Monthly Archives May 2014

Good Travels – The Burger Joint, New York City

Okay, yes, everyone says “the best hamburger in NYC is…” and then chaos ensues.  I’m not saying they are wrong.  I’m just saying their tastes are different from mine.  In the same way I’m not saying fans of the Khardashians who claim this clan is entertaining and talented are wrong, I’m just saying their tastes are different from mine.  Or those who think OJ is innocent.  Or…’nuff said.

The Le Parker Meridien (wait, that’s too many articles; mixing languages doesn’t change that) is a nice hotel.  Perhaps even elegant.  Particularly the baroque-ish lounge (see future review).  So when you are standing facing the front desk in the high-ceilinged marble-floored lobby and look to your right, you are unsurprised to see a massive red velvet-ish (I promise that is the last time I will append ‘ish’ to a word in this post) curtain covering one wall and stanchions placed in front of it, you are not surprised.  Must be covering some art installation, you think.  That thought dissipates when you see the almost-constant line snaking out from the tiny gap between the front desk and the velveted wall.

Wait in line or skirt it politely to take a look, and you quickly (in the latter case) enter a small, dark, wood-paneled hideaway.  Dark as in “old, left over from the war probably, and belonging in the Village or Vienna.”  About the size of two (NYC) hotel rooms.  There are three or four booths to your left, a handful of tables to your right then some more booths, and a stool-encircled stand-alone bar-ish (oops) structure near the counter where you order.  And order is what you do.  Raised, tiny, and populated in a manner befitting a clown car, The Burger Joint cookery is an open grill manned and womaned by experts.  The opening at the counter is festooned with a hand-drawn/crayoned menu above your head, polite but CLEAR instructions on how to order, and a new sign that says ‘we now accept credit cards’ which leave visitors who generally speak all languages except English peering through the murky light to decide what they want before requesting it.  Efficient and polite and fast are the workers.  Order, stand around until it is ready, jockeying with others who try to appear as though not standing in line but not too far from the grasp of the prep person who will call their name and deliver the magic.  Burgers, fries, shakes, a brownie I’ve never tried…mmmm, take me now.

I have two rules about The Burger Joint.  First, always stop by if there is no line – that means should I come down from my room to go somewhere in the city, see it line-less, I get a burger, then should I realize I left something in my room and pop up and grab it before heading to my meeting, if there is again (note the ‘again’ rather than ‘still’ ) no line, my rule requires I get another burger.  Second rule: try not to finish it in the elevator.

Eat here.

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Good Travels – Klatch at LAX Terminal 7: Sandwiches

There may be other locations, but this is the only one I’ve visited.  And the first time it was hesitatingly.  Until a year or so ago, the best food in terminal 7 (All United, all the time) was the pre-packaged sandwiches at the kiosks or Starbucks.  There were probably other food places, but it is an indication of their lack of memorability that I…don’t remember them.

So when Klatch opened, I looked askance a few times and then one afternoon when I had too much time at the airport and knew there was too little food on the flight I was about to get on (which means it was probably a regional jet, which doesn’t serve food even in first class except for the “snack box” which qualifies, in some third world countries, as “food” but not if you are looking for a meal),  I lurked outside the line, reading the menu.  Mostly coffee items (hence Klatch, I assume, as in coffee klatch, but I didn’t ask anyone so take that assumption for what it’s worth).  Some breakfast dishes, but too late in the day for those to be available.  And then a handful of sandwiches.  I dove in and stepped into line, ordering the southwest chicken.  I figured it couldn’t be much worse than the pre-made, pre-packaged, pre-tty forgettable ones at the kiosks.  Price was about standard for airport fare – somewhere between $10 – $12 dollars but you can’t complain because the price range is different in airports (and hotel minibars and museum gift shops and arenas/ballparks/stadiums and zoos and anywhere else there is a captive audience willing to pay $4 for a bottle of water that is $.79 in the grocery store).

Quick, efficient service.  A bunch of long tables where you could wait and watch a little tv or the passersby.  Good thing because after five minutes and no food, I changed my impression from fast-food place to not-so-fast-food place.  At the eight minute mark I was beginning to assume they had forgotten my order.  And at eleven minutes I got up to whine.  At that moment they called my name and out came a clear plastic container with my sandwich nestled on white and red paper.  I thanked the counter person, took my container, and immediately had an unexpected sensation: it was warm.  As I walked away, bag on my shoulder, I popped open the lid and grabbed half of the perfectly reasonably sized sandwich.  It was hot and the bread was soft.  Huh.

I took a bite and stopped walking toward my gate.  Warm and soft, but not the way it is when you take stale break and heat it to hide the oldness.  It was fresh.  And the cheese was quite melted.  And a bit spicy (ergo, southwest chicken).  The chicken may or may not have been compressed and water-injected, but it tasted like breast meat and I decided not to open it and dispel the myth.  I resumed my walk, eating the rest of the first half.  Despite my best intentions, I ate the second half before reaching my boarding area.

Fresh bread, melted cheese, nice mix of flavors and textures, and a fair portion.  What an excellent surprise.  Three weeks later (NOT my next trip to LAX terminal 7 – that is a weekly occurrence – but that was the next time I was there and hungry) I visited Klatch again.  This time went for the vegetable sandwich.  At the eleven minute mark, I got up and prepared to whine (I mean, I was the ONLY one with an order in…).  Interestingly, just before I got up, the manager saw me looking at my receipt – hungrily, I suppose – and seemed to have gone and checked on my order.  Three minutes after my almost-complaint, I had the (warm) container which, of course, I opened and ate the contents while walking toward my gate.  Roasted vegetables (peppers? Some other things?), melted goat cheese, and – wait for it – fresh, uncooked spinach.

It was good.  Worth the wait, which may itself have been evidence that they took their time and heated things in convection ovens, not microwaves, but that may just be another myth I don’t want to dispel.

Can’t comment on any of their other food, but eat their sandwiches and tip the staff.

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