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Jun 14, 2010 09:48 AM

Minetta Tavern

I'm dying to try the black label burger but have no one to go with. Is Minetta Tavern a place to dine alone?

Minetta Tavern
113 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012

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  1. I'd drop in early and eat dinner at the bar as a solo diner who only wanted to try the burger.

    1. Probably better to dine alone so you don't have to feel ashamed in front of anyone after you realize just how ripped off you were.

      It's a good burger, mind you, it's just not worth $26 by any stretch of the imagination:

      1 Reply
      1. re: sgordon

        I agree, definitely overpriced. However, I need to see for myself what the fuss is all about.

      2. In my opinion- Go and order the burger.

        We scored seats at the bar around 8pm. The bar was insane, very loud with a few celebrity sightings. I walked in skeptical of how a $26 burger was going to hold up against my massive expectations. Truth be told, it did. One can absolutely taste the difference in the age and blend of the meat as compared to a regular burger and it is SO worth it. Funk factor alone, it was an incredible burger. The fries that came with the burger were splendid- perfectly crispy and salty and fantastic.
        We also shared the salt cod brandade: potato-y and salty; comfort food at its finest, a special of papardelle with goat bolognese: not at all game-y, a delightful amount of sage and just a little heat. Overall, a fun experience and one I would like to have again.

        Minetta Tavern
        113 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012

        28 Replies
        1. re: eucalyptia

          How crowded was the dining room? Did you ask the host if it was possible to get a table?

          1. re: kathryn

            The dining room was packed. The host said we could have a table, but the wait might have been about an hour at best. Reservations are not impossible- call about 3 weeks before you would like to go.

            1. re: eucalyptia

              Well, 6pm and 9pm reservations are not impossible (I've seen them on OpenTable) but 7-8pm are... See this very long thread here:


          2. re: eucalyptia

            I actually ate there a while back, my full review is coming soon.
            We didn't order the burger, which I had once back in the day very shortly after they opened. Noone argues about the taste, just the value.

            Speaking of which, I'm curious...
            So for $24-26, do people prefer....
            A cheeseburger (Minetta Tavern) or
            Spaghetti w/ tomato sauce (Scarpetta)?

            1. re: fooder

              They're both overpriced, as far as the ingredients and labor that go into them go.

              But if forced to spend my money on one or the other... I can make an equivalent Spaghetti Pomodoro myself. But I suppose I could make a BLB as well. I mean, it's a burger. Just a question of getting the same source meats.

              Honestly, find both restaurants as a whole to be decently priced for what they're serving - just those particular dishes are a little out of line. Just had a great meal a couple weeks ago at Minetta, in fact - the goat two ways was excellent. A little pricey, but it was a special and specials tend to be a bit pricier as they're buying the raw materials in smaller bulk. And the marrow bones, of course, were awesome as usual - three big ol' dinosaur bones full of unctuous goodness. I like Blue RIbbon's preparation better (with the oxtail marmalade) but at Minetta you get two, maybe three times as much marrow.

              Minetta Tavern
              113 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012

              Blue Ribbon Brasserie
              97 Sullivan St, New York, NY 10012

              1. re: sgordon

                It should be on every New Yorker's bucket list.

                1. re: BROOKLYNDINER

                  ...I wouldn't go that far. It's basically a cheaper alternative to ordering the Cote de Boeuf. Similar flavor in a smaller, hand-held package - though at a higher price by weight. There are better items on the menu at the same price point, too. I'd sooner get the Pig's Trotter, myself - an underrated dish there.

                  1. re: sgordon

                    But you get bone marrow, too, with the Cote de Boeuf, no?

                    That trotter sounds great, and kind of April Bloomfield-esque.

                    1. re: kathryn

                      Yep, it's the same marrow. Although IIRC you only get two bones when it's part of the Cote. More just something to shmear on the steak to make it even more primal and luxurious.

                      The trotter is pretty happening, yeah. Great winter dish.

                2. re: sgordon

                  I've actually made Scarpetta's Spaghetti with Tomato & Basil from the recipe on the website. Not difficult.


