There's a restaurant you've been meaning to get to. You've been hearing about its Black Label Burger for two years, but you can only ever get a reservation at 6 p.m. or 10:30 p.m. and your friends (who've been) say that even with the 10:30 p.m. reservation, you won't be seated until 11:15 p.m. Which will probably turn out to be midnight, at the earliest. But man, you've been hearing about that burger. Seems like anyone who is anyone who knows food has had it. They get all into talking about the funk of the dry-aged beef — the clarified butter-basted, savory, round funk — the sweetness of the caramelized onions, the bread — and the fries, those fries. Not that you'd know, right?
Well, it's all over, you poor Black Label-less souls. As of Wednesday, New York's Minetta Tavern now serves lunch. And the burger's there. It joins the lunch-only burger at Peter Luger as one of the city's most coveted renditions in that time slot. And guess what? It tastes just as good as it does at midnight. And right now (how long will this take to become Manhattan's favorite new power lunch spot?) you don't have to wait long for it.
Along with the Black Label Burger, Minetta Tavern offers two new dishes for lunch. A roasted chicken salad with Jerusalem artichokes, pickled beach mushrooms, and crispy shallots makes an appearance. If anyone is going to make a chicken salad worth ordering, it's going to be the guys at Minetta. But you don't go there for lunch to order a chicken salad, no matter how good it might be. You go for the other new entry: the French dip, which is bloody good.
A halved, toasted baguette with its top half dipped in jus, the Minetta Tavern French dip features boldly red slices of nearly ¼-inch-thick, juicy meat. The slices are gently tucked into the bread and speckled with freshly grated horseradish (you may want to ask for a little more on the side) and presented with the requisite bowl of jus for dipping. This jus is not a consommé, not a broth, but rather a thick jus with dense beefy flavor. Given the shape of the sandwich, the first bite or two is a little tough to dip into the bowl, but the beef is juicy enough to tide you over until you can get it to fit. The only thing this beautiful, proudly bloody sandwich would benefit from is a touch of salt, and there is a little bowl of large salt flakes there on the table for you to adjust as you see fit.
A weekday daytime meal at Minetta?
You see many funky new sandwich combinations and cross-cuisine reinterpretations these days, and they have their place to be sure. But there's something to be said for the classics, and this rendition should be considered for one of the best new New York sandwiches of the year.
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