2010-08-04 / Restaurant of the Week

Five Napkin Burger

Bring two hands, some friends, and a big appetite. 5 Napkin Burger will supply the rest. From outrageously delicious burgers, to fresh salads, entrees, and artfully prepared sushi and maki rolls, 5 Napkin Burger appeals to carnivores and herbivores alike. Families, couples, and hipsters will all love this spacious corner eatery and its cool, retro décor with a butcher shop feel. Classic diner-style banquettes provide comfortable seating arranged around a handsome bar that mixes up fantastic cocktails and serves a fine selection of wines and beers. 5 Napkin Burger opened in Astoria just two months ago but is the third of its kind, with its sisters residing on the west side of Manhattan. 5 Napkin Burger is part of a restaurant group owned by Simon Oren and created with the help of Executive Chef Andy D’Amico to create the eponymous burger.

Happy Hour offers lots of drink and food specials. I enjoyed a perfectly mixed Manhattan cocktail while my companion cooled down with a frosty beer, one of dozens on the menu. The blood orange martini, sake-tini and frozen strawberry mojito will ease the tension of your day. Our server was both friendly and efficient and brought a sampling of their tempting starters. Warm spinach and artichoke dip is served on a platter with baguette toasts and fresh endive for scooping up this delicious savory dip ($9.75). Pork taquitos are one of my favorite little plates. Slow cooked, shredded pork, seasoned with Mexican spices is nestled inside crunchy mini taco shells and topped with queso fresco, sour cream and salsa ($8.75). With four taquitos to an order, this is a great item to share. Hell’s Kitchen wings are guilt-free, since they are baked, not fried. The sauce has a kick but isn’t too spicy and I love the bleu cheese dressing. The next appetizer I tried was somewhat unusual but is wildly popular. House made pickles are sliced and wrapped around tender pastrami, then deep-fried and served with sauerkraut. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it, as these snacks have real appeal.

Nearly everything at 5 Napkin Burger is made in house, by hand, including their own bread and butter pickles, special 5N sauce used to top their burgers and special blend of cheeses for one delicious macaroni and cheese. Let’s talk about burgers. The signature 5 Napkin Burger is hand formed from 10 ounces of freshly ground beef, cooked to order and topped with imported Gruyere cheese, sweet, caramelized onions, rosemary aioli and their fabulous 5N sauce ($13.95). Even the freshly baked bun is special, lightly toasted. After just one bite of this perfectly cooked burger, you’ll know why you need the napkins. Variations on the burger include bacon and cheddar, and a carb-free burger called the “Inside Out” burger, wrapped up in a lettuce leaf with bread and butter pickles, tomatoes and 5N sauce. There’s even a “burger for two” made with one pound of beef. If you don’t like beef, there’s an Italian turkey burger topped with mozzarella, spicy tomato sauce, and vinegar peppers. The lamb kofta burger is flavored with Middle Eastern spices and tahini and the vegetable burger is made from hand chopped vegetables including mushrooms, lentils, zucchini and beets, which give it its distinctive reddish hue. The veggie burger is served on a multi-grain roll for extra karma ($11.95). The accompanying French fries are addictively delicious, crisp and perfectly salted.

Unlike most burger places, vegetarians and non-beef eaters will find lots of choices. The sushi and maki rolls are prepared by a professionally trained sushi chef, using the freshest fish and vegetables at market. If you order some sushi as an appetizer, you’ll create your own “surf and turf” meal as we did. The double tuna roll is prepared with spicy tuna and cucumber, wrapped in more tuna and thinly sliced avocado that just melts in your mouth ($13.95). Southwestern style sushi is rolled with spicy yellowtail, cilantro, scallions and jalapenos. The vegetable roll has avocado, cucumber, chayote, carrots, sprouts, red onion and mango in a soy wrapper.

If you prefer a more traditional entrée, dig into classic French style steak frites, a 12-ounce strip steak that eats like “budda”, served with béarnaise sauce and fries. Charred salmon gets an infusion of flavor from paprika and red onion mango salsa. Lobster roll sliders are small versions of that New England specialty, made with sweet Maine lobster, 5N mayonnaise, scallion and cucumber, served on toasted brioche buns with fries.

At lunch, enjoy many of the same dishes, plus incredibly thick and creamy milkshakes and floats. Brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 4pm and the menu includes a selection of omelets, sandwiches, salads and, of course, burgers. There’s a kid’s menu too and they’re conveniently located near the multiplex so stop in before or after a movie just around the corner. A private room accommodates about 40 people for your next affair.

Desserts are fabulous and made on the premises, with kudos for their warm apple pie baked with a cinnamon streusel topping and served with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. Espresso brownie sundae, New York cheesecake and 7-layer blackout cake are some of the other decadent (but “must have”) choices.

Visit seven days a week for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch served from 11am to 4pm. Their hours are from 11:30am until midnight so there’s always a good time to stop in and try the signature burger or any other tempting dish. The Gazette welcomes 5 Napkin Burger to Astoria!

5 NAPKIN BURGER

35-01 36th Street (at 35th Ave.)

Astoria • 718.433.2727

www.5NAPKINBURGER.COM

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