A handwritten sign in the window at Harriet’s Kitchen says that they have, “Maybe just maybe the best burger you will ever eat.” I’ve been burned by signs like these before. This particular sign is dubious for a lot of reasons. For one thing, Harriet’s has been open at least as long as I’ve been in New York City, and I’ve never heard anyone talk about its burger. For another, the space looks like the American cuisine version of a crappy Chinese food counter, so you know if they had a great burger they’d be a darling of food writers in the city. Finally, there is such a dearth of interesting food choices on the Upper West Side that you’d have to assume there’d be a consistent line of people waiting to purchase this burger at all times, but the restaurant rarely has more than two customers inside in reality.
But a few weeks ago I went on a date with a girl who said she loves this burger, which really caught me by surprise. So I decided to bite the bullet and see what it’s all about.Burger Ordered: Grilled 8oz Applewood Smoked Bacon Cheeseburger
The Taste: Meh. Frankly, I’m impressed that the burger wasn’t straight up bad. The bun was actually pretty tasty, and the crunchy pickles and crispy bacon balanced each other very well. But the bites without those two elements were terribly boring. The caramelized onions were bland, and the cheese (which was somehow not totally melted while being burned at its edges) didn’t set my world on fire. But as usual with places claiming to have a great burger and fail, the main weakness was the patty. It was cooked properly medium rare, but it had almost no flavor to speak of. A half-pound patty is pretty huge, and to trudge through it with no burst of salt or umami is a really trial.
The Verdict: A real king doesn’t need to tell you he’s the king, and a restaurant serving “maybe the best burger you will ever eat” shouldn’t have to have a big ugly sign in the window telling you so. That said, Harriet’s is leaning really heavily on the word “maybe,” and you don’t need to go out of your way for it.
Harriet’s Kitchen is located at 502 Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan, New York.