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5 Napkin Burger

phatchris Dec 11, 2010 05:25 AM

I have no clue if this has been discussed, a search came up empty for me. I also have no clue whether or not its any good, but sounds interesting enough.

  1. k
    klaw07 Jun 9, 2011 07:54 AM

    I've had the 5 Napkin Burger in NYC many times and it's amazing. I always get the original 5 Napkin Burger - Burger, Gruyere Cheese & Carmelized onions. The best.

    1. Mike5966 Apr 2, 2011 09:35 AM

      A big, fat "meh" from me...

      Went there last night and was unimpressed. The place was already completely packed by 6 PM when we arrived and it took about 30 minutes to wait for a walk-in table for two. In the meantime, we headed to the bar to have a glass of wine and a beer -- unfortunately took literally 15 minutes to get the bartender's attention (there were three of them, and the bar has maybe 15-18 seats).

      Now on to the important stuff: the burger itself. I ordered the cheeseburger with American cheese, medium, with lettuce, tomato, onion, special sauce, and pickles. Strike 1 was the absence of special sauce -- had to ask for it on the side to another waitress who sounded annoyed at the request. Strike 2 (the deal-breaker) was the bun... it is a very hard ciabatta-style roll which is probably designed to stand up to the large 10 oz. patty and all the juices it theoretically spills, but it was just way too hard. I don't want to eat my burger on a baguette or ciabatta, and I don't want an artisinal-looking dusting of flour on the bun, and I don't want the bun to feel hard and not pliable in my grip. In addition, it was not griddled on the underside, just plain, dry, and tasteless. Strike 3 was the patty which on both of our burgers was cooked to well-done despite the request for medium. Not a drop of juice. Didn't have the time or energy to complain and send it back and wait for another round of burgers. In addition, it was poorly seasoned. Strike 4 was the 15 minutes it took to wait for our second round of drinks after we were seated. Strike 5 was the fact that our fries and onion rings appeared 5 minutes after our burgers arrived, and that just ruins the whole point of ordering them in the first place. Also you pay over $4 for literally only 6 or 7 onion rings.

      Things I did enjoy included the vibe of the place and the decent beer selection. Also, the fries and the onion rings were rather good. The onion rings in particular were super crispy, cornmeal-crusted, and thick, containing onions with just a little bit of residual snap without having the onion-y bite of raw onion. They were really delicious. Still, not worth $4.50 or whatever for just 6-7 rings. Other positives... the sliced bread-and-butter pickles were really good. Burger toppings otherwise were fresh, and despite the hardness of the roll, the layers of the burger somehow don't go slipping and sliding all around after a few bites. The cheese on the patty was completely melted. Unfortunately, the negatives far outweighed these positives, and I did not eat the second half of my burger (and I NEVER do this, not even at hospital cafeterias with hockey puck burgers).

      Two rounds of drinks, two burgers, fries, and onion rings put us at just over $70 after tax and tip. The service issues will probably improve with time and training of their very young-looking FOH staff. But the burgers were just bad. Sigh of major disappointment.

      19 Replies
      1. re: Mike5966
        almansa Apr 2, 2011 10:31 AM

        Word on the street (I know an opening manager who quit after 3 days) is that they rushed to open it without implementing any sort of operational systems, without much training and with zero communication between ownership and operators. In my mind they made a mistake opening in the Boston market anyway if they expect locals to be interested in their signature burger or other more eclectic items.

        About the bun - I believe the buns are gluten-free, which would account for the odd texture. However, on the Sunday after opening they ran out of buns altogether and bought some at the supermarket (without informing the service staff).

        1. re: almansa
          ac106 Apr 2, 2011 12:25 PM

          In my mind they made a mistake opening in the Boston market anyway if they expect locals to be interested in their signature burger or other more eclectic items.


          I am curious as to what this means. Why would Boston locals not be interested in the signature burger? I haven't been there but reading the thread it doesn't seem all that odd....

          1. re: ac106
            almansa Apr 2, 2011 12:59 PM

            To me it sounds tasty - rosemary aioli, caramelized onions and gruyere. But I picture most people around these parts getting a plain cheeseburger.

