For most burger connoisseurs, there's not much enthusiasm for formerly frozen fast food burgers, and $30 bistro burgers dressed with foie gras or the aioli du jour somehow seem to miss the point. True burger bliss lies somewhere in between. Thankfully, the Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien provides a happy medium, achieving the ideal balance of simplicity with fresh, quality ingredients and a backyard taste. From the elegant lobby of the four-star hotel, just look for the small, neon burger light on the wall. You'll pass through a dark hallway and some black curtains before running smack dab into the line. (Despite the lack of signage and its unlikely location, the line will attest that this is no secret among Midtown burger enthusiasts.) The limited décor approximates a '70s dive of sorts, with red vinyl booths, wood paneling, various knickknacks and burgers that come wrapped in white paper. Thin, crispy fries come in a brown bag. The small but thick burgers come cooked to order, and toppings consist of lettuce, tomato, ketchup, pickles, mayo and mustard. For everything, just say "the works" to keep the line moving - signs threaten that you will be skipped if you're not ready to order. Wash it all down with a thick milk shake or a pitcher of Sam Adams poured in clear plastic cups among friends. If there are no seats, a short walk to Central Park is a fine alternative.
"The paper-wrapped burger is fat and juicy. ... But the best thing about this nondescript, booth-lined hole-in-the-wall is its quasi-clandestine location off the lobby of Le Parker Meridien, one of the ritziest hotels in midtown."
- New York magazine: Critics' Pick
Zagat: 4.4 food rating (very good to excellent)
The Village Voice: Critics' Pick