                  As for same source for the hamburger meat, LaFrieda is now offering their meats retail on-line. It may not be precisely the same mix of meats as the hamburgers at Minetta, but it is La Frieda.



                  1. re: sgordon

                    The question whether the Black Label is overpriced with respect to the ingredients is an interesting one. I did a little digging on it in the past. It's a blend of ribeye, skirt and brisket from Creekstone Farms, blended by LaFrieda. The patty is over half a pound in weight, but I don't know how much of it is ribeye.

                    Ribeye available retail from Creekstone Farms costs only about $1.50 an ounce, but the only ribeye they sell online is not prime. The ribeye in the Black Label blend is claimed not only to be prime, but to be the same cut served as a steak at the restaurant - quite evidently prime and dry aged. If so, it's likely to be something like $2.50 an ounce at least. But now I'm speculating.

                    In any case, IF there were five ounces of it in the patty at $2.50 per ounce, the cost of the patty alone would be $12.50, plus the (lower) cost of flank and brisket. Add bun, fries garnish, and ingredients can't fall too far short of, say, $18 (it's serve deluxe). Then they need to cook it, pay their bills and make some money.

                    All I am saying is that it's not obviously over-priced. It might be if my calculations are wrong. In any case, the Brindle Room serves a dry-aged burger at about half the price: recommended.

                    Brindle Room
                    277 E 10th St, New York, NY 10009

                    1. re: Wilfrid

                      Good model. However ...

                      First, you're presuming that MInetta pays retail or online on their ingredients. I don't know that, but I wouldn't think so.

                      Secondly, I don't know whether Minetta buys the ground meat or ground them in their kitchen from, say, cut-outs from ribeyes and other cuts that they buy, presumably, wholesale.

                      While, I'm with sgordon that most of the rest of the menu at Minetta are well-priced and are of high-quality (I love the restaurant), I think that the BLB is a gimmick.

                      1. re: RCC

                        My husband and I actually didn't order the Black Label Burger until our third visit. We've loved everything we've ever had there. But upon tasting BLB, my husband declared it "food speedball" - I've never heard him describe any other dishes that way in my life!

                        1. re: uwsister

                          " husband declared it 'food speedball' "

                          More details please. :-)

                          1. re: uwsister

                            food speedball - I have no clue what that means :p

                            Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

                            1. re: nextguy

                              well a speedball is addictive... bad for you too, so it fits. (have a BLB a day and you will die of heart failure eventually)

                              FWIW, I think the burger is great and the bit of aged meat is noticeable and it is unique. Is it worth it?? I have gone back several times and had it at the bar when I can get there early... so it is worth the money to me... but not a 2 hour wait. I also go to Shake Shack and love the burger but will only wait 15 minutes for it (so not at MSqPk on a summers day but the UWS at 8:30 during the week works)

                          2. re: RCC

                            They grind it themsleves according to the food network special I saw

                            1. re: princeofpork

                              I am puzzled, then, about what Pat La Frieda does. There was heavy coverage of Minetta trying various Pat LaFrieda blends, and indeed to the blend being adjusted. What does that mean if LaFrieda is not grinding the meat?

                          3. re: Wilfrid

                            Comparing restaurant pricing with retail pricing is never going to give a particularly good assessment. Comparing prices to other, similar, comparable resto items is the way to go.

                            In a nutshell (I've done the math before in other threads so I won't go into ALL of it again here) -

                            The BLB is 8 oz for $26. That's $3.25 an ounce (we can assume the bun and accoutrements are incidental costs)

                            The Cote de Bouef is currently $124 for 48 oz, IIRC. Which comes to $2.58/oz.

                            So... you're paying MORE per ounce for the ground up scraps of a beautiful steak that have then been watered down with cheaper cuts. I won't go so far as to say that McNally & Crew looked for a way to pass off their scraps and trimmings to profit - I think they honestly set out to make a delicious burger. And then they just slapped a particularly high price on it, probably knowing that as it's still one of the cheapest entree options, they'd get a lot of orders for it regardless. I'd be willing to bet it has the highest profit margin of any dinner entree in the restaurant.

