Minietta Tavern (NYC)

113 McDougal Street (between Bleeker and West 3rd Streets)
New York, NY 10012

5 Second Summary:
Price Range- Brunch entrees $16-22, dinner entrees $17-32 (at time of posting)
Ambiance- Hipster vibe, 1920-30s Paris steakhouse meets classic NYC tavern
Cuisine- French bistro
Hits- Balthazar baked goods, much-hyped Black Label burger
Misses- Crowded, can get a bit claustrophobic

Our family has developed a pleasant tradition of dining out in lieu of birthday gifts.  My brother, the consummate carnivore, chose Minietta Tavern over a month in advance of his 28th birthday and forwarded slews of e-articles about Pat Lafrieda and the famed Black Label burger in the time spanning late December to mid-February.  We were well-versed in what to expect and arrived with sky-high expectations for this $26 burger.

After climbing through the burgundy curtain, we stepped into the bar area, replete with alternating black-and-white floor tiles, original glass-front oak wood bar, and white tin ceiling.  The gentleman in the gray suit and hip black glasses reading the Times at the bar could’ve been a strategically planted character; I could completely picture the bar stools sixty years ago filled with men just like him.

When our table was ready, we headed into the back dining room, which crams a lot of people chair-to-chair in a medium-sized space with narrow walkways for the staff.  The walls were covered in framed caricatures and black-and-white photographs with a fresco depicting Greenwich Village around the top of the room.  Couples and young families packed into the Paris-red leather banquettes for brunch.  As we prepared for our own meal, we watched two plates consistently pass us by: the thick brioche French toast and the signature Black Label burger.

We started off with a basket of Balthazar Bakery (which falls under owner Keith McNally’s empire) breads.  The collection was a sumptuous start, and we simply devoured (clockwise from the top) buttery croissants; a dark, thick-crusted Bordeaux-style cannelé with its custardy center and a marzipan flavor; a fruit focaccia; a moist, rich chocolate brioche; and (in the center) a nutty maple doughnut.

My husband Rich ordered a side dish, the duck hash with soft potatoes, as an appetizer and then proceeded to good-naturedly heckle my father about leaning toward the Green Market omelet instead of the Black Label burger.  The hash was served in a cast-iron skillet and looked like “pulled duck.”  It was fatty, abundant, and enjoyed around the table.

My brother’s girlfriend, Mel, and I split the salade d’agrumes (a citrus salad) with pomegranate seeds, thin slices of fennel, mint and dotted with chopped pistachios.  As you can see the colors were beautiful; the flavors were light and refreshing.

We also split the Black Label burger (which accounted for the rest of the table’s entrees, including aforementioned heckled Dad), which came with an obscene mound of thin French fries, a slice of butter lettuce, a tomato wheel, and an old-fashioned (super-sugary and achingly acidic vinegar) pickle that none of us quite cared for.

Minietta Tavern and the Black Label burger are practically synonymous at this point.  The juicy, eight-ounce burger itself is the result of laborious artistic process and revision.  Pat Lafrieda’s blend of dry-aged Kentucky ribeye, skirt steak, and brisket (in proportions guarded with NASA-esque security) is plancha-griddled to form a crust and sprinkled with clarified butter, salt, and pepper.  It is served on a custom Balthazar Bakery sesame-crusted brioche bun with caramelized onions.  [Nick Solares’ in-depth expose of the Black Label burger on is, by far, the most detailed account its complexity and origin.]

When ordering your temperature, note that Minietta’s medium is really medium-rare, it’s medium-rare is really rare, etc cetera.  So a “well done” burger still comes with a pink center.  We ordered ours “medium,” which came with a pink-red center.  As you can see, the bun was just perfectly moistened with juice and fat on the top bun, while the bottom bun was buttery and just-nearly soaked through.  The dry aging of the beef itself gave it an earthy and (I mean this in the best possible way) moldy taste that my brother and I both related to a moldy cheese flavor.  My friend Jesse (who dined there earlier this year) called it an “umami taste,” which I’m inclined to agree with.  Thick like a meatball (which I LOVE in a burger), I can’t say it was my favorite burger ever, but the flavor was certainly unlike any other.  Honestly, I’m not totally sure the dry-aged taste was totally for me, but speaking objectively, it was rich and wildly flavorful.

My mother and sister shared a burger that was “extra well-done” and didn’t care for it.  At the more thoroughly cooked temperature, the meat got a bit gristly, and my sister got a hard piece (we speculated it could be cartilage) in her burger.  Although we agreed that, like hanger steaks, the burger probably wasn’t best-suited for the “well-done” meat lover, my sister felt (and, in the spirit of fairness, I’m including her opinion) that the waitstaff should gently warn diners that the dish isn’t recommended at higher temperatures at the time of ordering, giving them a heads-up to either order another dish or knowingly risk the repercussions.

For dessert, we shared a chocolate-hazelnut dacquoise with a rich chocolate ganache and hazelnut meringue.   The flavors were spot on and led me to believe that much of Minietta’s success follows on the heels of its incredible Balthazar baked goods.

Another star was the Balthazar fruit galette with currants and lightly charred pears: sweet, tart, with subtle almond-marzipan flavors and a delicate, crunchy crust.  How gorgeous are these colors?

We also shared an âssiete de chocolats (chocolate assortment) by renowned chocolatier Jacques Torres.  Proceeding clockwise from the half sphere in front —which was a milk chocolate with a deliciously gooey rum-caramel-brown-sugar-and-butter center— was a dark chocolate square, a milk chocolate hexagon with a butterscotch-y center,  a milk chocolate square with a cinnamon/hazelnut center, and the dark chocolate heart ( in the middle) that tasted like passionfruit.

On the whole, Minietta’s food was rich, delicious, and flavorful.  Did it live up to the hype? Well, it’s hard when the hype is so amplified.  We enjoyed ourselves, and I’d definitely consider going back for that brioche French toast.  More than anything, though, our meal left me wanting to visit Balthazar Bakery.  Now that was some amazing stuff, and it just goes to show what the right shared investments can do for a restaurant.

3 Responses to “Minietta Tavern (NYC)”

  1. Solid review. The Nick Solares link was awesome. Thanks for sharing it. I normally like my burgers closer to medium-well but went with their recommendation of medium when I went for the Black Label (they actually said don’t go more well done than medium). These boutique burger joints know their meat blends and I think it’s probably wise to just defer to them. Might make a difference in the burger-eating experience.

  2. I already have a kobe burger spot lined up for the next familial gustation. It’s probably more our swagger.

  3. Allison DeLisi Says:

    I asked about adding cheese and they recommend the burger without cheese (which I definitely appreciated) but they didn’t mention a recommendation of how to cook it (because I definitely would’ve just gone with their suggestion rather than having a gritsy burger). The place obviously has great credibility and the breakfast dishes looked amazing so I’ll just have to go back and try it again.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: