The Perfect Burger at J.G. Melon

J.G. Melon is the sort of quintessential New York place that 18-year-old me would have positively slobbered over (if, of course, she weren’t a vegetarian…) but I actually didn’t discover this NYC staple until 2012, when I was looking for a place to take the Country Boy for a truly excellent burger.

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At this point in our relationship, we had already developed a tradition of getting burgers and beers every year after my visa renewal appointment. Once I had my récipissé in hand and my nerves had finally settled outside the Clignancourt préfecture (and then, later, at the Cité one), we would jump on the line 4, get out at Odéon, and take a seat at the Tennessee, where we would each order a burger and a pint. The burgers were sub-par, the pints fine, but it was a tradition, and it’s how TCB really started to get into cheeseburgers.

Burgers have gotten much better in Paris in recent years, but just like I’ll never find cheese quite as good in America (no matter how good it technically is), I always prefer burgers in America. During our 2012 visit, I wanted a place to go on our anniversary, and my brother suggested J.G. Melon, where apparently he and his friends had spent many a high school evening.

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Given his extensive experience, my brother was in the perfect position to give us advice: bacon cheeseburgers and fries to share. We did as we were told and promptly decided that we’d be returning for our 10-year anniversary as well.

Of course, we didn’t wait that long.

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The burger itself shouldn’t be anything special, but I’m not the only one to wax poetic about it. There’s no brioche bun, no balsamic reduction, no onion compote, no Parmesan tuille. It’s just a really good burger, perfectly seasoned and cooked to order, with American cheese, a nice mound of bacon, thinly sliced onion, and crinkle-cut pickles. And no matter how many gourmet, artisanal burgers I eat (or how much I enjoy them), this one, for me, is still the one to beat.

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TCB’s father claims not to like hamburgers, and when we were in New York this summer, we had originally planned on skipping J.G. Melon’s (much to my and TCB’s chagrin). But after he tried a fine cheeseburger at a diner and surprised us all by liking it, we knew we needed to take him to the temple of all things burger.

TCB and my brother, as they are wont to do, each finished two.

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I have never deviated from ordering the burger, rare, though I hear the chili is also quite good. The service is perfunctory, but it suits the establishment, and the desserts are fantastic, particularly the cheesecake and key lime pie.

J.G. Melon’s – 1291 3rd Ave, New York