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Monthly Archives: January 2010

Brooklyn Burgers: Flipster’s Beats Five Guys

Five Guys exteriorHow many guys does it take to make a good burger? Apparently more (or less) than five—at least that’s what the burgers at the Park Slope outpost of the cult chain Five Guys Burgers and Fries suggest. Two thin, dry hockey-puck-like patties come stacked on an unremarkable bun. The free toppings—including jalapeños, A-1 Sauce and grilled mushrooms and onions, to name a few—are the only plus. Fries are flabby and flavorless, lacking all crisp. Empanada Boy and I ordered the spicy Cajun ones, which were just the same fries doused with a dusty heap of cayenne pepper. They didn’t redeem this restaurant.

So why do people (such as my editor, Noodles, mentioned in last week’s post) like this place so much? Perhaps it’s the free toppings, or the free peanuts they give you while you wait. Or maybe it’s that people are comparing it to McDonald’s, which it obviously surpasses. I’m just not sure how to explain the phenomenon. Since EB and I moved to Park Slope at the beginning of January, we’ve already had time to try Five Guys, reject it as overrated and identify a far superior burger at a place up the street called Flipster’s.

Plain BurgerThe name Flipster’s admittedly leaves something to be desired. (The website says it’s a reference to the Brooklyn hipsters who flip the burgers, but I noticed no skinny jeans or horn rims behind the grill.) But EB and I were very pleasantly surprised when we stopped in at Flipster’s after signing our lease. It’s a pretty standard looking bar and grill with dark wooden furniture and a TV playing sports. The menu has items like chicken sandwiches and popcorn shrimp, but burgers are the clear focus. These range from the most basic option to Kobe beef burgers, bison and lamb burgers and even a pizza burger with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese (might be gross, might be good).

Brooklyn Burger 1I ordered the plain burger, which I believe is the true test of greatness because it highlights the most important ingredient: the meat. It came with lettuce, tomato, onions, mustard and ketchup. EB ordered the Brooklyn Flipster Burger with bacon, mozzarella and caramelized onion. Both patties were obviously hand-formed and nicely charred on the outside. Biting into them revealed the pretty pinkish hue of the meat, medium-rare as requested. The meat was flavorful, fresh and juicy and had obviously never been frozen. It was a far cry from the chewy shriveled disks at Five Guys. EB’s bacon was crispy and delicious. The cheese added chew. Still, I don’t think a good burger needs these accessories, and I was completely content here without them.

Waffle FriesLastly, I cannot fail to mention the superior fries at Flipster’s. They are waffle-cut, offering a greater fried surface-area-to-volume ratio. These were crispy and evenly spiced with a blend of seasonings. Five Guys may give double the number of fries (a huge paper bag full) in its large order, but who wants to eat double the number of limp, flavorless potato sticks? Flipster’s wins this round too, hands down.

P.S. EB has been back to Flipster’s once since our first visit. He was offered a frequent burger card with his check. As much as we liked Flipster’s, we think this could set a dangerous precedent. That’s one club we won’t be joining.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries
284 7th Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11215

444 9th St.
Brooklyn, NY 11215

Five Guys Burgers and Fries on Urbanspoon

Brooklyn Flipsters on Urbanspoon

NYC Cravings for the Office Worker’s Soul

TruckI mostly bring my lunch to work. It’s cheaper and often better-tasting than the lame chains that populate Midtown Manhattan. But there are a few Midtown options that get me out and willing to pay the price. One of these is NYC Cravings, a Taiwanese food cart that parks right next door to my office (48th and 6th Ave.) every Monday. I read about the cart when it first opened, but only learned recently from my food-loving, part Taiwanese editor, Noodles, that it was parked mere steps away.

PatronNearly every Monday at around 11 am, a line of office workers cues up to wait for steaming, hefty portions of Taiwanese-style fried chicken, pork chops and fish cake, served over rice with pickled vegetables and pork sauce (all $7). The cart also serves pork dumplings ($3), chicken wings ($6) and zongzi ($4), which the menu describes as Chinese tamales. The line can be long, which is difficult to endure in the cold of winter. Luckily, my colleagues and I tend to eat later. When Saltman and I went out to try our luck at about 2 pm a few weeks ago, there was one lone patron (who had regretfully come out without his coat) standing ahead of us.

ChickenHaving already tried the pork chops and finding himself with too much food on another visit, Saltman wisely offered to share with me. We ordered the crispy Taiwanese-style fried chicken and brought it back up to the warmth of our office to eat. The chicken was moist and tender with a pleasantly crispy, but not heavily bready, skin. The sauce was salty and rich, playing nicely off the tangy pickled cabbage. Fluffy steamed white rice let us soak up all the juices. This is one flavorful lunch, especially by Midtown standards.

Half a portion was just the right amount for me that day, but Salt Man admitted to still feeling hungry. I guess three-quarters of a portion would be enough to fill most people up. My only regret is that I wasn’t able to sample the pork chops or fish balls. I’m also fascinated by that Chinese tamale concept. Luckily, NYC Cravings seems set to keep showing up near my building every Monday, undoubtedly drawing long lines of lunch-goers every week. You can be sure that the next time I forget my lunch, that’s where I’ll be.

NYC Cravings
48th St. Between 6th and 7th Avenues
Other locations include: 24th between Park and Madison on Tuesdays and 53rd between Park and Lexington on Thursdays.

For all other days, check

Gourmet, Unbound: January

Brussels SproutsEmpanada Boy and I are ringing in the new year in Evanston with his sister Sous Chef, our brother-in-law Slim McDinner, our niece the Reading Corndog and our nephew Lobster Bisque. Slim McDinner has been busy perfecting the art of curing his own pork products, including sausages, bacon and pancetta. He grinds meat with his Kitchen Aid mixer and ages his creations in the basement utility room. I wanted my January tribute to Gourmet to be a vegetable dish because we had already decided to make handmade pasta with Bolognese sauce (including the homemade pancetta) for our main course. As I scanned the vegetable sides on Epicurious, I noticed a simple, but delicious looking, Brussels sprouts recipe that called for pancetta. At first it seemed like too much pancetta for one meal, but then I reconsidered: How could there be too much pancetta? It is New Year’s Eve, after all.

The dish made an excellent counterpart to our opulent New Year’s feast. The Brussels sprouts became sweet and caramelized, and the pancetta brought everything to a higher plane. This is a dish for the decade! Happy 2010!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Pancetta

yield: Makes 4 servings
active time: 10 min
total time: 35 min

1 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved (quartered if large)
2 oz pancetta, visible fat discarded and pancetta minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup water


Preheat oven to 450°F.

Toss together Brussels sprouts, pancetta, garlic, oil, and salt and pepper to taste in an 11- by 7-inch baking pan and spread in 1 layer.

Roast in upper third of oven, stirring once halfway through roasting, until sprouts are brown on edges and tender, about 25 minutes total. Stir in water, scraping up brown bits. Serve warm.

See my other Gourmet, Unbound posts:
April 2010, Shrimp Scampi Pasta
March 2010, Chicken with Black-Pepper Maple Sauce
February 2010, Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream
December 2009, Walnut Spice Cake with Lemon Glaze