the spot: Superiority Burger 119 Ave A New York NY 10009
the eats: Superiority Burger, Burnt Broccoli salad, Roasted White Sweet Potato
the bucks: $16, $13.50, $13 respectively
the full nelson: critically acclaimed + NYC “it spot” delivers a delicious non meat burger experience
As I recap my experience at Superiority Burger, an NYC darling boasting long waits for a table and heaps of critical praise, I think back on how something that on paper doesn’t sound that delicious, certainly was, even more so than I could have expected. This kind of a promise of excellence was how I came to view the food experience in NYC for many years: without equal.
Then a food revolution took hold of the United States in early 2000s. Farm to table became commonplace. Millennials took to tasting menus. Oh and Instagram ushered in a new generation of foodies. Suddenly the food scene NYC was no longer the lone shining light on a hill. Which isn’t to say NYC still isn’t a global hub of culinary talent but I’m not always consistently blown away.
It has been decades since I took down a whole vegetarian burger. That’s not to say I haven’t had bites here and there. I’m a meat eater and a happy one at that. Then a unique set of circumstances positioned me to a moment in time where getting a vegetarian burger made sense. That happened to be a proposal for a second dinner as I had a light bite at Mamoun’s Falafel a few hours earlier.
While I decided to get out of my comfort zone and try a meatless burger, NYC was not out of it’s comfort zone. This town can pull off miracles with food from street carts to steakhouses. And the miracle at Superiority Burger? A punk rock musician turned fine dining chef(former pastry chef from lux restaurant Del Posto) making miracles out of vegetables.
The menu descriptions at Superiority burger don’t do the plates justice in my opinion. Or maybe I’m just a skeptical meat eater. Regardless, it is worth digging into all the elements of this dish. Sitting on the plate is an eggplant puree, not unlike the Middle Eastern mezze staple baba ganoush, except Chef Brooks Headley adds maple syrup. The charred broccoli should wipe away any bad childhood memories of overcooked broccoli mush and the cashews smartly add a crunchy texture. There are restaurants that could make this dish the primary draw, at Superiority Burger it’s a side dish.
Over the last year and a half I’ve kept an eye on my carb intake when I was diagnosed as prediabetic. Thankfully I’ve lowered my numbers but I still keep an eye on my carbs. Maybe that is one reason why I absolutely relished in Superiority Burger’ Roasted White Sweet Potato but another might have been the oddly satisfying toppings.
Basically this is a vegetarian take on a loaded baked potato but pay attention to these details. First, have you had a white sweet potato? Apparently they are less sweet than the orange variety, and quite creamy. Labneh, a strained yogurt and Middle Eastern staple becomes the “sour cream” and chopped crisp pickle replaces the bacon bits. For added flavor, Chef Headley makes a parsley caper sauce that also brings in Maple Syrup into the mix like the broccoli dish above. Ok so beyond the laundry list of unconventional ingredients I’ll had this: this is baked potato that doesn’t need to play sidekick to a steak.
I’ll get down to the nitty gritty: the patty in the Superiority Burger does not taste like beef. This isn’t some version of a plant based meat substitute like Beyond Meat or Impossible Burger. It is a complex flavor profile thanks to a host of ingredients, textures and cooking techniques. Read the back of a label of Beyond meat and you’ll find soy protein, a few oils, minerals and a host of preservatives. Meanwhile consider Superiority Burger’s toasted fennel seed, roasted carrot, sautéed onion, mashed chickpeas, quinoa crushed walnuts and a few binding agents like cooked breadcrumbs and potato starch. By the way that doesn’t include the seasonings like chili sauce and powder, lemon, parsely, white wine vinegar plus usual suspects like salt and pepper.
More akin to a falafel in taste, what does make this patty “burger like” is the fact that it can be seared and the above orchestra of ingredients that creates an undoubtedly savory experience. Muenster cheese, shredded lettuce, a good house pickle, mustard and an eggless mayo add familiarity. I swear to you, this veggie burger tastes like a f*cking burger. It’s not a substitute for beef, it’s its own thing. The bun and toppings are classic burger through and through and this veggie patty takes to a flat top sear like a diner burger.
I say this to the skeptics and perhaps omnivores that need an extra push: give Superiority Burger a chance. I was pleasantly rewarded for getting out of my beef comfort zone. Maybe it was because I had two burgers in the previous two days and a shawarma sandwich a few hours earlier but it hit the spot and I’d gladly hit Superiority Burger again. In fact if I do multiple burger visits, it just might be what the doctor ordered.