When the casual stand first fired up the grill in this upscale property's lobby, there was no way to anticipate it would dish out 1,200 patties a day, the current average. "The first day we hit 100 burgers, we were jumping up and down with joy," says the Meridien's president Steven Pipes, who developed the concept. "Today, if we had a day like that, we would shoot ourselves." Judging by the line that regularly wraps around the lobby, he doesn't have to worry about that.
With its semi-hidden location, Burger Joint hit the scene before secret restaurants were a thing, and it was one of the first really buzzy single-item eateries to catch on. Even though it was ahead of the wave in many respects, there was no aim to become a trailblazer with trends when it opened back in the day. Pipes started with a simple idea: "We had a really pretty bar, but it didn't excite us. I live here and there really aren't any good burgers around, and I like burgers." The room would be designed as a dive so the focus could be kept on the patty, and menu options would be purposely limited. "A burger joint to me is not a fancy place - I don't want foie gras in my burger," Pipes said.
Ten years after the restaurant first lit its neon sign, there seems to be a burger purveyor on every corner, and a certain restaurateur is opening outposts of his signature fast-food chain at a rapid clip. Pipes thinks that much of this can be traced back to their launch. "None of these places that are around today were around then. The name that most commonly comes up now when people talk about burger joints compared to ours...the guy who started that came many times to Burger Joint." Well, Danny Meyer certainly has the long lines to rival Burger Joint, but those of you keeping score will note that Shake Shack is not included in the Best Burgers list.
And what's next for the little stand that churns out a massive amount of meat? "I remember being asked what the maximum we could do in any day was, and I said 600. We didn't anticipate success," Pipes says. "We really we can't do more than we do now, the space just doesn't allow for it." While extra square footage won't be added inside the hotel, you might just see New York's best burger popping up at other locations before their next major anniversary. "We would consider potentially doing another one somewhere else," Pipes confirms. Though he won't comment on specific plans, he promises that whatever may be in the works will be "tried and true" to the original model. After all, judging by the Joint's top rating and those crazy lines, New York diners will never turn down a good burger. "It's like a great pizza place, it will always do well. There's trends, and there's fads - but keeping a rock-solid, good product, you'll always do well."
Deal Alert: To celebrate the 10-year anniversary, the Burger Joint will roll back the clock today, selling burgers at $4, cheeseburgers at $4.50, fries at $1.25. Head to 119 West 56th Street, and get in line!