Big Nicks = Big Disappointment (try Paul's instead)
The chowhounds have let me down. After reading several posts here praising Big Nick's, I went there tonight to try it. It wasn't any better than something you'd get at a neighborhood barbeque. They had several exotic toppings, but the meat itself was extremely unexciting. It seemed a bit dry. I haven't eaten at Paul's (2nd Ave., near St. Mark's Place) for several months, but that place has never let me down. Everyone I take there immediately falls in love. The burgers are moist, fresh, fall apart in your mouth... amazing. And they have several kinds of delicious fried potato products. I feel like I need to go there soon to atone for my Big Nick's disappointment. I think Paul's is good because it has escaped the Zagat radar. Big Nick's, on the other hand, seemed as touristy as Carnegie (and the food was just as bland, though I must confess I love Carnegie's pricey cheesecake). As a student of psychology, I am intrigued by the mysterious "Zagat effect" (by which awful restaurants become extremely hyped up and popular)... and saddened that it has found it's way onto chowhound.com! Please, think twice before touting a place listed in Zagat. Now, does anyone who has tried Paul's know of a place with better burgers?
Just a warning: you're probably going to start hearing from me more often. This school year I've decided to go restaurant hunting every weekend. My goal is always to find the best food for the lowest price--and I'm extremely picky.
One more thing: I read the article about chowhounds in the New Yorker with relish (no pun intended). I was particularly intrigued by the Leff-Sietsema dichotomy--something I'd already begun to notice in my own chowhound excursions. I tend to have exotic tastes like Sietsema, but like Leff, I value "deliciousness" above all else. If my meal isn't orgasmic, it's not worth my money--especially on my tight student budget. I do have to thank Sietsema for his Top 100 "Cheap Chow Now" list; it has led me to several treasures. I do disagree with number two ('Ino, which is okay, but not orgasmic), but many others have been great (particularly Pan Pan and Teresa's... and I'll overlook the fact that Teresa's is in Zagat!). Okay, enough writing. It's almost 5 a.m., but my Big Nick's experience got me all worked up. I'd better get some sleep.
Like Brian, I've never had a Big Nick's hamburger after midnight, but the ones they serve from noon to midnight are wonderful. I usually order them rare, sometimes medium-rare, and have never gotten a dry burger.
My only dissents with Brian are minor:
1. I find the Big Nick isn't too big, although in general, I don't like fat burgers. And after midnight, for some strange reason, you can't buy the smaller version.
2. I don't think the Big Nick, that is the orignal on Broadway, tastes like a classic diner burger, because diners use flat grills, while Burger Joint uses a charcoal grill.
3. I'd also recommend the house salad dressing, which is an ordinary vinaigrette enlivened by marinated vegetables. And the minnestrone soup, which is very haimish, often is very good.
I don't doubt that you had a disappointing burger at Big Nick's, but it may have been because of the time you went there. I have never had a burger there at night so can't really comment on that, but I have had eggs for breakfast at 5 am and they were terrible. Breakfast at 10 am, on the other hand, is delicious. At Nick's I have had burgers in the afternoon and they are quite good, but I recommend the regular burger as opposed to the "Big Nick" or the "Sumo", both of which are too big. The regular burger is the classic "diner burger" and very close to the burger that used to be served at Hamburger Train on W 53 Street across from the CBS building up to the early 1980's. Sorry you had a bad meal since the only things I like there are the burgers and the breakfasts.