What is the most iconic burger, that quintessential staple of American dining, in New York City, the mecca of food in America (OK, admittedly, the center of gravity in the American dining world has been shifted somewhat to other places too)? This daunting quest poses another follow-up question: how do you like your burger? Do you like haute burger with no expenses spared, like the Black Label burger at Minetta Tavern or the chargrilled one at The Spotted Pig? Or something more basic yet still satisfying like you see at places like any of the Shake Shack branches or at Burger Joint? I honestly have no preference (although Minetta Tavern still tops my list if someone asks me where I would have my last burger). In this endless burger conversation, one place has always popped up: JG Melon in Upper East Side (now with a branch in Greenwich Village). When I stepped in to the pub-style restaurant with my girlfriend recently for a quick pre-theatre bite, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The place was absolutely chaotic even on an early evening with our server, a nice lady, looking lost. Before we got our burgers, another party that arrived like 15 minutes after us got the same burgers we had ordered! Is the iconic status an overblown hype? Well, I’ll say this. JG Melon does deliver a deeply satisfying burger.
When the burgers arrived (I ordered bacon cheeseburger, while my girlfriend ordered plain cheeseburger), I was somewhat underwhelmed at first with the looks. Everything looked somewhat modest in size such that my girlfriend was worried if I might still be hungry after wolfing down the entire thing. I didn’t see any ingredients in particular that jumped out at me either. It was just a pile of beef patty with cheese and bacon on top inside the plain looking bun, and pickles and onions on the side (you can also ask for tomato and lettuce to add). After I combined all the ingredients and folded the bun into the full-fledged burger, however, my first bite delivered that instant satisfaction. I loved the way the beef patty was cooked more or less perfectly, and while eating the burger easy as the ingredients didn’t quite stick together as well as I had hoped, there was something eerily blissful from this no-frills dish that was really stripped down to the bare essential of what constitutes a good burger. At the end of the day, my girlfriend and I had no problem making a quick work of our burgers.
JG Melon doesn’t take reservations, and the dining space with retro vibe was nearly full so I would recommend showing up early if you don’t want to wait, although the turnover is fairly quick. The restaurant doesn’t accept credit cards, so bring some cash before you head over there. There is full bar; I was hoping that an Old Fashioned cocktail that I ordered would match the quality of the burger, but sadly it didn’t. If you’re on that illusive quest to find the best burger in NYC, JG Melon is definitely one stop you need to make. The experience may not be pretty, but the burger will still make you think about it next time you’re in Upper East Side.
- Creativity: 6.0/10
- Execution: 8.0/10
- Ingredients: 7.5/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
Address: 1291 Third Ave, New York, NY 10021
Telephone: (212) 744-0585