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.