Lettuce, Tomato, and Hip-Hop: Flattopps Has Astoria’s Best New Burger

Not one but two whole egg rolls balance precariously on Flattopps’ Flying Guillotine burger. Even more alarming: They’re there on purpose, and not the work of some deranged glutton who broke in to the kitchen and took the cooks hostage. The $10 sandwich is named after a lyric from “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta Fuck Wit” that itself references a decapitating martial-arts weapon popularized in several 1970s wuxia films. And though the end result won’t “chop off your fucking head,” as the song promises, this beefy ode to Americanized Chinese cuisine does wade into legitimately mind-bending places. The crisp egg rolls are filled with shrimp and shreds of duck, the whole thing slicked with a duck-sauce-esque orange glaze.

Perplexingly, the combination works — both in its sweet-salty harmony and as a fittingly outlandish tribute to the hip-hop legends. Restaurateur and self-taught chef Donnie D’Alessio, known for the gonzo Astoria greasy spoon Queens Comfort, remembers watching from his father’s pet shop in 1993 as the group took over a Jamaica Avenue parking lot to promote their debut, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). As he tells the Voice, “I was thirteen and it was the coolest shit I ever saw.”

That wide-eyed admiration drives the wacky, bun-bound anarchy at this neon-splashed, relentlessly Nineties-themed Ditmars Boulevard hangout. Its DJ turntable booth, arcade machines, wood-paneled walls, and nonstop pulsing soundtrack all work to make the place feel like a funky basement rec room. Queens native D’Alessio and his executive chef, Hernan Heras, source their beef from the nearby International Meat Market and griddle-smash their patties to form a nicely browned crust. The duo use Americana as a starting point from which to interpret the hamburger, through a garish prism of hip-hop and five-borough-inspired flavors.

Jewish delicatessens get their due via a special that piles together house-cured pastrami, cheddar, pickles, and peppery Chinese mustard. And the Schnook, a burger drenched in vodka sauce and capped with a puck of breaded pepperoni and mozzarella, winks at D’Alessio’s own Italian-American family kitchen. Former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy inspires a chicken burger with a buffalo wings twist, via blue cheese and maple-syrup-sweetened hot sauce. And even though Flattopps isn’t intended for burger purists, its archetypal “original” version — sporting caramelized onions, American cheese, and a properly squishy toasted potato bun — remains pleasantly uncompromised.

Then there are the almost parodic creations, like the Gucci Mane burger, which celebrates the infamous Atlanta rapper and exemplifies the pinnacle (and pitfalls) of Heras and D’Alessio’s over-the-top philosophy. The kitchen eschews standard buns for floppy slabs of brioche french toast, then loads Cap’n Crunch–crusted bacon onto gruyère-covered beef. It’s an unwieldy and overwhelming recipe that also layers on raspberry jam and powdered sugar.

Not everyone will appreciate Flattopps’ raucous party vibe or the check’s cheeky parting message to “Stay dope!” And the place has wisely done some self-editing, renaming items like “Ghetto Blasters,” a fried-chicken patty appetizer now dubbed “the Nasty Boyz” on the menu. “Do they seriously have purple drank?” a young woman asked her tablemates disbelievingly one night after noticing the Purple Urkel, a vodka-and-grape slush that tastes great despite itself. At the boomerang-shaped bar, you can also sip hipster suds like ICONYC’s cucumber saison and Harambe, a chocolatey stout from Glendale’s Finback Brewery named for the late, great zoo animal.

Everything here seems geared toward immoderation and revelry. Small-plate specials like pulled-pork nuggets and “animal-style” beef empanadas can and should be shared, if only to spread the calories around. That house pastrami, which takes almost a week to cure, shows up in a duo of gluttonous appetizers, shaved over cheese fries or stuffed into jalapeño peppers. It’s no surprise, then, that the lone dessert at Flattopps is a “Billionaires” ice cream cake, which finds disparate layers (vanilla, chocolate, and cookies-and-cream) interspersed with pound cake, hot fudge, and M&Ms. Luckily, it’s not off-limits to non-one-percenters; finishing it should at least make you feel like a million bucks.

33-06 Ditmars Boulevard, Queens; 718-267-0400


Aussie Outpost Ruby’s Brings Its Famed Burgers to Murray Hill

If you like beachy, sun-drenched lunches dreamed up by self-confessed surfer dudes — avocado toasts, kale salads, light pastas, organic banana bread, and the like — but don’t want to stray from Soho, then you’ve probably already discovered Ruby’s (442 Third Avenue; 212-300-4245). But if you’re still waiting on a table at that petite bastion of calm on Mulberry Street, good news: A second branch opened in Murray Hill this summer.

“I’m excited,” says Nick Mathers, partner and co-founder of Ruby’s. “Our landlord owns that building too, and when he heard we were looking for a new place, he suggested it to us. So far, it’s been going pretty smoothly for an opening. Touch wood. There haven’t been a lot of dramas!”

