The Bad Apple, a new corner pub and grill in Lincoln Square, advertises that it proudly serves burgers made from Pat La Frieda beef. If you just thought, “Who the hell is that?” you’re not alone. During my two visits, I overheard a half-dozen people ask the same question. New York foodies are likely the only ones to know the answer—Pat La Frieda is a wholesale butcher that’s been operating out of Manhattan for nearly a century, only recently coming into vogue thanks to customers like Shake Shack and Little Owl. I don’t doubt that the company puts out a good product (I’ve enjoyed a couple of Shake Shack burgers, but liked the fries more). But remove the name from the Bad Apple’s menu and I doubt anyone would associate the burger with the seal of excellence implied by the La Frieda reference.
And it’s not the kitchen’s fault: The burgers were cooked medium-rare, as ordered. The issue lies with the somewhat bland beef and the lack of juice (clearly a result of an overly lean meat-to-fat ratio). Without the bells and whistles of the various toppings, the burger just wasn’t impressive. Likewise, a “beer-can chicken” sandwich, a chickpea salad and a starter of house-cured salmon were serviceable but not memorable. (The skin-on fries, crisped to a deep brown and liberally salted, were the sole standout.) Couple this with a far from cozy room, and it’s tough figuring out why the place was packed each night. Owners Craig Fass and Mandy Franklin have accumulated a loyal following via their former haunts Menagerie and Cooper’s, and the Bad Apple’s craft beer list and infused-vodka lineup are admirable. Still, it just doesn’t register as a badass-burger destination, no matter who’s behind the grind.
By Heather Shouse. Photographs by Lindsaay Gallup.