Unless you've been living under a pretzel bun, you've probably heard of April Bloomfield & Ken Friedman—chef/owner and owner of restaurants the Spotted Pig & the Breslin, homes to two of the very best burgers in the city. Last week they opened Salvation Burger, an all-burger establishment on East 51st street. I happen to work on East 52nd. Needless to say I went to Salvation Burger twice in the first five days it was open.
Let's talk food first, restaurant second.
Above you see the establishment's eponymous Salvation Burger. It's a thick beefy wonder made from house butchered meat on a house baked bun with a healthy dose of carmelized onions and taleggio cheese. Absolutely delcious, a solid A. $25.
But Salvation Burger's Salvation Burger isn't the burger I brought you here to talk about today...
No. I want to talk about Salvation Burger's "Classic"--two thin patties with house-made pickles and two slices of mind-blowing housemade processed cheese on a special sauce slathered house-baked sesame seed bun--this burger is a hot, greasey, messy wonder. Clearly the product of extensive R&D, this is a burger born to take you places not many other burgers can go. It is, hands down, unequivocally, undoubtedly the best burger I have had in this city, or any other city, for a VERY long time and by an extremely wide margin. It is absolute perfection. A bite in I had to pause to stare at it in wonder, then got right back to business. I miss this burger when it's not around and overdo it when I try to tell people about it. A+++. The best. $17.
Other things to eat at Salvation Burger...
On visit #1 to Salvation Burger our server informed us that they did not have the establishment's namesake burger that day, but they did have a burger that used the same patty with the same cheese and carmelized onions, PLUS bacon. So they didn't have any Salvation Burgers that day. But they DID have a Bacon Salvation Burger. $35 "Combo" with fries.
Speaking of fries...the fries I was served with the bacon burger on my first visit were hot and salty heaven. On the second visit, my a la carte fries were limp and sweaty. Proceed with caution. $7.
Everything Bloomfield cooks is delicious, so why not order salads at her burger restaurant? Above #1, ribbons of raw vegetables with pistachios, yogurt and hummus. $11 or 13, can't remember. Above #2, Green salad with buttermilk dressing and poppy seeds.
I say order a salad and pass on the hit or miss fries.
Other things that are on the menu: a fish sandwich, house-smoked hot dogs, deep fried fruit pies, shakes, and slices of pie--all things I'd try if I couldn't be eating a Classic instead.
Now, some caveats to my extreme endorsement of Salvation Burger:
Price -- listen, I'll just say it, this place is spendy. Maybe you thought those prices above weren't so bad figuring the burgers came with fries. But they don't come with fries. Sure, in house everything isn't cheap and the food quality is off the chart but $17 or $25 for a burger? That's a ton of money. And consider that the famous DB Bistro Moderne short rib, truffle, and fois gras burger with fries costs as much as the bacon cheeseburger and fries. Salvation Burger is expensive! That's all there is to it. But the classic double costing $17 is probably the only thing keeping me from trying to get it for lunch everyday, so it may all be for the best.
Service -- I'll spare you the sour grapes bullet points of all the things the SB staff messed up on my first two visits in hopes that it was just first week open, wobbling without training wheels stuff that will smooth out soon but, really, any annoying restaurant mistake that can be made was made in those two visits. Right now I'm recommending the food whole-heartedly and super enthusiastically, not the restaurant.
I don't want to end negatively, so here's a picture of the Classic from my second visit:
And here's the giardiniera plate our server brought us instead of the green salad we ordered, but we got that straightened out and we were comped the giardinerra plate. But then charged for it. But then that got cleared up. Sorry! Wait! Was trying to end positive.