With a menu reminiscent of its Soho sister venue, and with a similarly relaxed vibe, the Murray Hill location has set out to make its own mark. “It’s Ruby’s, but we wanted it to have its own feel,” explains Mathers. “We’re focusing a bit more on the drinks program. We have some cocktails on tap and a really nice wine list. It’s a bit more grown-up.”

Cocktails include the Ruby’s Spritz — a vermouth, prosecco, citrus-scented glass of bubbles — and a summer-greens juice that looks like yoga in a glass but has a glug of sake to bring the edge.

“There’s a crispy rice bowl with grilled haloumi that I love,” says Mathers. “There’s lots of herbs, lemon, tomatoes, topped with a fried egg — all good! And you’re still gong to find some great burgers!”

More than anything else, the burgers put Ruby’s on the map a decade ago, making it a must-try on the New York City meat circuit. Unlike most of its rivals, which focused on meat-only patties, the Ruby’s burger blended beef with balsamic, onions, peppers, and sweet chile sauce. And in addition to melted cheese, you can have your burger topped with pineapple, a slice of beet, a fried egg, and avocado. (These are the toppings you should absolutely get on your next patty, by the way.)

“Back then,” Mathers recalls, “we made a lot of burgers. I had this idea in mind, a memory really, of a burger I had back in Australia, at a deli near Whale Beach. We made hundreds of different versions before we settled on our menu. After that, I could hardly look at a burger because I’d eaten so many. And in those days, we didn’t have a hood in the kitchen, so everyone who walked in the café would walk out smelling of burgers. But, luckily for us, I guess they thought it was worth it!”

Kale Salad
Kale Salad

Ruby’s also made a name for itself serving nut milks, passion fruit preserves, kale salads, and chile-flecked avocado toasts before they became staples for every café with a chalkboard and an Instagram account.

“We were making the things that were really familiar to us from home,” says Mathers. “Flat-white coffee is just how coffee is! My mum always drinks flat whites, so I didn’t think twice when I put it on the menu. There are sausage rolls, Vegemite…things Americans didn’t really know about so much. That wasn’t a calculated thing. We were just making what we knew.”

For Mathers, the journey from the beaches of Sydney to downtown Manhattan was conceived as an elongated layover.

“I was 23. I was on my way to London to see my girlfriend, and I came via New York because I’d always wanted to visit and I had a few friends who lived here — a photographer and a model,” he recalls. “They said if I got a bike and rode around I’d never want to leave. I did get a bike in Central Park, and I rode around the city all day, and then I knew I wanted to be here. Everything just felt right. It was like a dream.”

Mathers’s dream led to a fortuitous introduction to Tim Sykes, a fellow Aussie and future Ruby’s business partner (along with Thomas Lim). “I met a girl in a laundromat who invited me to her birthday party, and that’s where I met Tim,” Mathers says. “The only question in my mind was how to get a visa to stay. That’s where Ruby’s came from. I started it as a coffee shop, then it became a little café, and that’s the story.”

Mathers has used his success with Ruby’s to branch out into other ventures, but this second outpost of the place that started it all is his first foray into expanding a brand.

“I’m excited to be doing it. It feels like coming full circle, really. But one step at a time,” Mathers cautions. “It’s really important that we don’t just plant a Ruby’s somewhere. It has to belong to the place. It needs its own individual twist, its own design, its own menu. That’s what exciting about it to me. Well…that and the burger.”


This Week in Food: Free Burgers, Le Savoir, ‘Chef Story’ Live

Free Shake Shack Burgers
All Shake Shack Locations
Tuesday, 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Huzzah! Shake Shack has opened its 100th location, and all its New York City locations are offering a free, single ShackBurger to the first 100 guests of the day. The offer is valid from 10:30 a.m. until noon, but we have a feeling it pays to be an early bird.

Half-Priced Wine Night
BKW by Brooklyn Winery (747 Franklin Avenue, Brooklyn)
Tuesday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Order two dishes (each $10 or more), and you’ll be able to toast your meal with select bottles of Brooklyn Winery’s goods, which are half price on Tuesdays from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m.

Frida Kahlo/Diego Rivera Anniversary Dinner

Dos Caminos (Park Avenue) (373 Park Avenue South)
Tuesday, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Chef Ivy Stark will host a three-course dinner (along with tequila pairings) inspired by  Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s anniversary. Feast on oyster soup, avocado tostaditas, braised beef short ribs, and — of course — wedding cake. Dinner is $95 per person (not including tax or gratuity). Reserve your spot by contacting Dos Caminos’s Park Avenue location.

Le Savoir

Skylight Clarkson Square (550 Washington Street)
Wednesday through August 22

Stella Artois’s Le Savoir is headed to New York for a week of interactive dining experiences thanks to “culinary wizards” Bompas and Parr. The event includes includes theatrical entertainment inside a “forgotten garden” that promises to awaken the senses. Dinner is $145 per person. Reserve your spot here.

