Prime Burger, New York
5 E. 51st. Street
(Between Madison & 5th)
New York, NY 10022
by Dee Caff
If you ever find yourself wandering the streets of Manhattan in need of a breakfast fix, go to Prime Burger. As the name might suggest, it’s pretty unassuming from the outside (in a Baker’s Oven rather than a Fat Duck kind of a way), but the array of somewhat faded press clippings plastered to its glass doors give an inkling of the greatness lurking within.
We found it by chance. It wasn’t in our guide books, and we’d have walked straight past it, had it not been for the beady glare of my travelling companion, whose penchant for French toast saw her eyeing every potential eatery with an air of crazed expectancy. I wasn’t convinced – frankly it looked a little shabby – until we got closer and I peeked inside at what can only be described as a quintessential American diner.
On entering we found it not to be the sort of twee, contrived affair I despise, but more of a mystical time warp, a portal into early 60s New York - complete with beige leather seating, deco light fittings and shining wood chip walls. We took a seat at the long bar and fawned over the laminate menu which revealed that Prime Burger is the proud owner of a prestigious James Beard award for ‘Classic American Restaurant’.
Living the American service dream, we waited mere seconds before the Peruvian waiter glided up to us in his starched white waiter suit and dickie bow. It wasn’t long before we were swigging on coffee and OJ, looking like we were in the middle of an Edward Hopper, tummies rumbling in wait for our first, and most important meal of the day.
And then came the main event. Two plates piled high with glistening, golden French toast – dusted lightly with icing sugar and accompanied by some of the saltiest, crispiest, crumbliest bacon I’ve ever tasted. I must have poured about a quarter of a jug of maple syrup on mine too, savouring the novelty of drenching my food in runny sugar. I’m not normally one for sweet things in the morning (give me a full English over a continental any day of the week) but, somehow, this was an almost obscenely delicious exception to the rule.
So next time you’re swanning it on the other side of the pond, don’t bother with the Lexington Grill (as recommended by ‘local experts’ in the Time Out guide), its nonchalant ‘we’re in all the guidebooks’ service and overpriced pancakes. Go and talk to the boys from Queens and eat French toast. Or do as I did, and have a burger for breakfast. A Prime Burger.