Latest update: November 18th, 2013
There are moments in life when you want an elegant, candlelit restaurant for a quiet dinner or an upscale business meeting. Thankfully, there are plenty of kosher restaurants that fit those criteria, but if you are looking for seriously fun food, done right in a trendy, hopping environment, head over to the Upper West Side and hope that you can score a table at Gotham Burger.
You know before you even set foot into Gotham Burger, located at 726 Amsterdam Avenue, that it is a popular eatery. Not only were there people outside waiting for tables on the summer night that we visited, but there was an outdoor hostess taking names for a waiting list, as there is literally no room in Gotham Burger for any extra people, and I can’t help but wonder how they will work out that logistical issue when winter comes. A combination restaurant and sports bar, the bar is located at the front of the restaurant with large sized flat screens hanging on the walls, much to the delight of ESPN lovers everywhere. Happy patrons, music, chatter and awesome smells are a promise of yummy things to come, both here and at Gotham Burger’s sister eatery in Teaneck, which does not serve alcohol and is geared more towards families.
There were no surprises here. Gotham Burger knew that my husband and I were coming to do a review and we were warmly welcomed by Executive Chef Avi Roth, his wife and quite a few members of the Gotham Burger wait staff all of whom were extremely busy bustling around the dining room all night, refilling water pitchers, taking away plates and magically replacing used napkins with stacks of new ones. This is messy food, the kind of meal where you ditch the silverware and use your hands and with an array of fabulous sauces on the menu, I have no doubt that Gotham Burger goes through a lot of napkins. From the moment we started, till the very last crumb had either been eaten or packed up to take home, I loved every minute of our meal, chosen for us by Roth, at our request.
First to arrive at our table was an appetizer plate of short ribs, which ranged from delicious and juicy to omg-falling-apart-on-your-fork-fantastic. Slow braised for 46 hours before they are grilled and slathered with Gotham Burger’s signature honey, molasses and lime zest sauce, they were smoky, soft and had me contemplating giving up carbs forever just so I could subsist entirely on short ribs.
If the ribs were amazing, the next plate that materialized on our table raised the bar yet another notch, with an assortment of chicken wings and fingers, both hot and plain, accompanied by a potpourri of sauces including cranberry BBQ, mango habanero, honey mustard, garlic mayo, tangy gold BBQ, raspberry chipotle and the gold standard, plain old Heinz ketchup. While I generally don’t do wings, these were quite good, deep fried to a crispy crunch and bathed in a sweet, savory sauce. The hot fingers lived up to their name, boasting some serious attitude and plenty of heat, and the delicious sauces were superfluous on these fingers, which had plenty of palate popping sauce of their own. Both my husband and I agreed that the chicken fingers were the clear winner: moist and juicy on the inside and coated in a terrific panko coating, they were the perfect foil to those amazing sauces. The cranberry BBQ was outstanding and I found the contrast of mango with hot peppers in the mango habanero to be not hot, but pleasantly peppy.
Other appetizers included beef sliders, soups and chili and the wings, fingers and ribs were all available in both small and large sizes. Given the size of the small starters, I am guessing that the large would be more than adequate for a main dish. Expect appetizers to run anywhere from $3.00 for a single slider to $20.00 for a large order of ribs.
Our main dish arrived in the form of two incredible pieces of fried chicken, topped with a seasoned crunchy topping. The white meat was good, but the dark meat was juicy and nothing short of amazing. The chicken was followed by a unique hamburger, a combination of flavors and ingredients that I never would have paired together on my own: a juicy beef burger, topped with pickle chips, caramelized red onions, smoked maple glazed beef fry, a sunny side up egg and a pink horseradish sauce that included caramelized garlic and strawberry syrup, all served on a specially commissioned toasted brioche bun. While I have always avoided both horseradish and sunny side up eggs, I decided to close my eyes and go for it and the results were truly fabulous, a wonderfully coordinated medley of diverse tastes that joined forces into a whole that was clearly greater (and more delicious) than the sum of its parts.
The onion rings at Gotham Burger deserve a paragraph all to themselves. Dipped in a judiciously seasoned beer batter they are fried to an exquisite shade of golden brown and are nothing short of masterful – the best onion rings I have ever eaten. They are also a perfect example of what makes Gotham Burger so successful. Roth could have used the same batter for the chicken fingers, the fried chicken and the onion rings, but each one is different, carefully chosen to best complement the food it is coating and, in fact, Gotham Burger’s menu is loaded with unique ingredients painstakingly paired together yielding great results. Burgers range in price from $9.50 to $15.00, with turkey burgers coming in slightly higher and other main dish offerings include grilled chicken, steak, shnitzel and chicken parmesan sandwiches as well as hot dogs, chili dogs and that amazing fried chicken. There are several varieties of fries, including plain, sweet potato and chili, with garlic mashed potatoes and sauteed green beans rounding out the menu. For those looking for healthier alternatives, a choice of salads includes Caesar, Cobb, Thai beef, avocado grapefruit and a house salad with an assortment of dressings.
Our dessert was quite literally, hotter than hot: fried oreos. Picture double stuffed chocolate sandwich cookies, dipped in pancake batter, deep fried and sprinkled with a liberal dose of confectioners sugar. The cookie gets soft, the filling starts to melt and you find yourself in deep-fried carb heaven. Our dessert also featured Gotham Burger’s signature sweet, thick shakes which was kind of like heaven in a glass. For those looking to imbibe something a little stronger, the bar offers an assortment of red and white wines, draft beers and assorted cocktails including frozen daiquiris.
Gotham Burger’s 70 seat dining room was filled to capacity, with people waiting for tables both when we got there and when we left, and it is clear that this a popular, happening place. The atmosphere in the room is jovial, friendly and loud, more conducive to a night out with your buddies than a business meeting or a date. Sound seemed to carry well in certain parts of the room, while in others, just carrying on a conversation was difficult due to the noise level.
Roth spent much of the time that we were there out on the floor, delivering plates and chatting with customers, and the ever-present staff was welcoming, talkative and seemed to enjoy interacting with the clientele. By the end of the meal I confess that my iPhone was slightly sticky from assorted sauces and dusted with powdered sugar, a sure sign that the meal had been a successful one. Take your friends, take your family, but just go. Gotham Burger serves up great food, great atmosphere and a seriously great time.
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726 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY
Certified by Kof-K
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About the Author: Sandy Eller is a freelance writer who writes for numerous websites, newspapers, magazines and many private clients. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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