Chef’s Story Live
International Culinary Center (462 Broadway)
Thursday, 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Sit in on a live taping of Heritage Radio Network’s Chef’s Story podcast featuring chef Ignacio Mattos. The interview will cover Mattos’s notable restaurant openings including Estela and Cafe Altro Paradiso. The conversation will also touch upon the chef’s life growing up in Uruguay. Make a free reservation here.


Fly Your Freak Flag at Ethyl’s Alcohol and Food With Chef Paul Gerard

Chef Paul Gerard is of that unique breed of born-and-bred New York City chefs who can legitimately own gritty memories of Times Square in the Seventies, the drugged-out music scene of the East Village in the Eighties, and the hardass Brooklyn kitchens at work before Brooklyn was considered cool on an international scale. And he wants you to snag a bit of that old New York in his new Upper East Side joint, Ethyl’s Alcohol & Food (1629 Second Avenue; 212-300-4132).

Gerard was a busboy in Brooklyn at the ripe age of twelve. By thirteen, he was a dishwasher, thrown into the back of house because he refused to cut his lengthening hair. “They had a rock ‘n’ roll sensibility to them, but they were into it,” he tells the Voice of his first kitchen experience. “They’d be sitting with red devils, smoking some weed, with other ‘dry goods’ in front of them, reading cookbooks, and I thought it was great.”

There, he learned classic Italian-American cuisine and how to survive a kitchen: “When I was coming up, you came to work with ‘I hope I don’t get fired.’ You’d work your ass off, harder and harder. If the chef didn’t speak to you, that was a good day.” He stayed in the city until he was 21 then cooked largely in New Orleans through the Nineties before returning home to stints at Sweetwater, China Grill Management, the Soho Grand Hotel, and Soho House. He then opened his first venture as a partner, Exchange Alley, and followed up as the chef consultant to Belle Reve.

Crispy calamari at Ethyl's
Crispy calamari at Ethyl’s

Ethyl’s is all about the 1970s. Glossy red-and-black walls are filled with framed photos of “poets, punks, movie stars, artists, rock stars, and foxy ladies.” The back corner houses a stage where DJs like Ronnie Magri, Linda Rizzo, and Cochon de Lait spin funk, soul, and disco as a ball shimmers overhead. Depending on the hour, you might walk through a door framed with floating bubbles and find go-go dancers like Velvetina Taylor or Delysia La Chatte shimmying away. There’s live music, comedy, and fun late on every weekend night.

“I wanted to go back further to my core of my nostalgia, to the things that dazzled me as a kid,” says Gerard, who came up with the majority of the “concept” for the space. “My mother would take me to a Broadway play, and I can remember her wrapping her fingers around my eyes in Times Square…me peeking through them, looking for the little circle with an X on it, at the giant billboards, the way Times Square used to be. Charlie’s Angels, The Six Million Dollar Man, the Fonz, the soundtrack from Chico and the Man, Paul Simon, disco…all of those things are the world I grew up in.”

The menu doesn’t represent a particular time or place, though; it’s bar food. Gerard pulled in chef Joel Luna, who worked with him at the Grand Hotel and Soho House, along with other cooks who’ve migrated with him from place to place and so know Gerard’s technique and style. In their hands, plates of calamari, shrimp cocktails, and chicken wings are made with a far better pedigree than a bar food menu usually implies.

“We’re making simpler food, but it doesn’t mean we approach it any differently,” Gerard promises. “The same technique to reduce a demi is going into the Valentina hot sauce for the chicken wings. There’s no half-step because it’s chips and guac: It’s still fresh herbs, perfectly pickled chiles, and limes cut a certain way with no seeds in them. The standard hasn’t changed because the format or menu has.”

It’s pretty clear on the written menu. The wheat- and gluten-free crispy calamari come salty, peppery, and bright with lemon, accompanied by chimichurri aioli. Ethyl’s play on potato chips is a mound of beet and sweet-potato chips with herb yogurt. The open-face french fry hero has serious heft. And the Fi-Dolla Burger is as compact and juicy a burger as ever there’s been.

“I know what people want to eat,” Gerard says. “So I approach it from a modest way that, ‘Yeah, it’s a bar menu…’ But bar food doesn’t negate my thirty-plus years in the kitchen and my own standards.”

French Fry Hero at Ethyl's
French Fry Hero at Ethyl’s

There are certain things from his past that he knows wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) fly today. “The kitchens of New York welcomed me with open track-marked arms. I loved that aspect of it,” he reminisces. “The guys I grew up with partied like actual rock stars. But…those guys are either dead or in AA.”

Yet Gerard still misses that darker city. “New York was dirty, gritty, violent, sexy, and sexual. But it was also more of a neighborhood. Everyone knew each other.… New York used to be the place where you could fly your freak flag; people coming to New York were adding to it. It was more liberal. New York doesn’t have as much character now. I wanted Ethyl’s to take us back to that time.”

