Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop
174 Fifth Ave, at 22nd st.
Distance from Shake Shack: 0.05 miles
Travel Time: 2 minutes
of People in Line: 7
You want close to Shake Shack? How about half a block from Madison Square Park? Charmingly vintage, Eisenberg’s is run by a big friendly guy who takes every order and scrawls it on a paper bag, sending it down to the far end of the restaurant and the cooks. The bar is lined with lone diners who end up chatting with each other anyway, while a waitress shuffles by them to serve the guy who’s been sitting at the same table for twenty years, reading a folded newspaper, his rotating choice of pastrami, tuna melt, and meatloaf sandwich.
The burgers are a newer addition: flame-grilled to order, huge, lettuce and tomato but no saucy condiments standard. I asked for extra ketchup and excused myself past the waiting to-go-orderers (Eisenberg's is not the fastest kitchen by any means), waited for the light to turn green, and settled into a park bench fifty yards from Shake Shack. There, I had a smile at the people waiting in line, and took a bite.
I mentioned it was huge. The lettuce was crisp and the tomato fresh, the sesame bun pretty standard. The patty was quite charred, to the point of being just slightly too dry.
A small tangent: what’s great about Shake Shack is their eschewing the flame-broil: cooked on a hot flat griddle, the burgers essentially fry, making for a juicier cut that’s harder to reproduce at home. Anybody can grill a big fat burger on the Weber, coating it in carbon; not everybody can balance the juicy advantage of the fry-technique while avoiding its overly-greasy tendencies. Part of it may be the brisket-sirloin combination in the meat, part of it is the elusive “Shack Sauce”--part of it is the fact that we’re not supposed to know, and that’s why it’s magic.
All that said, Eisenberg’s wins all kinds of awards for being reasonably priced and providing the possiblity that one can still eat the burger among the green grass, sunbathers, and interesting public art . Heck, you could probably get away with eating at one of the Shack’s tables, and nobody’d much notice.Beating the Waiting Game, Burger, New York, Restaurants