Between the Buns
Published: Sunday, October 25, 2009
Updated: Monday, October 26, 2009 00:10
Paul's Da Burger Joint, at 131 2nd Ave, is the down-to-earth home of burgers and fries in the now-trendy East Village.
In obvious defiance of their surroundings just off of St. Mark's Place, the restaurant and the people that inhabit it are a little rough around the edges, but in a good way. It actually adds to the appeal by reassuring us all that there are still regular people out there. There is a certain comfort in dining at a place where the people don't appear to think they're better than you.
The burger was near the top of the chart: big, juicy and, most importantly, well cooked. As usual, I ordered rare. The meat was cooked to perfection, which means it was rare and not raw. Most people don't realize that there is a difference between just browning the edges and cooking it gently.
On top of that, the meat was tender. Chewy burgers, one of the most common follies, are a result of either improperly ground or poor quality meat. These burgers are soft enough that someone with no teeth could eat them.
The topping combinations are nearly endless. Bacon and cheese are the standards. The bacon was perfectly cooked; smoky, crisp, and it in no way hindered the burger-eating process.
The price is where they seal the deal. At $6.50 for a bacon cheeseburger, or $9.50 if you want fries, it seems as though they've barely altered the menu since they first opened their doors as Paul's Palace in 1989. A regular beef burger with no toppings will only run you $4.90. It's hard to imagine anything this good costing so little in Manhattan.
The thick, fluffy and by no means bad fries serve their purpose just fine, but for the same amount of money you could go down the street to Pommes Frites and give your arteries a special treat.
Another specialty that might get overlooked is the home-brewed iced tea. For those not able to or not in the mood to wash down their burgers with an ice-cold beer, this is some of the finest tea this far from the South.
There are also other sandwiches, milkshakes and egg creams for anyone who still has an appetite after the meal, though nobody makes an egg cream like mom used to.
Friendly, up-close and personal service gives this neighborhood joint a real edge. With burgers like these, they don't need any other gimmicks. However, the cow statue inside and the larger-than-life burger on the sidewalk certainly catch the eye.
The place looks more like a roadside truck stop than a Manhattan restaurant. While the area it is tucked away in becomes more modern and fashionable, this place is keeping it real.
A sign hangs from the back wall that says, "This is not Burger King. You don't get it your way. You take it my way or you don't get the damn thing." Well said, as their way works just fine.