Ethyl’s already feels like it’s been around awhile: In the one month it’s been open, the bar already looks a bit worse for wear, and the space appears to have seen a few rough nights — in a good way. It’s clean, but not overtly sanitary. And then there’s the team: No matter how much leather or costume they’re wearing (or not), they all appear like they’re in on the fun — and they get your order right. When they ask if you’re digging the party, they seem to legitimately hope so.

“The people I have here are my crew, my family, the neighborhood,” he says. “People say this ‘feels like a downtown place uptown.’ But I say we’re nice! We’re not too cool for school.… The cool people I know are cool, they’re not dicks. Let’s not be dicks! There’s enough trauma in the world; enough bad shit is going on. A little gratitude and being nice to each other makes a world of difference.”

Nachos at Ethyl's
Nachos at Ethyl’s

The newly rolled-out weekend brunch menu dishes up eats like shrimp loaf, breakfast burritos, veggie omelets, and a monte cristo with cayenne maple. Soon, more legit entrées will join the night menu. There are specialty cocktails like the Hot Pants Punch (Sailor Jerry, pineapple, lemon, grenadine, and a Meyers dark rum float) and the Bump and Grind (Bulleit rye, brandy cherries, Barrow’s Intense Ginger Liquor, and Burlesque bitters), along with straight spirits and beer on tap (hailing mostly from the Northeast).

Already, the crowd is a diverse mix: young and old, gay and straight, New York newbies and Upper East Side old-timers. When I ask Gerard how they make that mix happen, he says it goes back to the neighborhood vibe they want to build: “Even if you take everything else away from Ethyl’s — the Seventies theme, the New York theme — people want the experience we’re creating, for the most part. They want a good drink, tasty food, and spending time with people who are fun and cool and friendly. They want to listen to good music and enjoy their time. It’s like, lighten up!”

Party on.


Best Weekend Food Events: Burgers, Wine on Wheels, ‘Alice in Wonderland’ Dinner

Fleishers Craft Butchery Pop-Up
Northern Spy Food Co. (511 E 12th Street)
Friday through Sunday 

Fleishers Craft Butchery will host a burger-filled weekend in the old Northern Spy Food Co. space. Guests can grab three different kinds of burgers, including a classic hamburger, a 100 percent grass-fed burger, or a bacon, egg, and cheeseburger. The menu also includes beef-fat fries, kale salad, and drinks. Dishes range from $6 to $15. The pop-up will be open on Friday (5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.), Saturday (11 a.m. to 11 p.m.), and Sunday (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.).

Thai Restaurant Week
Multiple locations
Friday through Sunday

Take advantage of the final days of Thai Restaurant Week for Songkran (Thai New Year) with lunch and dinner deals. Participating locations — which offer a variety of special off-menu regional dishes — include the Williamsburg and Time Square locations of Qi, and Room Service. Select dishes include spicy papaya salad with crispy salmon, and Chiang Mai curry noodles. The full lineup of restaurants (and offerings) is on the Songrkan Thai Restaurant Week website.

Alice in Wonderland-Themed Dinner
Court Tree Collective (371 Court Street, Brooklyn)
Friday, 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Break out your best top hat or pinafore for an Alice in Wonderland-themed dinner ($77.87). Dishes include mock turtle soup, pork pie, and fried whiting. There will also be plenty of wine, cake, and — of course — tea. Don’t be late for this important date.

Wine on Wheels
City Winery (155 Varick Street)
Saturday, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Wheeling Forward will host its annual Wine on Wheels event with Yannick Benjamin, where guests can enjoy a three-hour wine tasting featuring over 200 wines. More than sixty New York-based sommeliers will attend and help educate guests on varietals, with five seminars planned throughout the evening. Seminar topics include the art of the blind tasting, sake, and natural wines. Tickets start at $95 for the grand tasting. Reserve your spot here.

Brooklyn Mac and Cheese Takedown
Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club (514 Union Street, Brooklyn)
Sunday, 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.

Sample Brooklyn’s best mac and cheese recipes (or make your own for a chance to win culinary prizes) at this all-you-can-eat affair. Contestants must make two trays of an original mac and cheese recipe. Those interested in participating can find more information here. Tickets are $20 for all the mac and cheese you can stomach. Get yours here.


Speedy Romeo Fires Up Brooklyn-Bred Pizzas and Burgers on the Lower East Side

No sleep till… Manhattan?

Despite all its reported cachet, it’s still a hard sell to draw Manhattanites across the river to Brooklyn. At least that’s what Justin Bazdarich and Todd Feldman, co-owners of Speedy Romeo have found. Since opening their first location in 2012 in Clinton Hill — the Brooklyn neighborhood that they both call home — the restaurant has become well known for thin-crust, wood-fired pizza, grilled steaks, and more. While the duo regularly host a crowd that includes locals and those who’ve seen Speedy Romeo on a number of best-of lists, they could barely coax their own families across the East River. So their new, second space at 63 Clinton Street on the Lower East Side already has at least a few potential customers.

