A Writer's Beef

We are ever in search of the juiciest burger in New York City. A handful of our favorites include Mark Rosati’s burger at Shake Shack in Madison Square Park (you can’t beat the atmosphere), April Bloomfield’s American lamb burger at The Breslin (the thin slice of tangy French feta is the truth), and the iconic bacon cheeseburger served on top of a thick white Spanish onion slice at P.J. Clarke’s (you can’t beat the history). There are a ton more, in fact, there's a map solely devoted to the best burgers in NYC.

Fred is part of a couple of burger social clubs. It's really just an excuse for guys to get together over meat and beers, albeit amazing meat. We've had our fair share and found the best burgers come down to three things done really well: meat, cheese, and bread. That's it—nail those three and you have the American classic distilled down to its essential ingredients.

But some nights you want to stay home. And crafting the perfect burger is part of the adventure in relishing the perfect burger. Luckily, one of the most adventurous men to live—Ernest Hemingway—left behind his own recipe in a batch of personal papers recovered from his Havana home, where he lived from 1939 to 1960. “He was meticulous in all ways, deeply involved in every detail of daily life and very attuned to what kinds of foods he wanted to have served,” says Sandra Spanier, an English professor at Pennsylvania State University and general editor of the Hemingway Letters Project, who has seen the papers. His “Wild West hamburger” recipe is no exception.

It is very specific about the brand of spices*; Spice Islands appeared to be the Hemingway spice brand of choice. We know what you may be thinking: a pan-fried burger patty? Hemingway’s fourth wife explains (in the actual recipe no less).

“There is no reason why a fried hamburger has to turn out gray, greasy, paper-thin and tasteless. You can add all sorts of goodies and flavors to the ground beef -- minced mushrooms, cocktail sauce, minced garlic and onion, ground almonds, a big dollop of Piccalilli, or whatever your eye lights on. Papa prefers this combination.”

Besides, we can’t think of a better home made burger for New Yorkers (a small grill on a fire escape or rooftop is practically a luxury). Bon appétit!

*Spice Islands discontinued its production of Mei Yen Powder three years ago. If you don’t have any in your pantry, here’s how to recreate it:

9 parts salt
9 parts sugar
2 parts MSG

If a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon Mei Yen Powder, use 2/3 tsp of the dry recipe (above) mixed with 1/8 tsp of soy sauce.