the spot: P.J. Clarke’s 915 Third Ave NY NY 10022
the eats: The Clarke Burger
the bucks: $19.95
the full nelson: An age old NYC burger classic priced like 21st century NYC real estate
P.J. Clarke’s has got history. Surrounded by skyscrapers in Midtown Manhattan, P.J. Clarke’s has been open for business since 1884. If you have ever seen the movie Gangs of New York, you might remember the ending when the camera widens out from the gravestones to a wider shot of a New York skyline that fast forwards through time; starting with almost nothing then swelling with height and density. That growth continues today and effects not just the real estate but also cherished burger institutions. To eat at a burger restaurant that has been immortalized by Nat King Cole and Mad Men is a real treat and worthy of your bucks. But is the P.J. Clarke’s Burger alone worth a near $20 price tag? Read on to find out!
If you have not seen the AMC series Mad Men, you have some Netflix binging to do. If you have, when you walk into P.J. Clarke’s, you’re gonna get your Don Draper on. This place is a dark, well appointed bar and though it might sound odd to mention the bathrooms in a food blog, the urinals are a wonder of winged porcelain with a price tag $8k a pop. From an atmosphere standpoint, P.J. Clarke’s is everything you would expect from a historic NYC restaurant and bar.
When Nat King Cole had a tab at P.J. Clarke’s, he would order a bacon cheeseburger which he would later dub as the “Cadillac of burgers“. I can’t attest to the state of burgers in the 1950s but in 2019, cheese is all you really need on this burger, especially when it costs you $20. The P.J. Clarke’s Burger is as simple as it looks but upon closer look, this burger is simple by design in order to let quality ingredients shine.
The lettuce and tomato are top notch here. One thing I have found consistent about my burger experiences in New York City is that the produce is top notch. The beef is top quality as well and receives a steakhouse quality sear. The P.J. Clarke’s Burger certainly is as juicy and satisfying as a thick NYC Pub burger should be.
If you do it right, you’re going to have a drink to go with your P.J. Clarke’s Burger. Being a whisky man, I went with one of my fav bourbons, which like the stiff pour, also comes with a stiff price tag. I could have easily skipped the fries but the burger isn’t enormous so you if you choose to get a drink, you might need some starch to fill the tank.
And on that note it probably should come as no surprise that the $20 price tag for the P.J. Clarke’s Burger does not truly qualify for Bang for your Burger Buck. I thoroughly enjoyed my meal at P.J. Clarke’s, particularly the service and P.J. Clarke’s has history that’s worth experiencing once but spending close to $40 for a burger, fries and cocktail is extreme, even for NYC standards.
Unless you’re Don Draper.