BLT Burger is not hip. Not at all. Among a certain set, admitting you like BLT Burger is akin to admitting you like Applebee's, Carmine's or a Bobby Flay restaurant: You will lose all foodie street cred if you do. The New York Times ripped it a new exit some years ago, when chef Laurent Tourondel first opened this restaurant. (Tourondel has since parted ways with the BLT Restaurant Group, which owns BLT Burger.) But gosh darn if this place ain't got some Sarah Palin-like charm. You don't want to like it... but it's difficult not to just a little bit.
I can only presume that some things have changed in the six years since that blistering NYT review. Burgers seem to be made with decent-quality meat: patties are advertised as being a blend of sirloin, short rib, chuck and brisket cut 100% Black Angus Beef. There is no longer a Kobe beef burger on the menu (though there are Kobe beef hot dogs, which I'm not sure are much better). Patties are cooked to the temperature you wish and the wait staff does ask, though the default is medium. The burgers are made with nicely toasted, non-wimpy, bakery-quality buns. I'm not sure whether they were the same buns Peter Meehan of the NYT had six years ago, but there is actually quite a lot to be said (beyond mere nostalgia) for serving burgers on soft buns of this sort, rather than, say, a brioche bun, English muffin or ciabatta. The bun is strong enough to support the meat and fillings, but isn't so dense or chewy that it detracts from the texture of the meat. Unlike sweet brioche rolls, the neutral flavor of this bun allows the flavor of the beef to take center stage.
In other words, it's a helluva lot better than the Shake Shack burger (which in my humble opinion are no more than a sad shadow of an In & Out burger) and about on par with Corner Bistro's nearly-as-famous rendition.
Behold the classic burger, photographed during a recent meal (pictured at the top of this post), along with some perfectly delightful fries (pictured below), probably double fried to judge by their crisp texture. The fries were also approximately 2000x better than Shake Shack's weirdly nasty school cafeteria-like version.
Here is the salmon burger, served with pickled red onions, avocado and arugula, which a convive ordered. I didn't try it, but the combination of ingredients sounded good to me.
And finally, here's a photo of the "fish taco" with shrimp, which was surprisingly delicious. The tortilla was steamed, not griddled, which isn't my favorite approach. But the shrimp was juicy and not overcooked. Ingredients -- ripe avocado, cabbage slaw, tomatoes, cilantro -- were in balance. And the potent chipotle mayonnaise (aioli?) sauce on the side was a nice accompaniment.
The cocktails and adult milkshakes are likable, generally sweet and not overly complicated. Spiked milkshakes and adult floats are exactly what they sound like: milkshakes and ice cream floats spiked with a bit of alcohol. They may not be the most sophisticated drinks in the world, but they're difficult to dislike.
Of course it's stupid to ruin the careful marbling of Kobe beef by grinding it into a burger and then charging sixty some odd dollars for it, which seemed central to Meehan's 2006 criticism of the restaurant. BLT Burger probably still won't be earning any awards for its food these days, but even in foodie-heaven West Village, you could do much worse for a meal.
Staff seemed reasonably baby friendly. Booths are great for slightly older children and there's enough room at some of the booths for a stroller to be rolled up alongside. The bathrooms are not particularly clean (the women's bathroom smells like a men's room) and they are hot -- but they're sizable enough to accommodate a diaper change on the floor if you must. Just make sure you bring lots and lots of padding, which you can quarantine immediately afterwards and wash.
Food Rating: B
Baby Friendly Rating: B
470 6th Avenue
New York, NY 10011