Burgers Ordered: Brad – The Bibimbap Burger; Jacki – The Hanoi Burger
The Experience: A bit of a change of pace thiz week. Matt went to see hiz family and got a lesson in how to barbecue a burger while there. Sam had to wait tablez. Brad’z girlfriend Jacki saw an opening to be a guest burgermeister and took Brad to a place she’d heard had the best burger in America.
This past April, Eater ran a seriez of online polez to determine who their readerz thought were the best burgerz available in Portland, Miami, Seattle, Austin, Washington D.C., Chicago, New York City, San Francisco and Los Angelez (how Detroit and the Red Coat Burger waz left off the list is at best a case of national ignorance), and then pitted them against each other to see which waz the best. Over 11,000 people voted and Angelo Sosa’z Social Eatz in the heart of NYC took the big prize by a significant margin.
So iz the hype to be believed? First things first, who is tired of the running gag in the first two paragraphs? We are, and we wrote it! Sosa is obviously looking to turn Social Eatz into a brand, something that is easily noticed by the eye-catching sign, the orange-decor, the restaurant logo printed on every single table and the fact that every section of the menu is punctuated with an apostrophe-z. Branding is all well and good and very important, especially with a concept like Sosa’s that is both unique and ripe for slow expansion. My main problem with the way he’s selling his brand is that the whole “ending a word with a Z instead of an S” thing was cutting edge in 1999 and has now been played out by entertainment media as socially irrelevant as professional wrestling (and that’s coming from a big pro-wrestling lover).
Presentation: Brad and Jacki found all that interesting, but at the end of the day this is a burger blog and the rest is just commentary. The burgers above were ordered medium rare, as usual, and Social Eatz’ infamous fries and a tomato curry soup were both ordered to share. The soup came out cold, but big points to the waiter for bringing out a fresh one and not just reheating the one they’d given us in the first place. Jacki is afraid of curry but it was easy to eat around, and Brad loves curry so the soup was right up his alley.
The burgers arrived cooked as ordered and with the buns on top. However, when we removed the buns it didn’t pull the burger apart. That said there are a few important things to know about the Social Eat’z experience. Almost everything on the menu is Asian inspired. The condiments on the table are no exception as ketchup is gone in favor of Tuong Ot Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce. The burgers came covered in accouterments carefully picked to lend the experience a taste of Asia, so we didn’t mess with the toppings by adding more condiments. Both burgers came with Asian coleslaw, which Brad gave to Jacki because he hates slaw.
Jacki’s burger, the Hanoi, was your typical patty topped with mint, lemongrass, cilantro, red onion and lettuce with a chili mayo and a sweet onion jam. It looked like a burger that Doug Funny would order.
Brad’s Bibimbap Burger, the pride of Social Eatz and the burger that won them the Eater contest, was topped with a slow cooked egg, covered in lettuce and served with pickled carrot and cucumber. Brad was very nervous because, as has been stated on this blog before, he hates vegetables. He would be pleasantly surprised.
Taste: Jacki loved the toasted bun the Hanoi came on. She said the burger was sweet and spicey, tasting the Asian influence immediately. Brad had a bite and agreed that it was both delicious and unique. It was reminiscent of the taste of pad thai. Jacki thought the toppings masked the flavor of the burger, but there’s a family history in her lineage of complaining of such things when they really aren’t that much of a problem.
Was the Bibimbap Burger the best Brad has ever had in the United States? No. It wasn’t the best he’s had in any state that he’s lived in, nor was it the best burger he’s had since this blog began. However, it was the most unique burger he has ever had and it was certainly delicious. He tasted hints of many of his favorite Asian dishes: spring roles, fried rice. OK that last one is just because it too includes egg, but he loves it nonetheless. It was as messy as any burger he’s had, including last week’s Ultimelt. He ate more carrots than he’s eaten in years and did so smiling, a testament to the other flavors in the burger.
The fries were also quite good and equally unique tasting. They came with some kind of Asian mustard that wasn’t so great. But the fries themselves tasted a bit like fried chow mein noodles, which was a plus in our books. We asked for ketchup, which Jacki liked, but Brad ate them without.
The Verdict: Are these the best burgers in America? Does the Bibimbap Burger triumph over all others? No and no, so the search continues. However, if you like Asian food and burgers, or you’re just looking for a very unique burger-eating experience, you could do a lot worse than Social Eatz. Just try not to let all the Z’s get to you.
Social Eatz is located at 232 East 53rd Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenue.