers, a half-dozen cheeseburger sliders and a basket of onion rings at The Patriot.)
But damn, what a mash-up! In jumping from $1.50 cheeseburger sliders (left) to a $21 steakhouse burger (right), we leap-frogged about 95% of the burgers of New York City. The whole thing was a little heady … and yes, a little indulgent. Here’s how the two experiences stacked up:
The Patriot: One of downtown Manhattan’s proudest dive bars. The jukebox (mostly country, with a smattering of classic rock) is played many decibels too loud, the beer is cold and cheap — $8 pitchers of PBR, $5.50 Beck’s bombers (24 oz.) — the bartenders the epitome of “girls who just wanna have fun.” The Patriot is such a booze-centric bar that it’s surprising that there’s a kitchen here at all, let alone one that turns out good (cheap!) sliders.
I can’t vouch for much else on the short menu, because once I tried the cheeseburger sliders I haven’t deviated (other than to add the occasional basket of onion rings or french fries, both of which are fairly average).
But these sliders: Mini char-grilled patties, still a touch pink inside — just because they’re small doesn’t mean they have to be overcooked — each one is a perfect 2-3 bites of soft, sweet bun-to-burger ratio, the white American cheese a molten mass melding burger to bun. The sliders are served all nestled together in a parchment paper-lined basket with just a side of sliced pickles and some ketchup packets for company. I guarantee you’ll wind up with baskets that look like this, the scene of absolute belly satisfaction.
Rare Bar & Grill: Get up and spin around in circles a few times. That’s sort of how it felt to open up this take-out container, revealing this stunning burger specimen, called the Bleeker Burger: 8 oz. of chopped New York strip steak, topped with provolone, sauteed onions, crispy bacon, and accompanied by such premium accouterments as this succulent, sunny-yellow tomato slice, pickles from the Lower East Side and a towering brioche bun.
Each of Rare’s steakhouse burgers ($21), are made from specific cut (or cuts) of premium beef — tenderloin, ribeye, NY strip steak, T-bone (a blend of sirloin and sirloin and strip) — the distinction of the burger being you really taste the steak, beyond the big beefiness a good burger offers.
It’s decadent, and a little confusing: Who eats steak chopped up like this and stuck between a bun? Part of the joy I get out of eating a steak is slicing through the meat, slicing of just that perfect bite and really savoring the meat for what it is. I found myself pulling out nuggets of steak from the patty, and happily munching on those, between larger bites. I also found myself wishing the beef hadn’t been “infused with Cajun spices” — not necessary, let the meat shine through. (Oddly, all the steakhouse burgers have some sort of “flavor” to them.)
I couldn’t ever quite shake the feeling that this burger is less a burger than a steak in disguise. And why would anyone do that?