When we made plans to go to New York City in mid- December, one of the first things I did was grab my dog-eared copy of Hamburger America and look to see where we were going to eat lunch. I had narrowed my choices down to three: Corner Bistro, JG Melon and P.J. Clarke’s. Once we made our plans for the day out, it seemed obvious that the best choice would be P.J. Clarke’s, and we planned our walk accordingly. We headed out from Chelsea, starting at Macy’s, then up Fifth Avenue to look at Christmas window displays, to coincide with arriving at 3rd and 55th as close to 11:00 (when I believed that they opened) as we could. We arrived at 11:20, thinking that we’d hit it near perfectly. But as we stood there in the snow, we found that they actually opened at 11:30. Oh, well. Ten minutes later, we walked in the restaurant door and were shortly seated. We were seated in the back room (this is the view back toward 3rd Avenue) and quickly greeted by a server telling us about the Verona hot chocolate they had spinning in something the size of a cotton candy machine on the end of the bar. Served with marshmallows and a kick of peppermint schnapps, it packed quite a holiday kick on a cool day. P.J. Clarke’s was opened in 1884 and has been a neighborhood tavern frequented by locals, both famous (Frank Sinatra had his own table) and non for one hundred and thirty years.
The recommendation from Hamburger America was a béarnaise burger, but there wasn’t one of those on the menu currently. One could add béarnaise sauce to any burger but not being a particular nut about bernaise, I chose another route. After discussions with the server about the sourcing of their turkey burger (which is ground fresh daily, as are the beef burgers) Jo chose one of those. The turkey burger was in the “P.J. Clarke’s Hamburgers”, listed as Simply On a Bun. I chose from the “Hamburgers’ Deluxe” sectiona Charred Poblano Cheeseburger, opting for Vermont white cheddar as opposed to the American it was designed with. The burger itself was on the small side, but it was cooked exactly as I requested.It was a really good burger, but I’d give negative points for the fact they don’t appear to use fresh (cut in house) fries. The fry serving was large enough to share, which was a good thing, as we didn’t realize that the turkey burger did not come with fries. It definitely wasn’t a cheap burger experience, even from a New York price standpoint, but now I can check it off my list. To spend that kind of money, I’d spend a little more and go to Minetta Tavern any time.