22 June 2006

Burger King

Just came back from lunch at Donovan's, the squat, sprawling, darkly lit Irish pub that slightly distinguishes the urban blight otherwise known as Woodside, Queens. It's been there for about 50 years, always popular with the locals whose faces look like maps of the Auld Sod, but kind of put back on the map last year when Time Out New York, in its continued perversity, said it made the best hamburger in greater New York City. (Knowing Time Out's hipster editors and editrixes, they probably got bored of Manhattan and the usual choices for best burger, and thought it would be cool to make a brief foray into uncool Queens.)

You wouldn't have thought any of the Guinness-drinkers holding up the bar inside Donovan's had ever picked up a copy of trendoid Time Out. But soon enough the bar bore a larger banner screaming "Best Burger in New York."

So, is it? Who knows? These annual "Best Of" issues put out by Time Out, New York, The Village Voice and the like have always perplexed me. They're just ad-grabbers completely devoid of authenticity, aren't they? Why else would the choices for best burger, corned beef, egg cream, movie house, pizza, theatre company, and sushi restaurant change from year to year? Film Forum was the revival house supreme in 2005, but a flop in 2006? Katz's was cutting great pastrami last year, but stocked only bum steers this year? I don't think so.

Aside from the need to reap new ad dollars each year, I'm guessing a lot of "Best Of" allure has to do with power. Every New Yorker likes to think they know the Gotham source for the best this, the best that. We're a burg full of know-it-all blowhards. (I know a guy who will tell you in all seriousness that the best produce—PRODUCE, mind you —comes from a specific market in Midwood. Holy Cripes! Has he squeezed every cantaloupe in town?) Editors are no different. They want to tell you just how much they know about the super-bestest slice in NYC.

A part of me wants to be one of those wiseguys. But I can't convince myself in all honesty that I've found the best burger in New York. After all, I haven't TRIED every burger in New York. Anyone who claims to know where the best burger is, without having tried each example, is a jackass. And anyone who WOULD try to taste every burger in New York in order to find out the answer, is also a jackass.

I like Donovan's'. It's one of those big, ungraceful, half-pouder jobs, like the late, lamented McHale's used to make. But it's not exactly better than the one at the Corner Bistro—another perennial contender—or the classic, delicious "21" burger, with its secret sauce.

So, as the narrator in the old Tootsie Pop commercial used to say, "The world may never know."

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