            1. re: almansa
              Mike5966 Apr 2, 2011 01:33 PM

              I tried a few bites of this one, too. Similar to the burger at Radius, it tasted more like a ground beef sandwich than it did a "burger." Could have been OK if the patty was cooked properly. Overall, I didn't like it, though I did like the Radius burger a lot. The Radius burger is about $8 more expensive.

              1. re: almansa
                robwat36 Apr 14, 2011 04:00 PM

                Wow, that's condescending. And also kind of dispelled by the popularity of the burgers at Craigie, Radius, Toro, etc.

            2. re: almansa
              Mike5966 Apr 2, 2011 12:53 PM

              I wonder which buns I got, the real one or some replacement buns... Admittedly, the buns on my plate did not look like the buns in their advertising photos, which look much softer, more golden brown, and just prettier. Seriously, my burger looked like it was made using Whole Foods ciabatta bread. Blech.

            3. re: Mike5966
              MC Slim JB Apr 2, 2011 11:31 AM

              While noting that it opened barely a week ago, I agree that the service is amateurish at this point (awfully youthful looking), needs a lot more training.

              I liked the burger at the Boston outlet better than you, but mine was cooked to the right temperature, perhaps a shade past it. However, I requested my bun to be toasted, and it wasn't. I didn't think it was at all too hard a roll, actually a little soft for my preference, but it needed the flavor that toasting would have added. It held together pretty well despite this being a 10-oz patty expressing a fair amount of fat and juice. I like the complete flavor profile of a chuck patty, caramelized onions, gruyere, and rosemary aioli.

              Bartenders are not very knowledgeable about their stock (I mentioned a few not-terribly-obscure spirits that I could see right in front of me, and several staffers had no idea what I was talking about), but they can make the basics decently, and the prices aren't bad. The fact that they offer blender drinks like a frozen strawberry mojito gives you an idea of the crowd they're tilting at.

              It has a kind of brasserie look (subway tile everywhere), but much dimmer lighting than the typical bright brasserie. Rather loud rock music on the sound system.

              Useful to note that the burger is a la carte: the signature burger with a side of fries is $14.


              1. re: MC Slim JB
                charlestown_matt Apr 14, 2011 11:08 AM

                Had lunch today at 5Napkin Burger. This was my second visit for lunch, and it did not turn out very well. DC and I got there at noon and the place was about 1/4 full. Seated promptly, and we ordered within a few minutes of sitting down. The place was still not very full. I ordered the inside out burger, medium rare. The waitress made a point of telling me that their medium was pink in the middle, etc, etc. I said that I understood, and that I still wanted medium rare. She made a comment about me liking it a little bloody, to which I nodded. DC ordered a burger salad with the meat cooked medium. We also got a side of onion rings.

                I started to worry about 5 minutes later when our food appeared. I cook a lot of burgers at home, and even the thinnest of patties with room temp meat take a few minutes to cook. 5 Napkin's burgers are about an inch thick, and there is no way they could be cooked to order in 5 minutes. Unfortunately I was correct; the burgers were not cooked to order. Both burgers were medium-well. The taste was not awful, but it was far from what I ordered. They must have cooked the patties earlier, and then re-heated them or left them on a warm part of the grill to melt the cheese. This is unacceptable, IMO, at a place that is built around high quality burgers, and charges those kind of prices.

                My initial visit was a much better experience, and although not free of flaws at least the burger (5 Napkin signature) was very tasty. I will think twice about going back though now.

                EDIT: Onion rings were great both times

                1. re: charlestown_matt
                  opinionatedchef Apr 14, 2011 01:06 PM

                  YIKES!! you didn't want to call over the manager? that's an expensive forfeit. i mean, it arrived so early on, you could easily have rcvd a re-do w/o losing much time.

                  1. re: opinionatedchef
                    charlestown_matt Apr 14, 2011 01:26 PM

                    I don't disagree with you. We thought about it. If the waitress had come by to ask how things were I definitely would have mentioned something, but she was actually MIA until it was too late (we had to flag her down to get the check). We were hungry enough to just eat what we were served at the time because we had to get back to work. I agree with you that I could have sent it back and received a properly cooked burger without much of a delay. I'm sure the manager would have understood. The reason I posted my experience has more to do with 5 Napkins serving pre-cooked burgers. I have not experienced that (knowingly) at any other burger joint of this caliber.

