It’s funny the way we throw the terms “overrated” and “underrated” around, since they’re both completely subjective. Look at Derek Jeter: It feels like there’s a certain set of baseball fans that probably think Jeter is nationally underrated by those that haven’t tracked his clutch hits throughout the years, that don’t see him do all the little things, don’t witness his myriad intangible contributions. And then there are probably fans who think Jeter is overrated because he’s a handsome guy who plays for the best team in the biggest city and happens to have made some big plays in key spots.
Then there are probably some who look at his stats and say he’s underrated because he routinely posts among the highest OPSes of any shortstop in the league, almost always stays healthy and steals bases at a high rate. Others might argue that he’s overrated like many players who consistently post high batting averages without walking a ton, and though Jeter plays shortstop, defensively he’s not all that hot.
But cut through it all and assess Jeter objectively as possible and you’re left with a clear-cut Hall of Famer and an indisputably great player. That’s the thing. You can hash out how he’s perceived however you want, but there’s really no arguing that he’s an awesome player.
The sandwich: Cheeseburger from Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien Hotel, 57th St., Manhattan.
Burger Joint is about the worst-kept secret in New York City. It’s a wood-paneled diner-style shack tucked away behind a curtain inside the lobby of the posh hotel. It’s fun and all, but be prepared to box out businessmen for a booth.
The construction: Soft bun, char-grilled burger, one slice white American cheese, one slice yellow American cheese, pickles, ketchup, mustard.
Important background info:This is why I brought up that Jeter stuff before. A couple years ago — for whatever reason — a bunch of food blogs and magazines started labeling this definitively the best burger in New York, and I’m not sure it’s that. So there’s always backlash, like with Jeter. Then you’re all like, “no way, Shake Shack’s better,” or Hanley Ramirez or whatever.
What it looks like:
How it tastes: Spectacular. Man, I love burgers so f@#$ing much. When my wife and I first started dating, I think she thought I was weird because I ordered cheeseburgers so frequently when we went out to dinner — even if we were in someplace relatively fancy. But that’s like the barometer, as far as I’m concerned. If a restaurant makes a really good burger, then I know it’s a good restaurant and I’m comfortable returning there and trying some other stuff. I’ve since branched out a bit, but she’s also wised up and started understanding more fully how awesome burgers are.
Anyway, this is a particularly good burger. It’s kind of in the greasy fast-food style of burger, only super awesome in every way, if that makes sense. It’s a bit thicker than any fast-food burger you’ll ever try (except maybe the Carl’s Jr. six-dollar burger), but it’s got that same type of soft bun and feel to it.
Oh, and the meat is obviously fresh and high-quality. Really, really juicy. And char-grilled, like I said. That helps. The pickles, cheese, ketchup and mustard all taste like they should: important burger complements.
What it’s worth: Burger Joint is way too expensive for what it is — the burger costs like nine bucks or something. But it’s in midtown, so you sort of have to understand that everything’s going to be a few dollars more than it should be. Plus you definitely pay a little extra for the scene here. I mean, wait — let me make this clear: I don’t willingly pay extra for the scene, and I wouldn’t if they weren’t serving such delicious burgers, but part of the reason it’s so expensive, I think, is that the place is hidden in the lobby of a luxury hotel and lined with autographs from celebrities and everything.
All that said, I’m still happy to pay $9 for their burgers and develop ulcers muscling out jackasses for seating. So the joke would be on me if I didn’t get my meaty, juicy retribution as soon as I find a spot.
The rating: Damned if I’m not going for it — the highest rating yet, 95 out of 100. Some people will and have made more out of this burger than they should, but that shouldn’t take anything away from its excellence. Though some of the hype surrounding it might get irritating, it is inarguably a New York classic. Like Jeter himself.