the spot: Corner Bistro 331 W. 4th St. NY, NY 10014
the eats: Bistro Burger, Cheeseburger, Hamburger
the bucks: $10.75-$14.75
the full nelson: an NYC burger institution that feels like home
The first time I dined at Corner Bistro in NYC, I returned 12 hours later. It was technically the next day but I had not gone to bed. The joys of hanging out in New York City when you’re 26 years old. Corner Bistro is one part awesome “dive bar” and the other is an NYC burger institution. Like any spot that has drawn accolades over the years, there are also the detractors. And while I generally disagree, it should be noted the burger cooking game has grown leaps and bounds since I fell in love with Corner Bistro in 2003. Yet like the same night I found I found a Wilco song on the jukebox called “I’m always in love“, I am still in love with Corner Bistro.
I’ve never lived in New York City, which has been one of my great regrets in life. I think I make up for that by visiting the city of eight million stories at least once a year for the last 25 years. The sight of Corner Bistro from the street is a welcomed one. Something that for me is a reminder of what the neighborhood once was: bohemian, affordable, different.
One of my last visits to West Village took me for a loop. I saw an old guy decked out in Neiman Marcus/Saks 5th Avenue gear. Soft leather shoes with tassels, silk slacks; clothes that aren’t unexpected to find in Manhattan but a sign that West Village was looking a little too cush for my tastes.
Then I walk into Corner Bistro and I’m back in 2003. That same beast of a burger, shot glasses of whiskey and cheap long neck domestics beers stand at the ready. It’s still NYC and all of this comes at a price but this is as close to a dive bar as I’m gonna get while hanging in this part of Manhattan. Oh and the burger? A hulking thick half pound of beef, broiled in a salamander and cooked to order. That’s the star of the show. The bun comes out of a bag, pickles out of a jar, the onion is sliced wonderfully thick, lettuce and tomato are there if you want it.
When I first went to Corner Bistro, I want to say the burger clocked in around $8 for bacon and cheese. Times have changed. While $10.75 for the hamburger sans cheese and bacon sounds like a reasonable deal in 2021, I think the burger needs the cheese and bacon for a salty punch. This patty is thick and some detractors have called the burger underseasoned so adding some cheese and bacon would be a wise move. By the time you factor in the drinks, and I do mean drinks in the plural sense, you will have laid out some coin for this burger experience. Welcome to NYC pal.
I love me a burger that fills me up. I love a thick burger cooked to temp. This is the kind of burger I grew up having in the Pubs/Bars of the Midwest. For these reasons I have a strong affinity for Corner Bistro. I do think that when I read more critical reviews of Corner Bistro I have to keep in mind that the burger world has improved. We have come to expect more from our burgers and for our bucks. I mean, Corner Bistro, a dive burger by NYC standards is a $15 affair.
That’s a line from the Wilco song I played on the jukebox when I went to Corner Bistro back in 2003. I guess I will just forever be hooked at CB. Around 3:30am on a cold December night in 2003 I fell in love with a burger and a place. And almost 20 years later, nothing has changed. If you can get behind the simplicity of a thick burger cooked temp, slapped between a hamburger bun from a bag and tolerable produce plus a couple beers with shot, you might yourself in love with Corner Bistro too.
And stay in love for the next 20 years.