Life of the patty

The authors behind TONY's 2004 list of the 100 best burgers are back, only to discover that the everyman's sandwich has gotten...fancy. They encounter personalized mixes of beef, freshly made buns and sea salt on the fries, and pick the ten best of the newfangled bunch.

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Photograph: Jeff Gurwin, David Rosenzweig

1. Market Table
54 Carmine St at Bedford St (212-255-2100); $12

What's in the Beef


Eight ounces of a 50-50 sirloin-and-brisket blend developed by Pat LaFrieda. The loose grind lets the juices flow freely.

How it's cooked


Grilled and then finished off in a salamander (a type of broiler) with salt and pepper, it arrives a perfectly cooked medium-rare.

Toppings


White cheddar, house-made pickles, carmelized onions, lettuce and tomato. The flavors work in concert—a symphony of a burger.

Bun


Made in-house with white flour, chopped herbs and roasted garlic—the same recipe used for the restaurant’s bread sticks.

Bonus points


Addictive fries dusted with parsley, salt and Old Bay—it’s the seasoning chef-owner Mike Price used at the Mermaid Inn.

NEXT: Telepan


Photograph: Jeff Gurwin, David Rosenzweig

2. Telepan
72 W 69th St at Columbus Ave (212-580-4300); with the $28 prix-fixe lunch and brunch

What's in the Beef


The hormone-free chuck from Niman Ranch is ground on-site.

How it's cooked


Grilled to order (we like it medium rare), with a great char.

Toppings


Nueske’s smoked bacon and a tangy Vermont cheddar nicely complement the patty—also with Romaine lettuce, plum tomato and red onion.

Bun


The toasted sesame seed bun from Amy’s Bread is a bit too small for the fist-size burger—a minor downside.

Bonus points


An onion ring “mountain” spews forth french fry “lava.” House-made pickles and beets are also a nice touch.

NEXT: Prune


Photograph: Jeff Gurwin, David Rosenzweig

3. Prune
54 E 1st St between First and Second Aves (212-677-6221); $12

What's in the Beef


The addition of ground lamb to the beef (from Pino’s Prime Meats in the Soho) gives this burger a unique, gamey taste.

How it's cooked


The Georgia O’Keeffe of burgers, the dainty six-ounce cooked-to-order patty is seasoned with salt and pepper, then grilled.

Toppings


Few distractions here: The presence of a single add-on, cheddar cheese, means the meat gets to shine. The optional bacon is broiled to a crisp.

Bun


A large toasted Thomas’ English muffin, brushed with a delectable compound butter with shallots, garlic and parsley, catches the burger’s juices.

Bonus points


If McDonald’s did high-end fries, they’d taste like these: crisp and skinny. We just wish the portion were bigger.

NEXT: Back Forty


Photograph: Jeff Gurwin, David Rosenzweig

4. Back Forty
190 Ave B at 12th St (212-388-1990); $10

What's in the Beef


Grass-fed beef from La Cense Beef in Montana, the entirely hormone-free meat is described as a “steakburger” by chef-owner Peter Hoffman because of its premium beef blend.

How it's cooked


Char-grilled with a sprinkling of salt. It’s recommended medium-rare and comes with a heavenly crust.

Toppings


The butter lettuce, sliced house-made pickles and red onion come free; pay $2 extra for thick heritage bacon or a farmhouse cheddar that got our saliva flowing.

Bun


A thick Amy’s Bread sesame seed bun sporting beautiful grill marks adds just enough texture and soaks up errant juices.

Bonus points


Fries ($5 extra), seasoned with sea salt and fresh rosemary, come with a nice homemade ketchup with a hint of allspice.

NEXT: Shorty’s .32


Photograph: Jeff Gurwin, David Rosenzweig

5. Shorty’s .32
199 Prince St between MacDougal and Sullivan Sts (212-375-8275); $14

What's in the Beef


A blend of sirloin, short ribs and other beef is ground daily on-site, and has a 20 percent fat content for a rich mouthfeel.

How it's cooked


Grilled, lightly charred and expertly seasoned with salt and pepper. Served medium-rare.

Toppings


A choice of cheddar, blue cheese or Gruyère, plus iceberg lettuce, which chef Josh Eden likes for its clean taste and crunch.

Bun


A toasted and buttered cloudlike brioche roll from Tom Cat Bakery.

Bonus points


Outstanding Belgian-style fries are appropriately salty and crispy—not greasy. Plus, sweet-and-tart sliced house pickles.

