I thought it rather serendipidous that just after I had conceived the idea to start this blog, I heard about Five Napkin Burger opening a new location in Astoria. I checked their website to see if they served a veggie burger, and not only did they list one on the menu – they also featured a delicious-looking photo which made me very eager to sample it.
So a couple carnivorous cohorts and I finally went over to check the place out one evening. It was a slightly nostalgic event as well, since the last time I had been in this building was back when it was known as Cup Diner (I ignored its brief reincarnation as “Café Bizarre” or whatever it was), one of my earliest memories of this neighborhood. The place has been given quite a makeover now – the layout is about the same, but the whole inside feels a lot shinier, and although you might not notice them immediately, there are meat hooks decorating the ceiling - as if you had come to dine in an abattoir.
It was dinnertime, and a bit busy, so we opted for a table instead of waiting a little longer for a booth. While my friends debated which of the meat-burgers they would try, I read the description of mine: “5 Napkin Veggie Burger – housemade with 5N sauce, b&b pickles, lettuce & tomato, multi grain roll”. Yum.
Look at those pickles!
I was a bit confused when, after our burgers were served, we were each still left with only the one napkin that had been at our place setting when we arrived at the table. Shouldn’t a place called “5 Napkin Burger” actually give you five napkins to eat your burger with? The food looked too good for me to ponder this for long, however…
I had told my friends that (after seeing the aforementioned website photos) I had a hunch this could be a contender for another 5-star burger… I didn’t want to get my hopes up too high, but I was right!
It is not too different from my first 5-star burger, actually. Both patties rely heavily on grains and beets. I’m starting to think beets are the secret ingredient to the best veggie burgers on the planet. Also beets are just amazing on their own – but no worries if you are not a fan of them, I swear you won’t be turned off by their presence in these burgers! Honestly, I ate Houston’s veggie burger before I even liked beets, but they are so well-mixed in with everything else that they do not stand out although they definitely contribute to the overall quality in the best way possible. 5 Napkin’s burger is not quite as crispy on the outside as Houston’s (I can’t help it, comparing the two is inevitable, as they are the only 5 star burgers I have encountered so far!), nor is it as richly flavored with sauce cooked into the patty.
But the toppings make up for that – the pickles are amazing, and whatever the 5N sauce is (I’m assuming it’s dairy-based... although the patty itself contains eggs, if ordered without the sauce it could at least be a dairy-free burger), it is delicious as well. Thick juicy tomato slices, bright green lettuce… yeah, perfect toppings.
The bun is hearty, almost a little too thick to the point that it could have overwhelmed the rest of the burger, but I forgave it because, well, look at all those grains and seeds on it!
So it’s definitely another 5-star burger. Does it knock Houston’s off its throne? Not quite (honestly that is a feat that will take some miracle-work to accomplish) but it is definitely in the same league. And I would most decidedly happily return to eat it again at the soonest possible excuse. I also feel less guilty for liking 5 Napkin than I do about liking Houston's, since it's not as big a chain restaurant.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Burger patty: 5 stars Bun: 4 stars Toppings: 5 stars
Five Napkin Burger
35-01 36th Street
Astoria, NY 11106
two other locations in Manhattan - check their website for the addresses
YumVeggieBurger review #20