New to Boston but not to the upscale burger-joint scene in general, 5 Napkin Burger hails from New York City; boasting three locations in Astoria Queens, Hell's Kitchen and The Upper West Side. Following the NYC success is the the newest outpost, a chic setting disguised with butcher shop paraphernalia located at 105 Huntington Avenue in The Back Bay's Prudential Center. A panoramic restaurant space is filled with black leather booths contrasted by glossy white tile walls lined with meat scales and shelves of brightly colored glass jars. Meat hooks adorn the ceilings alternating with exposed light bulbs dangling from electrical wires.
The place was packed on a Friday night and unfortunately, restaurant policy does not allow reservations for parties over 8, which left our party of 12 (blog friends Michelle, Justin, Megan, Jen, Meghan and significant others) with a one and a half hour wait time. It was also unfortunate that when we called to make a reservation they were quick to assure us the wait would not be a problem. I understand it might deter business if you proclaim, "we will be packed on Friday evening so expect a long wait!" but believe it or not, a little transparency goes a long way. We gathered at the bar and caught up over drinks, so the wait went by rather quickly. While we waited I enjoyed an Alagash White ($7) on draft. Once we were seated I ordered the Perfect 5 Napkin Manhattan ($11) made with Makers Mark, brandied cherry juice, sweet and dry Vermouth and orange essence. This was indeed a perfectly crafted Manhattan.
As far as dinner was concerned, it was a no-brainier from my perspective, to order the burger that made them famous. The Original 5 Napkin Burger ($10.95) comes on a soft white bun with 10 oz. of fresh ground chuck, melted Gruyere cheese, a heaping pile of caramelized onions and a spoonful of velvety rosemary aioli.
The toppings were well executed but the patty was loosely packed, the meat easily falling apart. However, the large fluffy bun nicely contained everything. Fries and pickles are ordered la carte.
The Tuscan Fries ($3.75) tossed in Parmesan, thyme, sage and rosemary, delivered on flavors but lacked in crispiness. They were much to soft.
A Bowl of House Cured Pickles ($2.75) were really impressive. Their briny sweet essence was so tasty I even slapped a few on my burger. The Cornmeal Crusted Onion Rings ($6.75) maintained a nice crispy exterior. The use of cornmeal seemed like an innovative approach to this classic side. The Tater Tots ($4.25), much like the french fries, were not crispy, but very soft two-bite morsels packed with smooth whipped potato.
It was nearing 10pm and the table was settling into dessert mode. Adam and I had post dinner plans so we decided to make a break before it got too late. Had there been enough time, I would have ordered the Dark & Stormy Float ($8). It was definitely a long meal considering we just ate burgers and fries, and I was bummed to have to miss dessert! The great thing about this place is that it is relatively inexpensive and the lively atmosphere makes it a fun outing for large groups!