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NYC's Burger Secrets: 13 Ways to Go Off-the-Griddle

By James Mulcahy
October 22, 2013

For our theme week this week, we decided to go burger hunting. There are plenty of patties that are universally loved, but we wanted to go after more elusive prey - the city's secret burgers. Maybe they're only served at lunch, or perhaps they're an off-the-menu perk for those in the know, but however they hide, these burgers are worth tracking down and trying.

Photos by Clay Williams

  • Stanton Social

    Not only is this burger only offered after 9 PM Sunday-Thursday, it's a limited edition. Though sliders are available during regular service, the restaurant only serves two dozen of this full-sized version, which is cheekily dubbed The Big Sexy. The patty is a mix of short rib, chuck, rib-eye and smoked bacon; is topped with "fancy sauce" (a riff on Thousand Island dressing), onions that have been cooked in Coca-Cola, and American cheese; and is served with bacon and blue cheese fries. It's probably a good thing that they only serve 24 of these nightly, because that would be a lot of patrons to roll out of there at the end of the shift.

  • Desmond's

    Behold the Carpetbagger, an epic, off-the-menu creation served at Desmond's Steakhouse in Midtown. The $19 burger isn't cheap, but it's loaded - a 10-oz. patty topped with American cheese, sautéed mushrooms, applewood smoked bacon and, best of all, fried oysters. (The idea is a take on the classic carpetbagger steak, a piece of meat stuffed with bivalves that was popular midcentury.) It's served with barbecue sauce, chipotle mayo and house-cut fries. You have to ask for it, but don't be shy - your server is sure to give you a look of respect for knowing about this behemoth.

  • The Dutch

    Andrew Carmellini's SoHo hang is a great option to play hooky from your office and gorge on a midday meal. Start with some freshly shucked fare from the oyster bar and then go for the lunch-only burger - dry-aged beef topped with cheddar and the kitchen's secret sauce, served with fries in a colorful pan. Sure beats the same old salad joint you hit up every day.

  • Peter Luger

    No way does the city's top steakhouse have room for burgers in their broilers during dinner, but lunch at this Williamsburg classic is a different story. You can get a Luger Burger until 3:45 PM in the afternoon, if you can handle over half a pound of beef in the middle of the day. If that doesn't sound like enough meat for you, opt for the bacon. You'll be greeted with a thick-cut slab, and if you want to go all out, you can add on some American cheese and fries. And you should go all out - you can get back to your diet during dinner.

  • Fletcher's

    This Gowanus barbecue joint keeps a low profile on its fire-grilled burger, an off-the-menu option that's cooked in their smoke box on a cast-iron skillet over the embers (no wonder they don't advertise this thing, they would run out of room in there). It's topped with white cheddar and chipotle aïoli, and served on a potato bun with chips.

  • Brindle Room

    This tiny East Village joint may have an off-the-menu burger, but it's no secret. It's clearly the most popular dish in the restaurant, judging by the fact that it's on nearly every table, and that conundrum pushes it into icon status. The thick steakhouse-style patty is served with even thicker fries and doesn't need any bells and whistles to stand out. At this sliver of a restaurant, it's all about the meat, just as the burger gods intended.

  • Gramercy Tavern

    Sit in the Bar Room for lunch at this Danny Meyer standby and ask for the secret that everyone knows. You'll get this thoughtfully built burger, served with cheddar, bacon, pristine produce and pickles, chips, housemade ketchup and other condiments. It's usually available till the early evening, and even though regular Gramercy lunchers have known about it for a long time now, it still makes you feel cool to order it.

  • Telepan

    Head over to Bill Telepan's UWS namesake for lunch if you want to try his burger, which is available only on the daily fixed-price menu (two courses for $28 and three for $32). It's topped with housemade pickles and served with a "volcano," but instead of spewing lava, this one spills forth fries.

  • Maialino

    You'll have to drop by Danny Meyer's Gramercy Square Italian post-10:30 PM if you want to try its burger, but staying up past your bedtime is worth it in this case. Served until midnight, it comes topped with black pepper pancetta, escarole and Gorgonzola. Served on a rosemary brioche bun, it's pretty much the prefect midnight snack (especially when you factor in the $5 beers and $8 Negronis that the bar offers during these hours).

  • Craftbar

    The burger's only served for lunch or brunch at this Flatiron haunt, but two words will entice you to make the daytime trek: bacon jam. Chef Lauren Hirschberg has created a double-stack cheeseburger that's slathered with the stuff and served with Bibb lettuce, pickled onion, roasted tomatoes and Pawlet cheese.

  • The Ace Hotel Lobby Bar

    We all know about April Bloomfield's burgers at The Spotted Big (one of the best in the city) and The Breslin, but did you know that she has another patty in town? The lobby bar in the Ace Hotel has its own offering dubbed The Breslin Burger, covered with sharp cheddar and bacon, and served with the restaurant's thrice-cooked fries. How the legions of Bloomfield fans haven't found out about this and inspired 90-minute waits for a table is beyond us.

  • El Toro Blanco

    Josh Capon knows a thing or two about burgers - he runs SoHo's much-loved B&B and tied for first place at the Burger Bash that was part of this year's New York City Wine & Food Festival. His West Village Mexican has a lunch- and brunch-only burger that's made with bacon, chipotle aïoli, pico de gallo and Oaxaca cheese. It's served with chipotle-dusted fries and goes well with a chile-rubbed mango margarita.

  • Peels

    This Southern-fried spot on the Bowery has a normal burger on their menu, but you should ask for the secret option if you really want your mind blown. A patty made of house-ground, grass-fed beef is topped with fried cheese curds, a three-cheese bechamel, shaved red onions and iceberg lettuce. It's served with a side of cheese fries. Drool.

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