I didn’t think anyone could dethrone the Emmy burger as the best burger in town, but leave it to a player from meat-and-potatoes town Chicago to show the New York City burgers how it’s done. That title now belongs to the American Cheeseburger at 4 Charles Prime Rib, which is run by the restaurateur behind Chicago’s famous Au Cheval. I’ve never been to Au Cheval, but apparently the burger there is to die for, and if the burger at 4 Charles Prime Rib is any indication, I should be dead by now.
What’s remarkable about this burger is how simple it is. My friend remarked that it reminded her of a really good quarter pounder, which was a pretty accurate description–two thin but exquisite patties in between a sweet and spongy bun with just some basic fixings of melted American cheese and pickles. Restaurants like to brag about how their organic, grass-fed patty has been dry-aged for so many days and how their burgers come embellished with exotic cheeses and sauces, but for all that complicated bravado, 4 Charles Prime Rib’s good old Americana version wins out.
Part of the reason why this burger tastes so good may be that reservations at a reasonable hour are very hard to come by. The restaurant is small and doesn’t have very many tables, which is a big part of the problem. Each day I would refresh my Resy app to see if there was anything better than an 11 pm or midnight seating, and once in awhile I’d see something at an unfashionably early time of 5:30. I realized this was as good as it was going to get and accepted the early seating. In hindsight, it was probably for the best that we had our meal on the earlier side. A meal at 4 Charles Prime Rib, as you might guess, involves a LOT of red meat. Having the meat sweats at 1 am really isn’t pretty.
The restaurant reminds me of an old-time speakeasy, and even the staff members with their Boardwalk Empire-like mustaches and genial natures seem like they are from another time. We were served by a chatty duo who recommended that the three of us split the french dip as an appetizer, followed by the cheeseburger and then the Chicago-cut prime rib. There was a debate as to whether the french dip, which was also excellent, was superior to the burger, but for me, there’s no question that the burger was the star of the show. I wasn’t that blown away by the prime rib, I think I generally get more impressed by bone-in, highly marbled steak meat rather than the more mellow nature of a prime rib, but it was perfectly fine. You can’t have a burger without fries, and the ones here don’t disappoint. You can, however, do without the elote-style corn.
And just when we thought the show was over, out comes the showstopping chocolate cream pie with the oreo crust. We somehow found room in our meat-stuffed stomachs and absolutely crushed this dessert. It was about 8:30 by the time our meal was over, which is still early by New York standards, but for me that evening, the epic dinner would be a hard act to follow, so I called it a night.
4 Charles Prime Rib
4 Charles St (between Greenwich Ave and Waverly Pl)
New York, NY 10014