The fast-food holy grail
New York Best Take-out
Tel: 2728 2899
A very long time ago, back in world’s days of glory, before the invention of all that is ugly, like political correctness and Facebook, I spent a number of years occupying some of the less fashionable lecture halls of our hallowed university. During all these years I wished that a university student could be like a river, successfully completing its course without ever leaving its bed.
Unfortunately, this didn’t quite work out and I was forced to forage for food across the barren wasteland that had the occasional watering hole to keep body and soul together until the next round of exams.
Or whatever trials and tribulations the faculty had in store for us when they thought summer would be fun without having your memory tested. And fun cannot be had by youngsters, can it?
Our options included an array of plastic sandwiches and wax-coated pastizzi at the canteen, or something very similar but more modestly priced just outside the University’s walls. Anything that said ‘salad’ meant ‘grated carrot’. Anything labelled ‘pizza’ meant ‘reheated foam base with burnt cheese on top’.
I do not recall a single source of good food throughout my years of training (my generation was denied an education – we were simply trained to become something or other, and what a sharp box of tools we are).
Today’s youth have it easier. Perhaps the fact that the University is slowly grappling with technology means students don’t need so many notes photocopied, so a whole lot of real estate previously occupied by copy shops is now repurposed as restaurants. And with a whole lot of restaurants comes choice.
If one restaurant offers practically inedible pizza at exorbitant prices, it is easy to avoid the place and go elsewhere. Or do as students should do and picket the place, paste angry notes all over their terrace, use Facebook to spread the word and boycott it until the pizza tastes better and the prices dip.
I am not inciting rage here – I am just suggesting that tomorrow’s leaders actually take a stand about something for once, even if it is the price of a pizza they are paying for.
I was having a conversation along these lines with a young man who has much more recent knowledge of the food available in the University area than I do. He told me all about this place called New York Best.
I asked whether there should be an ‘apostrophe s’ somewhere in the name, but it turns out there isn’t. Fine, they’re not teaching English, they’re serving purportedly good burgers. And I am on a constant quest for good burgers.
Armed with this knowledge, I went there for lunch the very next day. I dragged the man who had told me about the place with me because I figured he should be rewarded or punished for the recommendation, depending on the quality of the burger.
Parking there at this time of year is refreshingly easy. I can picture the grief we would have been subjected to had University been in full swing.
New York Best has some graffiti-like paintings along the staircase up to the elevated ground floor. This ties in quite nicely with the graffiti at the skate park and I just love that graffiti.
The interior contrasts with this, with its austerity and choice of unfinished materials and brightly-painted wooden chairs. Tables upstairs are made of metal tubing and sheets of glass, with textured wooden benches forming the rest of the seating. The same metal tubes form the structure that supports bare bulbs.
I quite like the starkness but still believe the place needs a tone of voice. A few frames on the wall with photos from the Big Apple don’t scream ‘New York’ to me.
The ordering process is quite simple. Stand at the counter, pick your food from the menu on the wall, pay for it, and collect it when it’s done. It felt a bit like the standard fast-food chain but then this will have to serve large quantities of food very rapidly once the scholastic year kicks in.
If the burger is as good as Albert claimed (I changed the name of my accomplice to Albert for reasons known just to him), then this could be the only way to keep service flowing.
The last time he visited, he had ordered a lamb burger. It had been on the specialities menu and this had already changed to include a burger with basil and pine nuts that rejoiced in the name ‘Guido’. Fancy.
The specialities sounded lovely but I was dead set on a more classical edition of the burger and looked through their standard menu. The cheeseburger sounded tempting. The bacon burger sounded tempting. The bacon-cheese burger? How can a cheese-lover, who also thinks all poems should rhyme with bacon, refuse that? My choice was done.
Albert dwelled over his choice for a longer while. He contemplated the various benefits of every item on the menu, consulted his tarot cards, looked up his horoscope, tossed coins, drew straws, and finally settled for ‘Guido’.
The basil was tempting, he declared, but had chosen the burger upon the strength of its name alone.
Blessed are the youth, for they have time that can be dedicated to the irrational.
I climbed the stairs and settled at the table closest to the staircase. I did this out of respect for a young couple sitting at the back of the dining area. They were staring at each other in that love-struck way that only happens in the movies. I was afraid that if I broke the spell, the poor dude would turn into a frog.
Albert, ever the patient man with his elders, pointed out that we’d have to pick up our burgers when they were done since no one was about to serve us. He was nice enough to negotiate the stairs himself for me out of respect for my ageing joints. A lot of respect was being handed out that afternoon at New York Best.
He was back in a jiffy with two cardboard boxes. Each one, lined with greaseproof paper, held a burger and sides. I had ordered fries with mine and Albert had decided on the onion rings.
I started with the fries and they were excellent. I am one for Burger King fries over McDonalds fries any day and these were a step above Burger King fries. I am lovin’ it already, I thought. I also sampled the onion rings and found them a little oily. I think all onion rings are an excuse for shoving oil down your throat though, so perhaps it is just me.
I’d ordered a double-patty burger. A single burger when a maximum of three is on offer just won’t do. Taking all three would be overkill. Two sounded just perfect. The bun isn’t huge and the patties have a circumference to suit this.
They were quite thick though, a promise of moist innards. A bite later I was making all the sounds of appreciation possible without parting my lips.
This was among the best burgers I’d tasted. The patties were slightly pink inside, so all the moisture of fresh, single-ground (or so it seemed) beef had been trapped in this little ball that was kneeling at the altar to cows that have given up their green pastures for our pleasure.
The cheese was slightly melted and the bacon grilled to the right crisp so it snaps when you bite it.
This is important. If the bacon isn’t perfect, you have no choice but to drag it out of the burger and have it hang from your mouth embarrassingly until you either slurp it up or push it back in with your fingers.
I seemed to have stumbled upon the holy grail of fast food. We had paid less than €8 each, been served in no time at all, and fed a burger that is vastly better than that served at most other places I’ve ordered a burger from.
I took a peek at their future. In it I see a queue of students waiting to order these burgers and an older man, with a rabid look in his eyes, using his elbows to work his way through that queue. I hope the students will forgive me for my poor behaviour.
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