Admittedly I’m a French bistro junkie. Over the years I’ve been to more bistro’s in NYC than I can count and I’ve a list of tried and true favorites I return to again and again. I remember visiting Raoul’s for the stellar steak frites and planned to return, however somehow it had dropped off my radar until I read a piece in Esquire recently claiming it served the best burger in America. Now you can find Raoul’s on many a top bistro list, but you’d be hard pressed to find it on any of NYC’s favorite burger lists. From writer Josh Ozersky’s description a revisit to this Soho classic was definitely in order.
For many years I hardly touched red meat but when I treated myself to a burger I had a 1 mile rule before and after dinner to walk off the guilt. Since it was a beautiful summer night, and considering the decadent review, I took a leisurely stroll to Soho after work wondering if I’d get to Raoul’s in time to snag one of the 12 daily orders of the famed burger available only at the bar, which doesn’t contain more than 8 or 10 seats. Being a Saturday night in NYC I was able to find a seat when I arrived at 6:15, way before the weekend dinner rush. After being greeted by Doug (one of the nicest bartenders I’ve had the pleasure to meet), I ordered a refreshing sparkling rose from Languedoc and sampled some of the slightly spicy house made chips given gratis at the bar. Truly a great pairing to start my night!
Doug explained that during the week they regularly sell out of the burgers at 6 pm (a mere 30 minutes after they open at 5:30) but on weekends the average is 7:30. Looking around every other bar patron there was quietly entranced over a plate of burger and fries so I decided to order and see what all the fuss was about.
The fuss? Definitely. Worth. It. Some may think it bougie to dress a burger like this but it lives up to all it’s fancy trappings. This dish is true food porn, a divine guilty pleasure, like a lover you know is bad for you it tempts you to surrender your sanity and save your regrets for the morning after. The luscious brisket-heavy LaFrieda blend patty is topped with a dollop of triple-cream St. Andre cheese, wilted watercress, paper-thin slices of cornichon, slathered with just the correct amount of piquant pepper mayo and served a top a glistening brioche bun, along with a dish of cognac cream dipping sauce dotted with green peppercorns and crispy shoestring fries cooked in duck fat. Another glass of sparkling rose cut the richness of the meat and the cream sauce as well as being a good match with the fries.
Others may wax poetic about American cheese topped patties with gourmet bacon and house made ketchup but I’ve found my burger love. Now, if I can just sneak back downtown at the correct time when I get a craving……