The Experience: The Polo Bar has become a hot topic in the New York City dining world as of late, thanks in large part to the near impossible obstacles the restaurant puts in potential diners’ ways of getting a reservation. I am lucky enough that my friend Dan, a founding member of the Cheapo Deluxe Burger Society, inherited a reservation from a friend and invited me along because he heard good things about the Polo Bar Burger. I put on my blazer and decided to embrace the sceney atmosphere.
After sitting at the bar a while waiting for my full party to arrive, the vibe of the Polo Bar became clear: people are in the restaurant to see who is there and to be seen there. Once seated however, it became clear that Polo Bar might be playing a little trick on New York City; a noticeable amount of the tables were empty. Throughout the evening, many tables went unfilled. And yet, people have to wait months to get a reservation here. It all felt a little ridiculous. However, you’re not here (necessarily) to hear me rant about restaurant politics. You want to know if the burger is worth playing Polo Bar’s game.
Burger Ordered: The Polo Bar Burger
The Taste: The Polo Bar burger is a perfectly enjoyable steakhouse burger. The meat is provided by Gibson’s Restaurant Group, a partner of Ralph Lauren’s culinary endeavors out of Chicago, and the only restaurant group in the United States that has its own USDA certification. The Black Angus patty it of high quality, and of the flavor that I’ve come to expect from steakhouses that serve hamburgers. That said, I had almost hoped that because of the buzz about this burger, and the roadblocks the restaurant puts in New Yorkers’ ways to get a taste of it, that the burger would have been something more memorable, even exceptional. It was good, but there was nothing that set it apart from the burger at Peter Luger (which has its own unique and outstanding bacon) or the burger at American Cut (which is made from entirely in-house elements).
As such, the Polo Bar Burger is the featured burger of the week this week not because it is one that you MUST eat, but because it is one that you are UNLIKELY to ever get the opportunity to eat. And yet, I do think that eating at the Polo Bar is something you should do if given the opportunity. All of the dishes and cocktails I consumed while I was there were tasty. My party’s waiter was kind, funny, and personable. The atmosphere was warm and it helped me have a hell of a good time with my friends.
The Verdict: The burger at the Polo Bar should not be considered a destination burger in New York City, despite the fact that it is quite good and the fact that it is one of the more affordable items on the menu. The Polo Bar should be patronized because one should see for themselves, if they can get a reservation, what a true New York City “scene” looks like.
The Polo Bar is located at 1 East 55th Street in Manhattan, New York.