Although there is no definitive list, JG Melon always seems to land on the millions of lists of best burgers in NYC. While it is not consistently ranked number one, it often lands in the Top 5. When I moved to New York a little over 2 years ago (already? WTF) and heard about said lists, I knew I needed to try some of the most talked about. A burger is not often my first choice on a normal night out, but when I commit to getting one (after probably days of craving it) I plan myself a burger outing event and don’t hold back.
JG Melon has probably been the burger I have wanted to try most since I declared I would try “all the best the city has to offer” (I wrote those last 8 words on my own and added the quotes when I read back through and realized I was unknowingly plagiarizing off of Dana’s home page of the blog). Last Friday night I finally made it there, despite living blocks away from it since November. I knew the burger gods were in our favor when Emily and I left my apartment and it was raining because I knew this meant the normal line out the door and long wait would be much shorter due to the weather.
Upon walking into this cash only bar, it is not hard to tell that this is a neighborhood favorite, crowded with regulars and a short order kitchen in the middle of the room. I can see at least 8 burgers on the little grill just from the doorway and it smells delicious. After standing around for
what feels like eternity about 30 seconds, we find the guy to put in our name and he tells us it will be about a 20 to 30 minute wait. Maybe I just have good luck, but I don’t think I have ever waited in a restaurant for as long as I am told it will be. We grab a beer at the bar and sure enough, right as we are finishing our first beer, it is time to be seated.
We get a corner table and briefly scan the menu, but we know we are here for the cheese burgers and it doesn’t take long to decide on a side of fries each as well. While it is not like these burgers are Manhattan’s best kept secret, I am still shocked to see the waitress return with our food in no more than 3 minutes, and that is probably a generous estimate. They must be pumping these burgers out every night. After the first bite, however, I know that this “mass” production has not taken away from the quality in the least bit.
Immediately I have entered what I guesstimate must be that place of white light when you know you are dead but have come to terms with it? I will save you any elaboration on that, but this thing is effing delicious. It is beyond needing to scarf this thing down in seconds because I can’t help myself. I have reached the point of deliciousness where I actually eat this thing slowly, simultaneously elated and yet dreading the end. Swapping out bites of burger with a few (weirdly shaped, decently tasting) fries I polish off everything in front of me with ease. After a moment of devastation, I realize while it took me 2 years to get here, it most certainly will not take another 2 to come back.
Not only is JG Melon’s burger absolutely juicy and wonderful, it is a true reflection of what JG Melon is, just a traditional staple without all of the whiz-bang twists of modern food that can often do more harm than good. JG Melon has been around for 39 years and if their burger never changes, it’ll be around a lot longer than that. On the way home, I kept asking Emily if I smelled like a burger, secretly happy to savor the experience just a little bit longer. While I can’t say for certain that it is my number one, the JG Melon burger is certainly in my Top 5.
P.S. JG Melon business card, representative of an establishment from 1972, simple but good. A
P.P.S. As it stands, in no particular order, my Top 5:
Cheeseburger – JG Melon
Shack Burger – Shake Shack
Cheeseburger – Burger Joint
Original 5 Napkin Burger – 5 Napkin Burger
Bibimbap Burger – Social Eatz