                    1. re: charlestown_matt
                      TravellingFoodie Apr 14, 2011 02:06 PM

                      I have eaten at 2 of the Manhattan location and in my experience, they were not precooked. Your story is abominable. I would have asked for a burger to be made from scratch. I never would have eaten it as you described and I think as a new restaurant in the area, they should have been given a chance to respond to your concerns appropriately. If they did not, that would have been a different story. I still plan on visiting the Boston location next time I'm up.

                      1. re: TravellingFoodie
                        L2k Apr 15, 2011 08:01 AM

                        We were at the location on 9th this past Saturday, and my medium-rare came out in 5 minutes cooked perfectly. Now this was dinner time, and the place was full, so it is possible they have a number of burgers going all the time in anticipation of them going out quickly. So although not expressly "cooked to order", if you do your planning right you can get the product to the people as ordered.

                        1. re: L2k
                          BJK Apr 15, 2011 09:29 AM

                          Especially for a large, thick, pub-style burger, one which the 5 Napkin Burger certainly qualifies at 10 ounces, it would not surprise me in the least if they had a whole bunch of patties cooked sousvide to rare, held and ready to be finished to order.

                          1. re: L2k
                            TravellingFoodie Apr 15, 2011 04:55 PM

                            This is an excellent point about the "cooked to order". Every burger I ordered medium rare was excellent. How well they prepare beforehand and line them up I don't worry about, as long as the finished product works out well and it does.

                        2. re: charlestown_matt
                          opinionatedchef Apr 14, 2011 04:03 PM

                          matt, maybe you just want to put it behind you.but i tend to warp into terrier mode when it comes to things like this, so i would suggest you call a manager and explain and say you'd like to come again butfeel you deserve a comped lunch. any decent mngr hearing that a) the food was horrid and b) the staff person was MIA when the floor was so slow- would be thankful to hear from you.

                          1. re: opinionatedchef
                            Jolyon Helterman Apr 15, 2011 04:48 AM

                            Ate here twice in past few weeks and was very impressed with my burger both times. Perfect med-rare, nice soft (!) bun, well-seasoned, rosemary aioli was fabulous. Service is amateurish, but nothing that killed the meal. Tuscan fries are tasty.

                            I'd put the burger up there with my favorites in town: BBSC, Radius, SDLT, Middlesex, and...ICOB (a recent surprise!).

                            1. re: Jolyon Helterman
                              opinionatedchef Apr 15, 2011 10:46 AM

                              jolyon, this is a very helpful post so thank you. one suggestion- while i often use abbrevs to a fault, plse don't assUme we all know what those stand for. most of us have enough mental workouts in our lives. ya don't have to spell them all out but at least give us more letters.i.e. Sel DeLT, Isl Crk OB......

                      2. re: charlestown_matt
                        cherrytomato Apr 30, 2011 11:53 AM

                        I went there for my third visit. My DC who worked in restaurants when he was younger said they sandbag the burgers. I said what's that? He said they precook burgers to have them ready partially and they finish them to order. That must be why my last two visits produced well done burgers when I ordered them medium. Also the table sitting behind us came in after us and they were served their burgers in less than seven minutes. They got their burgers before their milkshakes.
                        We both sent back our food. The manager saw us send it back and never bothered to come by and introduce himself and ask us how things were. He stood behind the host stand the entire time we were there. Never once walked around the dining room. Never once even spoke to an employee. The service is shaky. It's obvious that there is a lack of training. I used my fork for an appetizer and when the waiter cleared our plate he told me to keep my fork. There was no where to put it except on the table and it was dirty. I said there is no where to put it can I get a fresh one. No answer. Ice tea is served with no lemon and had to ask for sweetener. Food came and there were no utensils. Had to wait for someone to come by so we could get a fork and knife. Dessert never offered each time I have been. The first week they opened I went and it was good but the last two times have been lackluster. Burgers should not be pre cooked or overcooked. Needs improvement starting with the kitchen, waitstaff and management.