                            Does it taste good? Of course, no one argues that. But it doesn't taste any better than an actual dry-aged steak that hasn't been pre-chewed for you and placed on a convenient handheld delivery device. And it's only perhaps only 50% dry-aged steak, if that. I'd estimate the cost per ounce should be much closer to $2 given that more than likely, at most only half the burger is actually made from the expensive ribeye cut.

                            You're paying more for less, that's all. That's why many of us don't think it's really worth it.

                            1. re: sgordon

                              I wish I had known you were going to appear on this thread and post your price-per-ounce calculation. I just spent 30 minutes hunting for your original post.


                              Thanks again for running the numbers.

                              1. re: Bob Martinez

                                It's a burger, a great burger. If one will pay $20 for a mediocre glass of wine (anywhere these days) then why not splurge on the $26 for an outstanding burger? I don't understand the need to break it down to the minutia. Not everything in this city is cost effective- nor is it pretending to be.

                                1. re: eucalyptia

                                  Exactly. The cost analysis seems irrelevant. Besides, the Black Label Burger is much cheaper that the DB Bistro Burger.

                                  1. re: eucalyptia

                                    There are no great burgers. Really. Just like there are no great potato chips and there are no great pretzels and there are no great fried dumplings.

                                    There is a natural limit to how good uncomplicated foods like these can be. Sure, sometimes a good burger is exactly what I want but I don't confuse that with greatness.

                                    By all means, give Keith McNally $26 for a magic burger that's more expensive ounce for ounce than steak. I'm not saying you're wrong. But not everybody feels the same way. Doing the math on the $26 hamburger is a way of getting a little perspective.

                                    1. re: eucalyptia

                                      I don't know where you're getting wine, but most (even high-end) restos have wine by the glass for $12-$15.

                                      And it's accepted that restos mark up wine astronomically. We're not comparing to retail, again. We're simply comparing to other similar restaurant offerings. And for that price, you can do better.

                                      1. re: sgordon

                                        Of course you can do better when comapring a cost anaylsis- but it's 100% subjective. Some people adore McDonald's fries, others would comment that the fries at (insert favorite fry place here) are infinitely better despite being considerably more expensive. The point is not whether it is cost effective- it's the entire experience. Not just the food - or the price of it. In the case of the $26 burger at Minetta, I think it's worth it.

                                  2. re: sgordon

                                    sgordon, you're overlooking the fact that there are no bones in the ground steak. They are not weighing the steak and deducting the bones.

                                    This isn't a precise science, but 8oz at $2.58 per oz is over $20. Yes, there are cheaper cuts blended in. But incidentals aren't restricted to onions, bun and fries. As I said, they have to employ people to cook it, pay the rent, pay the bills and make a profit.

                                    Remember, I didn't say it WASN'T over-priced. Just that it isn't OBVIOUSLY over-priced. It seems to be in the right ballpark.

                                    1. re: sgordon

                                      You know what - I pay $4 for a cookie at Levain Bakery, and I'm sure the ingredients themselves cost like 50 cents per cookie, if that. Doesn't matter to me, 'cause I can't make cookies like Levain does at home. I can't make a burger like BLB either, nor am I willing to spend time and effort to get the blend and the rest of the recipe just right to replicate the result. So to me, the discussion about the pricing of the meat per ounce is moot.

                                      And I wasn't even as enamored w/ the burger as my husband was - I thought it was very good, even great, but not quite "food speedball" like he said. I'd take cote de beouf or even their trout meuniere (one of best trout preparations I've ever had) over it six days out of seven.

                                      1. re: uwsister

                                        Went to Minetta recently. Found the seating crammed and uncomfortable, and the Black Label Burger super-MEH: overpriced and overrated.

                                        The one saving grace was the Grand Marnier Souffle... awesome!

                                        I'm glad I tried the place, but the menu is not exciting enough to lure me back. Wish they had dishes featuring duck, quail or lobster. Too many typical beef options.

                                        Minetta Tavern
                                        113 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012

                            2. The original comment has been removed
                              1. The patty of the burger is bold and buttery. While it is indeed good, 'best burger in the country' is really a far cry. I'd go so far as to say Father's Office in LA is a more memorable first bite. The burger's reputation has unfortunately set too high a standard for itself to meet, or for any burger to meet really.