This week, New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells gave one star each to Salvation Burger and The Spotted Pig, two eateries opened by April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman. Salvation Burger, Bloomfield’s newest restaurant inside the Pod 51, hones in on what the people want: burgers.
Three of the five main courses at Salvation are burgers, while all five dishes come on a bun. The restaurant's beef burgers come in two forms: highbrow and lowbrow. The highbrow burger is the one and only Salvation Burger, which Wells describes as, “a tall, tender half-pound patty of ground beef with cheese and mushrooms on a sesame seed bun. This burger combines a dark crust that has the specific flavor of charred beef with a soft interior evenly cooked to medium-rare so when you bite down, it surrenders its warm pink juices.”
The lowbrow burger, known as the Classic, is one that Wells says “tastes like America” in contrast to its “steakhouse” counterpart. Wells goes describes this more traditional burger as “patties, pancaked to a blackening crunch on the griddle, sprawl beyond the borders of the bun, running with ‘special sauce’ and yellow cheese… everything on this burger comes together in a single impression that bypasses analytical thinking and goes directly to raw, thumping want.”
As one of the highlights of both the Salvation Burger and The Spotted Pig, Bloomfield makes burgers that frequently dominate patron's orders. That said, Wells attests that she also, “makes a vegetarian patty of carrots and lentils threaded by clear vermicelli of sweet potato starch… it is not a meat substitute but a very flavorful concoction in its own right.”
Contributing to the quality of these meaty delights are the house-baked buns which according to Wells, “do make a difference.” He recommends the “all-around excellence of the oversize hot dog,” which he attests is similarly juicy “like an Italian sausage when you break its seared skin... the hot dog is this restaurant’s sleeper.”
Though Wells was not a fan of what he described as the “incongruous combination of sweet cocktail sauce and garlic butter on the wood-roasted oysters,” he was a fan of Salvation Burger’s “rich and bittersweet chili, made with the shanks from the sides of beef.”
Unlike his feelings toward Salvation Burger, Wells didn't have too many nice things to say about his experiences dining at The Spotted Pig. “After my most-recent dinners there, I left thinking that there had to be more rewarding ways to spend the evening.” He explains, “The servers at Spotted Pig give the impression that they are going to get up to something at the end of their shift that’s more interesting...”
Although his dining experiences were at times disappointing, the food at The Spotted Pig was not to blame. Wells surmised that, “When they finally let you eat, the food can be wonderful,” and goes on to say that “the smoked haddock chowder is a creamy bowl of winter solace, and when it was succeeded on the menu by a minted sweet pea soup with soft shredded ham hock, I cheered for spring.”
All in all, Wells concluded with the astute statement that when the Spotted Pig was last reviewed in The New York Times, in 2006, “Frank Bruni added up the pleasures and subtracted the inconveniences to come up with a one-star rating. Ten years later, the equation is slightly different, but the sum is the same.”
For the complete review, click here.