                        1. re: cherrytomato
                          Gabatta May 1, 2011 07:20 PM

                          I didn't think much of the NE UWS location (in short pretty bland meat), so not surprised to hear of the middling reports here. The precooking is completely unacceptable.

                          Some many new burgers in Boston, but it is unfortunate that none of them can really stand out so far.

                  2. t
                    trueblu Mar 25, 2011 07:27 PM

                    Went here last night with a colleague visiting from England. We both ordered their original burger, along with one side of 'tuscan fries' (fries with cheese) and onion rings, along with shakes (I ordered the salted caramel).

                    I ordered my burger just shy of medium, but not medium rare -- it arrived medium rare, however, but I didn't want to quibble. The burger itself, as described above, is very large, and delicious. One of the best burgers I've had. The meat was very beefy in taste, and although an entirely different beast from the Craigie burger, competed with it well. The fries were fine -- the cheese was good, but the fries themselves were sl. underdone. The onion rings were only so so (not the 'fantastic' the server opined) and a very small portion for the price, I will avoid next time. The shakes were excellent and a very good size (about 2 small, diner style glasses).

                    The service was slow but friendly. I had checked on opentable whether there was room, but it showed no availability, but we were seated immediately upon arriving as walk-ups (albeit fairly early), by the time we left it was really buzzing.

                    The bill came to about $54 with tax and tip. Paying over $25 for a burger, fries and a shake is rather on the pricey side, and it's among the most expensive burgers I've had (the spot price comparison with other places isn't fair, since most places serve their burgers with fries -- here it is about $6 extra). That said, for an occasional splurge, or for a fun evening, I would recommend it.


                    PS although they say they are in the prudential centre, one can't access it without going outside onto huntington ave. I think they are in the location formally occupied by a horrid looking casual american joint that I never frequented.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: trueblu
                      Gabatta Mar 26, 2011 04:43 AM

                      One thing Boston isn't lacking at this point is plenty of burger options. It may be impossible to find a consensus best, however there should be something to suit all tastes. Burgers are also a lot more expensive than anyone would have imagined a decade ago.

                      Is there a way to access from the Huntington concourse inside the Pru? There is a sign at a corridor next to the 111 Huntington lobby with a 5 Napkin sign.

                      1. re: Gabatta
                        trueblu Mar 26, 2011 11:27 AM

                        Re: access -- I thought as you did, but couldn't find an entrance, if indeed there is one. Unless there's a full-blown blizzard (and even then), it's only a 30 sec walk outside.

                        Totally agree re: the explosion of 'fine burger' options -- I'm sure it's a real money spinner since the basic ingredients are pretty inexpensive. I certainly prefer this burger to several of the others, e.g. sel de la terre.


                        1. re: trueblu
                          TravellingFoodie Mar 29, 2011 03:25 PM

                          I agree with you that there are lots of burger options, however, there aren't lots of GREAT burger options and this is one of them. I ate at the Upper West Side Manhattan location on Saturday and it was as good as ever. I look forward to stopping at the Boston location when I come up to Fenway this summer. Thanks for the location info.

                    2. g
                      Gordough Mar 17, 2011 09:49 AM

                      I was invited to try the restaurant this weekend at an invite only soft opening they are doing over a few nights. From what I hear they are providing the food and drink and we need only tip the servers. I will report back.

                      1. TravellingFoodie Mar 6, 2011 05:55 PM

                        I have eaten at the 9th Avenue restaurant several times and the burger is fantastic. It is a big, fat juicy burger and great fries. It's fantastic that they're coming to Boston. I wonder if they will use the same Pat LaFrieda burger mix they use in Manhattan. They also have veggie, turkey and salmon burgers. If they use the LaFrienda burger mix, I will be visiting the Boston location as soon as it's opened.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: TravellingFoodie
                          OLDCHEF Mar 7, 2011 02:59 AM

                          lafrienda is not the source for burger in nyc anymore for 5 napkins

                          1. re: OLDCHEF
                            TravellingFoodie Mar 7, 2011 04:48 AM

                            Do you mean Pat LAFRIEDA?

