Burger Joint Puts Meat on the Bones of an Emerging Neighborhood
BY DENNIS LYNCH | East Village favorite Whitmans is up and running at its third Manhattan location, right on the edge of Hudson Yards. Chelsea Now stopped by earlier this week to put the kitchen to the test and talk about the new place with co-owner Larry Kramer.
Kramer and his cohorts transformed a “completely raw,” high-ceiling space on the ground floor of a luxury 10th Ave. apartment building (between W. 29th and W. 30th St.) into the newest Whitmans. The menu is the same as you get at their other locations, but the actual restaurant is much bigger. It’s got seating for around 65, and does its Village and Hell’s Kitchen sister spaces one better by offering a full-service bar (the others only sell beer and wine).
Whitmans is early to the Hudson Yards party; that’s clear on the walk there.
There’s commercial and residential towers going up all around it, and you’ll have to navigate some closed sidewalks and construction sites to find the place if you plan to go for a weekday lunch or early dinner.
As Kramer put it, they wanted “to get [in] ahead of this curve,” and establish a foothold in the neighborhood before major national companies moved in. Soon enough those apartments and office buildings will fill with tenants — all hungry potential customers.
Kramer grew up in the city and is proud to run a local operation. He’s thinking long-term, and hopes that opening in the neighborhoods’ relative infancy will help establish Whitmans as the local spot to get a solid burger.
“We’re local, and they could have taken a McDonald’s, but they decided to use a New York brand. We’re happy with that and we decided to jump at this opportunity,” he said. “I think we’re a few years out on the neighborhood; that’s why we took this chance. Otherwise, you’re paying market rent and I’m not doing that. Now that we’re here, I just want to hit the ground running and try to really get people to make this their local hamburger joint.”
The Whitmans model is fairly straightforward. They use all local, fresh ingredients, delivered regularly, and make everything to order. They never use frozen beef and, according to Kramer, don’t even have a freezer for anything but their Blue Marble ice cream desserts (which are assembled on-premise).
Kramer gave us three dishes to try — the flagship Juicy Lucy burger, a classic cheeseburger, and the “East Villi Cheese Steak,” a Philly cheesesteak on a hoagie. He suggests first-timers go with the Juicy Lucy, a burger with a cheese-stuffed patty that takes after the Minnesota-born burger of the same name.
The Whitmans Juicy Lucy is stuffed with pimento cheese and topped with caramelized onion, lettuce, tomato, spicy pickles, and a distinctive “special sauce.” The burger is so-named because the cheese keeps the meat around it particularly tender and juicy. It’s about as decadent as it sounds. Kramer also personally favors the “incredible” Hound Burger, with its applewood smoked bacon-infused patty, arugula, smoked gruyere, potato crisps, and potato bun. The Spicy Patty burger — with a patty blended with three hot peppers “that will burn the top of your mouth,” avocado, arugula, and picked red onion, on a sesame bun — is worth a shot too, he said.
All but three of their burgers will run you $12, and you can add a dozen toppings and cheeses for $1–2. They also offer three chicken sandwiches, a BLT, and a grilled cheese. They have 10 sides, including sautéed corn and sweet potato fries, along with three salads, pickles, and beer sausage for their starters.
Come late March and early April (or “when the weather is constantly good”), Whitmans will start offering a breakfast/brunch menu, Kramer said. It’s “more burgers and waffles” (they already offer a bacon, egg, and cheese burger) rather than a traditional brunch menu, but there will be plenty of mimosas and Bloody Marys to go around. Kramer hopes to take advantage of the foot traffic on the High Line, which snakes around the corner from Whitmans.
Kramer’s also interested in hosting larger parties and events, he said, but he’s not picky about what will get you in the door.
“We just want people to come experience Whitmans themselves. I just want them to feel comfortable and come and try it — and I’m excited for that,” he said.
Whitmans Hudson Yards is located at 331 10th Ave., btw. W. 29th & 30th Sts). Hours: 12–9pm daily. Visit whitmansnyc.com/hudson-yards or call 212-837-1416.