“I see friends and family in New Jersey who haven’t been to the Brooklyn restaurant, and they say they’re definitely going to come to the Lower East Side,” Feldman says. “And I’m like, ‘You know you can just drive across the bridge to Brooklyn for five minutes, and you’re there?'”

“I understand it,” Bazdarich says. “I live near the Clinton Hill restaurant, and I don’t have any desire to come into the city — to travel 45 minutes — when everything we need, we’ve got in Brooklyn. But we need to do all these Manhattan people a favor. If they won’t come to us, we’ll come to them.”

So, like their namesake racehorse, they’ve got a good jump out of the starting gate. Those familiar with the Brooklyn location will recognize favorites like the excellent cheeseburger, made with Angus beef and topped with the fascinating (and perhaps not for everyone) Provel cheese and “speedy sauce.” There’s also the Saint Louie pizza, topped with that same oddball cheese as well as Italian sausage, pepperoni, and pickled chilis, and served sliced in small squares rather than big, NYC-style slices.

New additions to the Manhattan location include the Paul’s Boutique pie which was made specially for the new location and named for the Beastie Boys album whose cover was photographed a few blocks away. The pizza is loaded with pastrami from their Lower East Side neighbor Katz’s, plus a dijon béchamel sauce, smoked sauerkraut, fontina cheese, Thousand Island dressing, and a seeded “everything” crust. Much like the Saint Louie, it’s the sort of polarizing pizza that people will try as a dare… and end up hooked or left confused.

Peekytoe crab crostini with a nasturtium vinaigrette and spring vegetables
Peekytoe crab crostini with a nasturtium vinaigrette and spring vegetables

Like the Brooklyn location, Speedy Romeo is only cooking things up on a wood-fired grill or in the wood-fired pizza oven. The oven was a simple red when it arrived at the restaurant, but soon got a paint job to better resemble Eddie Van Halen’s guitar. “It’s a rock ’n’ roll oven,” Feldman explains.

For diners looking for more than pizza, the dishes coming off the grill offer some smokey bites. The wood-roasted artichoke, dressed in a lemon aioli with spring greens and mint, for instance, is a meeting of winter and spring that will still leave room to let you pack in another slice (or, for the more ambitious, a steak). That wood-fired fare has also inspired the cocktail menu, which is the biggest difference between the two outposts, as the Brooklyn spot only has a beer and wine license. With a full liquor license, the Clinton Street space has taken a cue from the cooks to develop a creative drinks menu, featuring a “non-smoking” and a “smoking” section.

The Meadowland
The Meadowland

“We want the kitchen to incorporate its mise en place into the bar,” says Feldman. He adds that they’re kicking around ideas that include smoked pineapple and more. For now, though, it means drinks like the Meadowland on the non-smoking side of the menu, featuring gin, elderflower, maraschino, lemon, grapefruit, and orange zest. On the smoking side, there’s the Diver Down with Lapsang rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, CioCiaro, and a brûléed cinnamon stick.

The liquor store sign in the kitchen came from across the street, after construction workers were "bribed" with a meal.
The liquor store sign in the kitchen came from across the street, after construction workers were “bribed” with a meal.

Manhattan’s Speedy Romeo — a consolidation of two former restaurants — seats about 50 and is decorated with reclaimed windows from Pennsylvania, movie theater benches from the Czech Republic, and a liquor store sign in the kitchen that used to hang across the street, but was taken down during construction. It turned out to be a hot item with lots of people trying to get their hands on it, but the Speedy Romeo guys finally snagged it with what they do best.

“We bribed the construction workers with a meal in Brooklyn,” Feldman reveals.

Todd Feldman (left) and Justin Bazdarich, co-owners of Speedy Romeo
Todd Feldman (left) and Justin Bazdarich, co-owners of Speedy Romeo

After an initial period where Speedy Romeo will serve only dinner Tuesday through Sunday, they’ll gradually add lunch and brunch service, with menus similar to the Brooklyn space. As for how they think their outer-borough success will play out in the new location, Feldman is confident this is the right place for them.

“There’s a Brooklyn feel to it, in a way,” he says. “But we’re with the big boys now. And if we were going to do it, the Lower East Side was where we were going to do it.”


This Week in Food: Choice Eats, Women in Wine, and Wahlburgers Party

Women in Wine, Saxon + Parole, 316 Bowery, Monday, 5 p.m.

Winemakers and importers from across the country (including Oregon’s Willamette Valley and Macari Vineyards in Long Island) will be honored by Saxon + Parole. Speakers will pour a selection of their favorite varietals and discuss their experiences in the industry. Tickets are $20 and include all wine tastings and snacks from the kitchen.

ood Labeling and Packaging Workshop, Goodwin Procter LLP, 620 Eighth Avenue, Monday, 5:30 p.m.

