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The Conversation: Burgers


The hamburger is quintessential food: fast-food dollar menus, tofu and meat-less imitations, every barbecue in history. This week, Zagat’s annual survey crowned Five Guys Burgers and Fries the purveyor of the best burger in all the land, and with nearly a dozen locations on Long Island and plenty of one-of shops, it’s a declaration more than up for scrutiny. Here to discuss are Press Editor Brad Pareso and food columnists Ron Beigel and Chris Cooke.


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Brad

There was a Five Guys at my alma mater (Penn State) that I must have walked by 100 times and never went inside. I kept saying I would go, but it never happened. Huge mistake—these things are amazing.

Chris

I agree, Brad, they are indeed pretty amazing. I’ve feasted on Five Guys in Virginia and on Long Island, and I must say, their density and juiciness remained consistent, sack to sack. But are they really “the best burger in the land”? What were the criteria for this survey? Many, many different characteristics go into such a decision, I would imagine. Were just the national chains included? How many mom-and-pops did the study cover? I don’t know, it’s a pretty big crown to wear. And I’ve devoured some pretty damn near well fantastic burgers. (Five Guys fries on the other hand…)

Brad

It’s interesting, McDonald’s won best fries and takes the title pretty much every year. I have no idea what the criteria is, but I would imagine a large part is the burger, and I can see why Five Guys won there. I think they’re quite adept at keeping the uniqueness and individuality of their name while still expanding (500 stores so far). Maybe Ron can speak to that.

Ron

These surveys are so subjective. If there are tons more Five Guys’ than there are In-N-Out Burgers—which are only located in a few western states—then obviously there are more customers and voters who are familiar with Five Guys. I love the Five Guys burgers. They even ask how I want mine done now. But on Long Island, we also can find some pretty auspicious patties in many of our “Greek” diners.

Chris

I agree. There are tons of great burger joints (local and national) hidden across this Island that I’m sure could have slayed Five Guys. Again, I am a fan of their meat slabs, sure, but I’m just not so sure that they’re The Best. What about All-American Drive-In in Massapequa? That Double Double is surely something special. (As are their killer fries.) How about Bobby [Flay]’s Burger Palace in Lake Grove? Majors in East Meadow? Cheeburger Cheeburger? The Bull Moose Burger at TR’s in Williston Park? Hell, have their incisors ever ripped through the fleshy sinews of a gorgeous, loaded Canterburger at Huntington’s Canterbury Ales before? Damn. These ain’t exactly Wamplers we’re talking about, dear friends.

Brad

Ron’s point is a good one, and Five Guys is now expanding to the West Coast—In-N-Out’s home turf—so if the vote really comes down to a popularity contest, that won’t change any time soon. We have so many great one-of burger joints here, but there are times—in the late hours of the morning when our Island’s unique burger-and-bun shops are closed—I will load up on $1 double hamburgers from Burger King or a Sack from White Castle. Clearly, they cannot compare to a Double Header at All-American, but when you’re in the right mood, nothing is more satisfying.

Ron

Chris, leave the fleshy sinews of the 10- and 15-dollar burgers out of this. These are five-dollar burgers we’re chomping about. Not White Castle murder burgers and not the secret off-the-menu burger at Peter Luger. And while we’re on the subject, All-American is overrated. There, I’ve said it. I go there more for the nostalgia than for the food. Five Guys just gets it. But I think their burgers have gotten more uniform, losing some of that home-cooked, hand-formed mojo, since I sampled (or as Chris would put it: masticated and digested) my first one back at their first local store in College Point the week it opened.

Chris

Spoken like a true meat marauder, Ron. Spoken like a true bovine emulsifier. Last time I checked though, The Classic at Cheeburger Cheeburger was $5. Guess we’ll agree to disagree on the All-American front. Those are cheap, quality burgs. Budget chomping? Hamburgers cost little more than a dollar there. Tough to beat for the price. And they’re pretty damn great, actually. Again, I dig Five Guys. They are solid, and definitely a bang for the buck. I’m just not so sure they’re The Best. Long Island Cheeseburger in Wantagh, anyone? (Under new management.) McBrides in Bellmore? Ninety-eight percent sirloin there. Both $5 and under. Wow. I see a future “Lunchbox” in the making. Can taste it now. Man, I’m hungry.

Brad

It makes me think you had a case of the swine flu, Ron, or perhaps contracted the Mad Cow if you think All American is anything less than stellar. But that’s the beauty of Long Island is that we’ve got 69-cent sliders at The Castle, the undeniably delicious Burger of the Gods at Peter Luger and plenty in-between. With Sonic rollerskating to North Babylon next year, this war is far from over.

The 2011 Best of L.I. ballot process has begun
Don’t take our words for it, vote for the Burger Joint on Long Island you believe to be The Best.

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