Minetta Tavern has been on my list of places to go for quite
some time. The hype around the Black Label Burger being NYC's "best burger" was my only reason for wanting to go. Its kind of crazy how long it took to get there as I consider myself a burger aficionado. Maybe it took me so long because its nearly impossible to get a reservation. Or maybe because they only recently started serving lunch. Maybe I was waiting for a fellow burger lover to enjoy it with? Either way, I finally made it and thats all that matters.
It was a bit of a business meeting; but the only business we talked was regarding this week's festivities and how pumped we were to eat this burger. Our waitress was a total nutcase. She brought so much energy, it was a bit overwhelming. She bounced back and forth from the cramped tables reciting the same spiel for every table. I think she must have been an actress because she definitely put herself on a stage. I admire her liveliness, but I'm not quite sure if it was genuine. Another waitress came over at one point to try to upsell us on another appetizer, but we saw rightthrough the act. Besides the service, the vibe was bustling. The place packed out and it got to be pretty loud and chaotic--reminded me of a steakhouse. The decor struck me as an old time saloon dressed up for the holidays.
We started off with roasted bone marrow which was incredible. Not only did I use up all the crispy baguettes that accompanied the marrow, but I also used the hard bread that they gave us to start our meal. Not only was the bone marrow delicious, but it was a unique dish that you can't find at too many places. For our entree we got the Black Label Burger, a mix of dry-aged Creekstone beef cuts, topped with caramelized onions. The burger also came with fries, which were among the best I've ever had. Our crazy waitress told us the secret behind the fries was double-frying them in peanut oil. I was surprised there was no exclaimer about peanut oil considering there are so many peanut allergies out there. Anyway, the fries were awesome! The burger was pretty damn good too. Worth $26?...I think so. It was probably the juiciest, most tender burger I ever ate. The flavor was great too-- you tasted the quality of the beef and not all the crazy special sauces that burgers get lost in. Its like when you go out for sushi and your friend dunks a perfectly fresh piece of tuna in soy sauce and adds a huge chunk of wasabi--you've lost the flavor of the fish.
After leaving Minetta it occurred to me that its kind of a steakhouse. The menu reflects more options than a steakhouse; but the menu also revolves around their awesome meat program. Although the Black Label Burger gets a lot of attention, the steaks are suppose to rival any steakhouse in NYC. The Cote De Beouf for 2 ($124) is debated to be the best steak in NYC. They also have the NY Strip which garners much attention in the world of carnivores. Too full for dessert, they nudged us along and had our table reset before I put on my jacket.
Overall, Minetta Tavern was pretty delicious and now I see why its so hard to come across a prime-time reservation. The service was a bit pushy with their upselling and turn-the-tables mentality, but I guess thats expected. You go for the food. Keith McNally shows why he's one of NYC prominent restauranteurs.