Grass-fed gluttony?

Labor day weekend. Bittersweet. I’ve at once been looking forward to the long holiday, and at the same time lamenting that its arrival means summer is ending. No doubt we will still have lots of warm days and nights to come, but the appearance of scarves and sweaters in the windows around town is difficult to overlook.

I have four days off—Friday through Monday—and Aron should be finishing his cases in the OR soon, so we’re planning to start the weekend off with lunch at Peter Luger in Brooklyn. We debated a weekend in Boston, but ultimately decided to forgo the weekender-filled highways in preference of a staycation. We have some fun things planned; I hope to post more once we put the plans to practice.

Peter Luger is deemed an “American Classic” by the James Beard foundation and has been named the best steakhouse by Zagat for the last 24 years—it was first opened as a café in 1887, in the German neighborhood of Williamsburg in Brooklyn.

Though Luger’s Porterhouse is its claim to fame, we’re heading

there for lunch specifically because it is the only time you can get its rumored-to-be-awesome burger.

Aron and I have been on quite the burger kick these past six months–and it seems much of New York is as well: it seems that the recession brings about desire for great staples, like burgers and pizza, though with personal pizzas at Una costing $21 and burgers averaging $10-15 at most top restaurants, these aren’t bargain staples.

Our absolute favorite, number one burger is the one served at Diner. It’s actually too bad that we ever learned how good it is, as the rest of the (daily picked, seasonal) menu at Diner tends to be the best food around and one feels guilty choosing the ever-present burger, but it is amazing. I’d say it has inspired a whole new appreciation of the burger for us.

Before Diner, I might have picked Shake Shack’s burger for my favorite in the city, but it really belongs in a league of its own. At 4 oz, the shack patty is a much more reasonable patty-size (as compared to the 8 oz average to be found elsewhere), and the doneness is standardized. It too is incredible, but it’s not the same meal as the hearty, restaurant burgers we’ve otherwise been sampling.

Our top picks? Aside from Diner, probably Irving Mill, Back Forty, and Westville East. Irving Mill’s burger is outstanding—though occasionally the medium-rare comes too close to medium such that Aron orders his rare. Irving Mill has become a staple ever since they began offering a burger and beer for $15 on Monday nights (and they have patio seating!). Back Forty has become our other favorite. Here, too, the entire menu is outstanding and seasonal, but it’s hard to beat eating a burger in their backyard on a warm summer night. Westville East is a complete surprise on a Portuguese muffin.

Honorable mentions: Corner Bistro and Spotted Pig in the West Village, J.G. Melon’s on the UES, DuMont Burger in Williamsburg, and Aron’s homemade burger.

New York Magazine recently published a run-down of the city’s 82 most notable burgers here.

They don’t have the Diner burger on the list (incredible, but no other list has yet featured the Diner burger!), but I’m pretty sure they use grass-fed beef. I did learn this: At Back Forty, the beef is grass-fed from Fleischer’s, served grilled on an Amy’s Brioche Roll. At Irving Mill, they use five-week aged flap steak, beef cheek, and pork fatback from Niman Ranch and Pat La Frieda (a blend), pan-seared on a potato bun. Shake Shack is mostly brisket with chuck and short rib mixed in, custom-made by Pat La Frieda (the source of many of the city’s notable burgers).

Now, with my mouth watering and the time nearing 1pm, there is sad news to report: Aron was called back into surgery. It would seem that Peter Luger will just have to be savored another time…

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