You ever have a place that you really really want to like? So much so that you keep coming back, even when it's clearly against any sense of reason to do so? Well, I realized I'm that way with Five Napkin Burger. I really want to like 5NB, even though I've been a number of times before and haven't really been impressed. Well, last Friday I took AV there-- he loves burgers, and there's been a vegetable roll on the menu I've wanted to try. So we showed up at 7 to a 30-minute wait; we crowed in the corner of the bar, shouting over the cacophony and nursing drinks for 30 minutes, then 40 minutes. I was starting to lose it. But suddenly our coaster buzzed and we were on!
We were squeezed into a two-person table on the end of a banquette, which meant we were basically right in the path of traffic. Runners and waiters and managers and hostesses all fled by, brandishing burgers, bumping into each other, and generally contributing to a pervasive, incredibly hectic atmosphere. Being in 5NB raised my blood pressure.
We sat for several minutes, heads turning back and forth, without anybody visiting. Finally, a harried server stopped by to greet us-- at this point, having had nearly an hour to look over the menu and decide what we want, we seized our chance to order. We also asked for bread to tide us over. The waitress looked sort of confused, and a few minutes later we understood why. Behold, the Saddest Bread Basket in the World. Four pieces of dry, nearly inedible bread, devoid of either butter or oil. Truly gross.
Clearly unsatiated by the bread course, we hunkered down to wait for our food. And hunkered. Finally, as we teetered on the point of drunk and ravenous, it arrived. AV's bacon-cheddar burger, with onion rings instead of fries (for an extra charge), was gobbled down appreciatively. I'm happy to say he really, really liked it-- that was the point of us going to 5NB, after all-- and my few (okay, maybe more than a few) bites of the onion rings were swoon-worthy.
My choice, the vegetable roll, was tasty but small and overpriced. Instead of seaweed, there was a soy wrapper, which was a curious choice as it really didn't add (or subtract) much. The roll was well-executed, but $10.95 you could get three times as much food at a sushi restaurant. When I finished, I was still hungry, which is a pretty impressive achievement when you're dealing with a stomach as small as mine. I would definitely not return for this dish.
After we finished, we fled to the Tasti D next door for dessert. My final verdict on 5NB? It's loud and pretty unpleasant to be in. The food is overpriced. But the burgers, alas, are great. So if you're in the mood for an expensive burger and don't care about a wait, frenzied service, and having to shout to your dining companion, by all means check it out. If any of those matter to you, steer clear of this two Offset Spatula place. You can get good burgers-- and good other food as well-- at a better price elsewhere.
Five Napkin Burger
630 Ninth Ave, between 44th and 45th Streets