UPDATE 2012: Since their opening, I have been back many, many times to both the upper west side and the midtown west location with delicious and consistently allergen-friendly/safe results. For example: they use a dedicated fryer for all fries in all locations. So big thumbs up on this one!
A few weeks back, after an earlier dinner disaster [as in waitstaff was scarily unhelpful, so we cut our losses early and went searching for other, friendlier vistas], foodie buddy and resto publicist Shari Bayer and this Allergic Girl went to try out the new 5 Napkin Burger in Hell’s Kitchen.
The spot had been opened a week. And there had been some bad reviews, funnily bad, saying food good, space weird, and service terrible. So we were warned and we found it really the opposite.
OK, true, the space is odd. Tables in the middle, corralled there and lonely, a perimeter of booths near the window and too many dead zones to count. We found the service, although clearly “green”, sweet and helpful.
We were told we’d sit in 40-45 minutes. We went to the bar where I spied a very chef-y looking guy--he was wearing the whites, the checked pants and had the instant read thermometer in his sleeve. I introduced myself and asked him if indeed he was the chef de cuisine.
"Yes, I’m Oscar," he said.
I asked him about the Allergic Girl sitch and he said it would be fine: they only cook burgers on the grill, the fries are in a dedicated fryer and no bun on my burger was easy.
I’m telling you, sitting at the bar, even if you don’t drink, is like magic.
Our wait ended up being 20 minutes, yay, and we got a coveted window booth, more yay.
Our waiter couldn’t have been more thespy if he was auditioning for role of “waiter in NYC hot spot”. But he got the allergic girl thing down perfectly, was friendly, courteous, sweet and helped to guide me through the menu, which includes sushi. [It has been commented on by more than one yelper and chowhound that sushi is simply an odd choice for a burger place. J’agree.]. He mentioned as their kitchen was backed up, and they had only been open a week, our burgers might be 25 minutes or so. So we got ready for another wait but 10 minutes later, out they came. It was our lucky night all around.
They have an already-GF bunless burger on the menu! How easy is that? “Inside Out Burger hormone free, naturally raised beef wrapped in lettuce, 5n sauce, b&b pickles, $13.95”
Rock on! I had it without sauce and with extra extra bread&butter pickles which were delish [if you have vinegar/sugar issues they may not be for you though].
The burger verdict: sadly, it was tasteless. Juicy to be sure, and maybe 2-3 napkin worthy but without taste. I had it medium rare, the perfect burger temp and they just didn’t season the thing. When I mentioned this, gently, to the waiter he asked, "Did you try it with the special '5n sauce'?" Now you all understand that a allergic girl just doesn’t go around trying foreign condiments, so that would be a no. He insisted that since the sauce was so flavorful they kept the meat under-seasoned. Yeah, I don’t buy it. The burger just wasn’t as lipsmacking delish as it could and should have been.
So BIG points for allergen-friendly and helpful staff; demerits for lack of complete and utter deliciousness.
5 Napkin Burger
630 9th Ave.,