Learn the rules and regulations of building your own food or beverage brand. Guest speakers from Samuel Adams and Goodwin Procter LLP will guide people through the process from start to finish, including the basics of beer label design. The workshop also includes a Q&A session and time to network with fellow food and beverage industry entrepreneurs. Guests can secure a spot in advance here for free.

Wahlburgers Season Premiere Viewing Party, Wahlburgers Coney Island, 3015 Stillwell Avenue, Brooklyn, Wednesday, 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Celebrate the season premiere of Wahlburgers by working your way through the family’s namesake menu items. In addition, a cast member will be on hand to thank guests and fans of the show. Tickets ($100) include select menu items and unlimited beer and wine. (There’s also a cash bar for cocktails and spirits.) Reserve a spot here.

Sushi Rolling Class, Alley Pond Environmental Center, 22806 Northern Boulevard, Queens, Thursday, 6:30 p.m.

Learn how to roll your own sushi in this hands-on demonstration led by a Mizumi Restaurant chef. Students will craft their very own California roll, tekka maki, and masago gunkan. Samples of each dish will be included. Tickets are $20; secure them here.

The Village Voice‘s 9th Annual Choice Eats, Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 West 18 Street, Friday, 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Enjoy a tasting of New York’s top dishes from 65 restaurants selected by the Voice staff.  From juicy American bites by Genuine Superette to Cabalito’s Salvadorian style pupusas, tastings will include a variety of cuisines. Don’t forget to visit Choice Sweets — an entire section dedicated to sweets. Beer and wine will also be available. General admission tickets ($70) include a souvenir tasting glass and unlimited bites; reserve them here.


This Week in Food: Mexican-Swedish Christmas Menu, Burger Night, and Superiority Burger Christmas

Mexican-Swedish Christmas Menu, Fonda (all locations), 40 Avenue B/434 7th Avenue, Brooklyn/189 9th Avenue, Monday through December 30, excluding Christmas Day.

Fonda is offering a Swedish/Mexican Christmas menu beginning Monday at all three of its locations. The mash-up includes Swedish meatballs with chipotle-lingonberry sauce, smoked ham tacos, and rice pudding with cherry compote and gingersnaps. The bar is also offering traditional warm glögg to enjoy.

Collaboration Dinner at Virginia’s Featuring GG’s, Virginia’s, 647 East 11th Street, Monday, 7 p.m.Chef Bobby Hellen of GG’s is headed to Virginia’s for a joint three-course, burger-centric menu. The dinner – $45 per person – includes beer, one of each of the restaurant’s signature burger, and pizza and sides to share for the table. Guests can make a reservation by contacting or contacting the restaurant directly.

Black Tap Ugly Sweater Party, Black Tap Meatpacking, 248 West 14 Street, Tuesday, 8 p.m.

Wear an ugly sweater and eat a beautiful burger at this all-you-can-eat party, which offers an open bar until 11 p.m. Guests can also enjoy an assortment of bar food and live entertainment as part of the $45 per person ticket package, which you can snag here.

Meet Giada de Laurentiis, Williams-Sonoma Columbus Circle, 10 Columbus Circle, Tuesday, 11:30 a.m.

If you’re in search of a last minute unique food-focused gift, Giada De Laurentiis will discuss a few favorite recipes while signing copies of her latest cookbook, Happy Cooking.  Tickets – $41 per person – include a signed copy of the book; reserve one here.

Special Christmas Day Hours, Superiority Burger, 430 East 9th Street,  Friday, 3 to 7 p.m.

As a holiday treat to vegetarians everywhere, Superiority Burger will be opening early on Christmas Day. The burger hot spot is also making candy cane gelato in addition to its regular menu and promises a festive atmosphere complete with a reasonable amount of holiday music.


On Sunday Nights, Bowery Meat Company Has a Damn Good Burger Deal

After a blase day, did you ever decide to treat yourself to an indulgent meal, like say, a $22 burger? When you bit in and the juice dripped down the side of your hands, did you feel, at the very least, as if a big fog had been lifted? Have you ever picked up a check only to discover the meal you planned to fork over $22 for was only $15?

That happened to us at Bowery Meat Company (9 East 1st Street; 212-460-5255) and it was one of those rare moments of absolute joy. Every Sunday the regularly priced $22 burger is featured for $15 on industry night.

We know, $15 for a ground meat patty sandwich isn’t exactly cheap. However, in this landscape of dry-aged, foie-gras topped creations, New Yorkers have become accustomed to laying out $25 to $30 — or more — for patties that used to top out at half those prices. We’re not saying a $15 burger is a steal — you can get one at Micky D’s for a couple bucks. We’re saying that this one, in particular, is worth rethinking your Sunday night plans. In addition to topping Zagat’s Manhattan Burger survey, Meat Company’s sandwich is frequently hailed as one of the best burgers in town.

