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Some cheap(er) bites in the Big Apple


Richard Ouzounian
Toronto Star

NEW YORK–With a three-star hotel going for a minimum of $350 a night during the holiday season and premium tickets for this season's hot musical, Young Frankenstein, costing $450 each (no, that's not a typo), New York is rapidly becoming one of the most expensive tourist destinations around.

There's one way to shave some costs, however and that's in the food department.

Manhattan is the home of some of the best hamburgers in the world and even though they may cost more than the ones at your local Harvey's, they're still usually among the cheapest items on the menu at some very pleasant places.

Here are my half-dozen personal favourites:

ANGUS MCINDOE, 258 W. 44th St., 212-221-9222: This remains the most "in" spot in the Theatre District for a drink or a meal either before or after a show.

Actors rub elbows with civilians happily and the genial Mr. McIndoe himself is one of the place's major assets.

Right behind him, however, would have to be one of the city's most scrumptious burgers, especially when served with Boursin and Bacon.

It's the best partnership since Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick.

BURGER JOINT, Le Parker Meridien Hotel, 119 W. 56th St., 212-345-5000: If there could be a speakeasy for burgers, this would be it.

It's hidden behind a floor-to-ceiling wall of drapery in a remote corner of the lobby at the chic Parker Meridien Hotel.

Once inside, you find a faux '50s coffee shop with a minimalist menu. The burgers are juicy, the fries are crispy and there's Sam Adams beer on tap.

In the words of George and Ira Gershwin, "Who could ask for anything more?"

HOUSTON'S, 153 E. 53rd St., 212-888-3828: This way-above-average American chain features sophisticated atmosphere, a happening bar and some excellent food.

Best of all is their burger, freshly ground beef, char-grilled to pink-centred perfection served with aged Cheddar on a toasted egg bun. There's also a location at 378 Park Ave. South, offering the same menu.

NICE MATIN, 201 W. 79TH St., 212-873-0049: You may not think a French bistro could provide a first-rate burger, but you'd be wrong.

This cheerful spot's pride and joy is their "Five Napkin Burger", ten ounces of luscious beef served with Comté cheese, aioli, radicchio and some superlative fries.

Yes, it's a mess to eat and no, you probably won't need another meal that day, but believe me, it's well worth it.

RARE, 303 Lexington Ave. at E. 37th St., 212-481-1999: This shrine to ground beef nestles inside the staid Shelburne Hotel, but offers an incredible variety of choices to fun-seeking carnivores.

The Classic Burger is fine enough, gushing its juices all over a toasted brioche bun, but you might want to try the Mexican, with black-bean spread, guacamole and chipotle ketchup.

And, if there's a vegetarian in your life, you can offer them the Portobello Mushroom Burger.

SHAKE SHACK, Madison Square Park, Madison & E. 23rd St., 212-889-6600: It's outdoors and it's always crowded, but many people swear by this friendly place as the home of one of Gotham's finest burgers.

Again, the meat is ground fresh daily and gluttons can enjoy the "Shack Stack," which has a Portobello burger nestled between two conventional cheeseburgers. They also serve sublime authentic frozen custard.

It's worth the wait.




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