                            1. re: TravellingFoodie
                              C. Hamster Mar 7, 2011 08:16 AM

                              Just when you thought Boston was immune from the silly La Frieda obsession ....

                              1. re: C. Hamster
                                Blumie Mar 7, 2011 08:21 AM

                                That said, there's nothing wrong with being obsessed with a quality burger, which starts with quality meat! Pat La Frieda has not cornered the market on quality meat, but he has for good reason established a brand that people equate with quality meat.

                                1. re: Blumie
                                  TravellingFoodie Mar 16, 2011 11:43 PM

                                  I agree totally with this. The burger is great, not a "silly La Frieda obsession".

                                  1. re: TravellingFoodie
                                    C. Hamster Mar 17, 2011 08:10 AM

                                    New York City foodie sites were quite over the top with LaFrieda obsession a few years ago. It was an interesting debate at first but it morphed into something bizarre because it would.not.stop.

                                    That's all. Just being flip as uaual.

                          2. re: TravellingFoodie
                            scotty27 Mar 7, 2011 06:34 AM

                            Yeah, I'm excited, too. Booked a table.

                          3. b
                            Blumie Dec 11, 2010 08:55 PM

                            I've eaten at their original 9th Ave. location several times and like it very much. I think it's a good addition to the neighborhood.

                            19 Replies
                            1. re: Blumie
                              bear Dec 12, 2010 06:44 AM

                              Blumie, do you remember if prices are reasonable? Menu sounds quite good for a casual bite in the Pru area.

                              1. re: bear
                                Blumie Dec 12, 2010 07:04 AM

                                It's an upscale burger place. I think the burger is in the $15 range. It's not the best bargain, but I think it will rank with the Bristol Lounge as one of the better burgers in the neighborhood.

                                1. re: Blumie
                                  bear Dec 12, 2010 07:42 AM

                                  Thanks. Worth checking out.

                                  1. re: Blumie
                                    L2k Dec 12, 2010 08:17 AM

                                    We'll be there Christmas night, just made a reservation, but couldn't do so until DW saw that a "burger" can be an Ahi burger

                                    1. re: L2k
                                      bear Dec 12, 2010 09:06 AM

                                      Looking forward to the report. Have fun!

                                      1. re: L2k
                                        L2k Dec 26, 2010 01:25 PM

                                        Back from Hell's Kitchen!

                                        Glad we had a 6PM reservation, got there at 5:40 or so, and the place was PACKED, but our table (away from the door, thank goodness) was ready right on time. Great waitress, who got way overtipped (first time she's ever worked Christmas, and she wasn't happy, but she didn't show it at all, we just pried a bit and asked).

                                        I had the bacon and cheddar burger, Med Rare, wife asked if she could have the Ahi Tuna burger rare, response was perfect "how rare do you want it?", and it came nearly raw, as preferred. Mine was a bit undercooked, which was fine, as it was one of the greatest burgers I've had in a very long time. Can't wait for it to open at the Pru. Table top cards already advertise it. Ahi Tuna burger was also rated top of the line. They are also very proud of their cheesy/herby Tater Tots, I wasn't as impressed with them. Very good shoestring fries come with the order.

                                        Certainly not cheap, 2 burgers plus 2 sodas and 1 salad came to $45 before tip, but remarkably good!

                                        1. re: L2k
                                          fesenjan Dec 27, 2010 11:07 AM

                                          We ate at the 84th St location the week before Christmas and also really enjoyed it. I had a perfectly medium-rare "original"( with rosemary aioli, gruyere, caramelized onions) and my husband had the bacon cheddar. Both of us thought they were unusually good burgers. Neither of us had fries; I subbed in a field greens salad which was good, and he subbed in coleslaw which he found monochromatic. It will be good to have them as a resource in the Pru.

                                      2. re: Blumie
                                        MC Slim JB Dec 27, 2010 05:48 AM

                                        Yes, the basic burger with fries is $15. The menu includes a short list of maki, sandwiches (including lobster salad sliders), a $14 "Kobe" foot-long frank, and shakes. Full bar, too. Pretty well-regarded in NYC, though I have not been myself.