Whether you order at the bar or in the lounge (but not the regular dining room), an industry burger order is treated just like any other menu item at this high-end steakhouse. Hors d’oeuvres are delivered first: a piece of house-baked bread, a slice of charcuterie, arancini. Then comes the pièce de résistance, chef Josh Capon’s dry-aged, blended beef patty is griddled to perfection, it has a nice crust, surrounding a juicy interior (be prepared to grease up that white napkin). It comes on a Royal Crown Bakery brioche bun with griddled onions, raclette cheese, and tomato aioli. A heaping bowl of fries and a selection of pickled vegetables from the Pickle Guys on Essex Street are served on the side.

And when you’re done, a sweet little petit four comes along with the discounted check.


Where to Find New York’s Ten Best Veggie Burgers

Blame it on the migration of New York’s idealistic creatives to the West Coast — and the resulting bicoastal cross-pollination — for the fact that NYC is presently wading in a Cali-style garden, knee-high with ambitious vegan cuisine, dueling juice bars…and veggie burgers. Yes, we’ve taken notice. And admittedly, we seek out well-made meatless patties every now and then when we need a break from feasting on fried chicken.

But we insist that in order for a sandwich to go by the name of “burger,” it must meet a few simple requirements. One: The patty must be satisfying in texture, seasoning, and physical integrity (i.e., it doesn’t crumble into a pile resembling crusty bean dip). Two: The quality and structure of the bun must be stellar, corresponding to the flavor profile of the patty. And three: Toppings and accoutrements need to taste really good, be thoughtfully prepared, and arrive assembled to fit properly on top of and in between the first two things.

Based on those criteria, here’s where to find our favorite veggie burgers in the city right now:

By Chloe's guac and all-American burgers
By Chloe’s guac and all-American burgers

10. By Chloe (185 Bleecker Street, 212-290-8000)
Chef and former Cupcake Wars champion Chloe Coscarelli opened this vegan fast-casual restaurant after years of honing her recipes and writing cookbooks. Her patience has paid off, and so will yours (but expect long lines) when ordering either of her veggie burgers. One goes the classic American route with a special sauce and potato bun, and beet ketchup lends the mix of tempeh, lentil, chia, and walnuts some welcome earthy sweetness. For the “guac burger,” it’s all about the crunchy tortilla strips, which offer a needed textural contrast against guacamole, chipotle aioli, and a soft black-bean, quinoa, and sweet-potato patty. (Zachary Feldman)

Bareburger's Farmstead burger on sprouted wheat bun
Bareburger’s Farmstead burger on sprouted wheat bun

9. Bareburger (Multiple locations)
This rapidly expanding chain originally opened in Astoria in 2009, distinguishing itself from the fray by offering patties made with a wide array of meats besides the usual beef, like duck, bison, wild boar, elk, and ostrich, all either grass-fed, organic, “all natural” — or all of the above. The interiors are designed to be eco-friendly, the chairs and tables made with salvaged wood and recycled materials. Given all that, it’s not surprising that Bareburger’s menu offers a couple of vegetarian/vegan burger options. The one we prefer is the Farmstead, based on wild rice and sweet potato. It comes with a creamy cauliflower hummus (a good replacement for cheese, although non-vegans can choose to add queso fresco, colby, cheddar, or pimento) and baby kale. Gluten-free and bread-phobic diners will be pleased that the patty comes wrapped in a collard green, but we recommend ordering it on a sprouted wheat bun for the full-on burger experience. (Karen Tedesco)

NoMad Bar's veggie burger
NoMad Bar’s veggie burger

8. The NoMad Bar (10 West 28th Street, 212-796-1500)
NoMad Bar’s burger has a certain glam factor going for it, possibly because it’s only available after 5 p.m. inside the poshly lit, library-paneled lounge adjacent to the NoMad hotel’s eponymous (and more expensive) restaurant. The patty — a tender but sturdy blend of grains, legumes, and vegetables (lentils, quinoa, chickpeas, mushrooms, corn) — sits between two halves of a homemade cheddar-chive bun, the top of which gleams with the kind of deep-caramel sheen that only a pastry brush bathed in butter can provide. The burger is layered with pepperjack cheese, pickled mustard seed, and piquillo pepper mayo, topped with thin radish slices and watercress sprigs, and served on a small wooden carving plank with homemade pickles on the side. Eating this burger feels wholesome and a little decadent at the same time; the last bite comes quicker than you want it to. Even more laudable is the fact that last bite contains a bit of every component the whole thing started with — the mark of an expertly made sandwich. (KT)

