Tucked on an odd little side street on the east side of Manhattan, adjacent (and attached) to the Pod 51 Hotel, is salvation.
More accurately: Salvation Burger, renowned burger chef April Bloomfield’s new bovine pet project.
You may be familiar with Bloomfield’s work at The Spotted Pig, which featured a burger that gained such a reputation, it helped the West Village eatery earn a coveted Michelin star in 2005.
Salvation is nascent — it just opened in February of 2016 — and it feels that way.
The decor ranges from fun — large portraits of cows and a mosaic of plastic squeaky toy burgers on the wall — to insensitive (did we really need a painting of the Hindu god Krishna and his sacred cow watching us while we waited for a table?).
The front-of-house staff is accommodating, quick, smiley, and helpful. But once the crowd swelled and the room approached full capacity, there was a palpable feeling of slight panic, from the way the hostess turned would-be diners away with wait-time quotes of over an hour and a half, to the deft maneuvers waiters and bus boys employed to duck through the impatient crowd.
My party of three, which arrived at the restaurant at about 8:00 on a Saturday night, was quoted a wait time of about 45 minutes. We didn’t sit down until at least 9:30. The restaurant does not take reservations, so there is no way to avoid this.
So, there are some front-of-house kinks to work out. Fine, but is it worth it to endure that for the food?
In a word: yes, it is. We all ordered the Classic burger, which is two flat-top griddled patties sourced from an upstate New York farm and served between a house-made sesame seed bun. It’s topped with house-made cheese, pickles, and special sauce (Yes, everything that goes into it really is housemade).
If you think that sounds a lot like a Big Mac, you’re not alone.
“April is obsessed with McDonald’s,” Ken Friedman, Bloomfield’s business partner, told Bloomberg.
But the taste couldn’t be further removed. The tender patties were griddled to perfection with just the right amount of pink in the center to render them juicy and flavorful. The cheese was really the star of the show, however, and the fact that they stick a slice in the middle of the two patties is just a stroke of genius.
The bun works perfectly in its job to keep everything from becoming too unwieldy, but the project becomes a mess real quick. You could finish the job with silverware, but it’s much more fun to just embrace the chaos.
The $17 Classic burger does not come with fries, which you can order on the side for an additional $7. But there’s no reason to. Salty, crispy and shoestring — they were good, but mostly forgettable.
We shared one side between the three of us, and we all had quite enough.
None of us tried the flagship eponymous Salvation Burger, which clocks in at a higher price point ($25) and is one large wood-fired grilled burger patty instead of two, topped with in-season house-made ingredients that rotate.
The restaurant also serves a veggie burger (which has been reviewed quite well), as well as a hot dog, fried fish sandwich, and other assorted salads and veggies.
For dessert, we split a fried blueberry pie (in a similar shape to McDonald’s rectangular pies), which was delicious. There are also regular pies and milkshakes, both normal and spiked.
Though it may be a hassle with its odd location and finicky “you-gotta-wait-for-it” table system, Salvation is definitely worth a trip for burger fans, if only just once.