Since 1972, the Upper East Side’s JG Melon (3rd Avenue at 74th Street) has been delighting out-of-town pilgrims and neighborhood faithful alike with what many call the best burger on the isle of Manhattan. If you asked the throng huddled in Melon’s diminutive lobby, waiting for a seat and a slab of heaven, you might receive fifty reasons why this is so. For me, the kitchen—just a few steps past the front door—tells the whole story: small, open for the world to see, and populated by little else but a searing flat grill and pounds of fresh, double-ground chuck. It epitomizes the burgers that it produces: simple, unassuming, and totally mesmerizing.
If my years as a professional burgrarian have taught me anything, it’s never to underestimate the union of quality and simplicity, a marriage that JG Melon officiates beautifully: a generous patty of flavorful, quality beef, topped with sharp-salty pickle slices, juicy-fresh tomatoes, and a crown of crisp, whole-leaf lettuce between a soft, unseeded bun. I have no doubt that Melon’s famed cottage-fried potatoes were delicious, but frankly I don’t remember them well; I was too engrossed in the burger.
My rating: 4 out of 5.