Superiority burger
Superiority burger

7. Superiority Burger (430 East 9th Street, 212-256-1192)
Veteran pastry chef and punk-rock drummer Brooks Headley turned heads and profits with the opening of this hole-in-the-wall vegetarian and vegan fast-food joint, where diners vie for one of six school-desk-style seats. Headley’s namesake sandwich — featuring a petite seared puck of nuts, beans, and quinoa nestled into a potato roll — does a masterful impression of fast food. Topped with iceberg lettuce, roasted tomatoes, melted Muenster, honey mustard, and pickles, it nails the nostalgia factor. While you’re there, don’t miss out on insanely good vegetable sides and desserts (including an occasional special of toasted burger bun gelato). (ZF)
6. Telepan (72 West 69th Street, 212-580-4300)
Greenmarket master Bill Telepan serves a mushroom burger at his Upper West Side townhouse retreat as part of a four-course Meatless Monday prix-fixe that runs $65. His cheffy take mixes cremini mushrooms with farro, onions, and oats soaked in cream for an earthy and decadent brioche-bound sandwich. Telepan covers the brawny and crisp patty in melted gruyère, pickled hen-of-the-woods, mushroom aioli, and fried onions. It’s the anti-steakhouse steakhouse burger. (ZF)

Wassail burger
Wassail burger

5. Wassail (162 Orchard Street, 646-918-6835)
At $17, this is the Black Label burger of veggie burgers. And like its beefy counterpart, it’s worth every penny. Grains (quinoa, farro) and umami (smoked mushrooms, miso) give chef Joseph Buenconsejo’s patty a rich earthiness. Served on a brioche bun, it comes draped in melted provolone and smoked cheddar. A barrage of condiments — raw tomato and red onion, upland cress, mustard-yuzu aioli, and both smoked-paprika-pickled and smoked-and-caramelized onions — up the ante with bursts of spice and piquancy. As for the value, it does come with nicely crisp jalapeño tater tots. Jennifer Lim and Ben Sandler, who own the vegetable-friendly Lower East Side cider bar, offer the burger during brunch and weeknight happy hour only. (ZF)

5 Napkin's beet-based burger
5 Napkin’s beet-based burger

4. 5 Napkin Burger (Multiple locations)
Among the many oversized burgers at this local chain, the one without meat is almost tauntingly better than all the rest. Its sturdy multigrain bun holds a thick magenta patty of beets, black beans, carrots, jalapeños, and grains. Lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles all represent generously, and a seeming ladleful of 5N sauce — a distant relative of Russian dressing — almost pulls this sandwich into deli territory. (ZF)

No. 7 Veggie's "Total Vegetarian Chaos & Destruction"
No. 7 Veggie’s “Total Vegetarian Chaos & Destruction”

3. No. 7 Veggie (45th Street at Vanderbilt Avenue)
At this stall inside midtown’s Urbanspace Vanderbilt food hall, the No. 7 team delivers broccoli tacos and a trio of fast-food-style burgers made from mushrooms, seitan, and roasted broccoli. They’re hard-seared like Shake Shack’s smashed burgers, and these patties sport a similarly admirable crust. The standard entry ($6) yields ketchup, pickles, and caramelized onions; a “deluxe” ($7) adds lettuce, tomato, mayo, and mustard. But as with most veggie burgers, the magic happens outside of the patty itself. The “Total Vegetarian Chaos & Destruction” (the most expensive sandwich, at $8) layers on smashed avocado, colby jack cheese, pickled beets, griddled onions, and steak sauce. Chef Tyler Kord also throws a bone to carnivores with an optional pungent bacon-scallion relish. (ZF)

Blue Hill pulp burger
Blue Hill pulp burger

2. Blue Hill (75 Washington Place, 212-539-1776)
Dan Barber made waves with his wastED pop-up, which sought (and largely succeeded) to make edible magic out of “ignored or un-coveted” ingredients. His burger made from the vegetable and fruit pulp left over from Liquiteria’s juice presses (dyed pink with beets) was one of the most successful dishes of that experiment’s run. Now it’s available as part of a $62 “Cook’s Feast” offered at the bar. Somehow, this fancy sandwich — served on repurposed Balthazar bread — manages to stand out in a meal that includes dishes like golden beets with seckel pears and pickled green walnuts. Barber’s burger has a believably meaty texture and some seriously flavorful accoutrements, like “rejected” beet ketchup, pickle ends, and grassy cheese from a Vermont dairy. (ZF)

The Pickle Shack's veggie burger
The Pickle Shack’s veggie burger

1. Pickle Shack (256 Fourth Avenue, Brooklyn; 347-763-2127)
Neal Harden makes one luxuriously messy non-meat burger at this Park Slope vegetarian gastropub from the owners of local picklers Brooklyn Brine and Delaware’s Dogfish Head Brewery. The house-made patty — a mixture of beets and grilled vegetables that goes heavy on the mushrooms — packs some serious heft within its squishy griddled potato bun. The kitchen slathers on ketchup and garlicky aioli, tucking punchy bread-and-butter pickles underneath. Harden tops the beastly thing with lettuce and caramelized onions for a dose of freshness. And while the sandwich is impressive on its own, you can (and should) add avocado and cheese, including two types of cheddar and vegan cashew cheese. (ZF)