                                        1. re: MC Slim JB
                                          mgerstenblatt Feb 17, 2011 03:51 PM

                                          Any updates on when 5 Napkin is supposed to open?

                                          1. re: mgerstenblatt
                                            fesenjan Feb 17, 2011 05:45 PM

                                            The chain's website says Feb 2011. They're having a contest to create "the Boston Burger" that ends Feb 22.

                                            1. re: fesenjan
                                              scotty27 Mar 5, 2011 10:30 AM

                                              This is pretty great news, I think. The burgers look great and the rest of the menu does, too. I just booked a table for April on Open Table. Don't know if they open before that time.


                                              1. re: scotty27
                                                T.Clark Mar 5, 2011 11:57 AM

                                                Not sure where MC is getting his well-regarded info from but in my research I have found the opposite to be the case. AHT had a not-so-good review last year and NY chowhounders have mirrored their sentiments.


                                                1. re: T.Clark
                                                  Blumie Mar 5, 2011 04:48 PM

                                                  Not sure why we would give any greater weight to "AHT" than anyone else, but I can assure you that this NY hound likes their burgers, and have found the reviews on the NY board to be generally favorable. It's a slightly-too-shiny-and-polished chain, which costs it some points in my book, but I've never been disappointed by their burgers.

                                                  1. re: Blumie
                                                    T.Clark Mar 6, 2011 07:56 AM

                                                    Sorry to step on your toes Blumie but a quick search of the NY board will turn up some dissenting opinions to yours. AHT is certainly a credible place to do research on all things related to burgers and burger joints (pizza too on their sister site Slice). A dedicated staff who's sole purpose is to review any place that sells a hamburger, well I guess I give them greater weight than most.

                                                    1. re: T.Clark
                                                      Blumie Mar 7, 2011 08:13 AM

                                                      I don't think there's a burger place anywhere in the world that doesn't have dissenting opinions, and I don't think my description of their "generally favorable" reviews suggests otherwise. Moreover, having a "dedicated staff who's sole purpose is to review any place that sells a hamburger" doesn't make their opinions any better or worse than yours or mine or anyone else's.

                                                      But at the end of the day, this is a burger place. Make a $15 investment and see if you like it. If you do, great. If not, move on.

                                                    2. re: Blumie
                                                      Jenny Ondioline Mar 6, 2011 08:36 AM

                                                      Although he did not write the Five Napkin review, AHT's Kenji Lopez-Alt (also a Hound) is a respected authority on the subject, and I take his opinions on hamburgers quite seriously.

                                                      That said, 10 ounce burger patty? Pass. Not a fan of softball-shaped burgers.

                                                      1. re: Jenny Ondioline
                                                        scotty27 Mar 6, 2011 09:08 AM

                                                        I know. That kind of spooked me in terns of size. I'm curious nonetheless.

                                                    3. re: T.Clark
                                                      MC Slim JB Mar 17, 2011 09:12 AM

                                                      J. Kenji Alt-Lopez is indeed a great burger maven.

                                                      That said, I have since been to the Ninth Avenue location, and liked it. It's a big (like, knife and fork big) pub-style burger of loosely-packed chuck with interesting toppings (rosemary aioli, caramelized onions, gruyere, butter lettuce, a thick tomato slice). The roll was substantial but still a little softer than I prefer. A pile of okay skinny fries, on the underdone side. Cocktails are very good. A slick package, kind of brasserie-like. I was not brave enough to hazard the sushi.

                                                      Their Boston "signature burger" contest winner doesn't sound too appealing: maple syrup in the patty, a layer of baked beans. Hmph.


                                            2. re: Blumie
                                              Gordough Mar 17, 2011 10:56 AM

                                              actually, I just saw the Boston menu and the plain burger appears to be only $8.95 and the Original (and Bacon Cheeseburger) are only $10.95 which certainly seem reasonable especially if the quality is as good as the NYC reports in this thread. Here is the menu: http://5napkinburger.com/locations-me...

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