NEXT: 67 Burger


Photograph: Jeff Gurwin, David Rosenzweig

6. 67 Burger
67 Lafayette Ave at Fulton St, Fort Greene, Brooklyn (718-797-7150); $6.25–$9

What's in the Beef


Seven ounces of ground chuck mixed with tenderloin, this is the workhorse burger—reliable and tasty every time.

How it's cooked


The burger is char-grilled to order, with a bit of smoky flavor. It’s especially juicy when cooked medium-rare.

Toppings


Variety is king: There are 14 signature burgers, plus seven cheeses and 15 toppings including tapenade and crispy artichokes. All come with tomatoes, red onion, lettuce and pickles.

Bun


A great seeded bun from Brooklyn’s Pechter’s Bakery stands up nicely to the overflowing toppings.

Bonus points


The best onion rings and sweet-potato fries of the bunch, plus creamy milk shakes that act as a foil to the salty sides.

NEXT: BLT Burger


Photograph: Jeff Gurwin, David Rosenzweig

7. BLT Burger
470 Sixth Ave between 11th and 12th Sts (212-243-8226); $11

What's in the Beef


The BLT burger comprises seven ounces of certified Black Angus sirloin, chuck, short rib and brisket from Pat LaFrieda, ground daily.

How it's cooked


Grilled to order with a good char: The burger’s richness is helped along by the addition of sweet butter from Keller’s Creamery in upstate New York.

Toppings


“BLT sauce”—ketchup, mayo and relish—that suspiciously resembles McDonald’s, and bread-and-butter pickles, iceberg lettuce and tomato.

Bun


The Arnold’s sesame-seed bun reminds us of another fast-food stalwart, the Whopper, and brings this burger down a notch.

Bonus points


Excellent Vidalia onion rings fried in a “healthy” mix of peanut and soy oils, and a killer Black Cow float (cola and chocolate ice cream).

NEXT: Primehouse


Photograph: Jeff Gurwin, David Rosenzweig

8. Primehouse
381 Park Ave South at 27th St (212-824-2600); $14

What's in the Beef


This ten-ounce behemoth, made from 80 percent chuck and 20 percent tenderloin, is ground fresh daily.

How it's cooked


The burger is broiled with a nice char; though the meat could be packed looser, it’s still three-napkin juicy.

Toppings


Applewood smoked bacon with Maytag blue cheese could be a meal in itself.

Bun


A major plus: The pillow-soft pretzel bun is baked daily in Primehouse’s bakery and toasted under the broiler before being served.

Bonus points


Fries are fat wedges of skin-on potatoes that evoke the flavor of a baked potato; they’re especially good topped with Asiago cheese and truffle oil ($2.50 extra).

NEXT: Resto


Photograph: Jeff Gurwin, David Rosenzweig

9. Resto
111 E 29th St between Park and Lexington Aves (212-685-5585); $13

What's in the Beef


An ambitious blend of beef cheek (from Pennsylvania’s Four Story Hill Farm) with hanger steak and fatback (from DeBragga and Spitler) ground daily on-site.

How it's cooked


Panfried, the burger is available only one way: cooked through—no exceptions. The result is meat-loaf–like.

Toppings


Gruyère, house-made mayo, Heinz pickles and red onion—an interesting combination on both the texture and salty-sweet fronts.

Bun


They chose the plain white bun, from Rockland Bakery, for its “Pepperidge Farm feel”—we found it lifeless.

Bonus points


The Belgian-cut frites are twice-fried with an admirable crunch; a choice of six dipping sauces includes mayo and sweet chili. For health: market greens come on the side.

NEXT:Stand


Photograph: Jeff Gurwin, David Rosenzweig

10. Stand
24 E 12th St between Fifth Ave and University Pl (212-488-5900); $9–$11

What's in the Beef


The house burger is a Pat LaFrieda blend of chuck, short ribs and brisket, producing a respectable 78–22 beef-to-fat ratio.

How it's cooked


The burger takes a turn on the grill and comes medium-rare (unless otherwise requested)—and flowing with juices.

Toppings


The sundry choices include green-peppercorn sauce, onion marmalade and shredded lettuce. Don’t overlook the ketchup—made in-house from more than 20 ingredients.

Bun


There are four different buns: brioche, plain, sesame, poppy seed—all from Reliable Bakery.

Bonus points


Regional microbrews are a nice touch, as are the homemade sodas, like fresh blackberry, and the thick milk shakes made with Il Laboratorio gelato.

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