5 Napkin Burger at 14th and 3rd Ave

Holiday decorations inside the 5 Napkin Restaurant at 14th Street
Holiday decorations inside the 5 Napkin Restaurant at 14th Street

I don’t remember exactly when the place opened, but for the past few months the 5 Napkin Burger restaurant has been full of people almost every time I’ve gone by. The smells of cooking hamburgers wafting out of the restaurant onto 14th Street made it hard to walk by without getting hungry. So, it wasn’t much of a surprise when my mom asked me and my wife to take her there for her birthday dinner.

Christmas ornaments hanging from the pipes on the ceiling
Christmas ornaments hanging from the pipes on the ceiling
Chalk board covered with drawings, including a flask and Bunsen burner.
Chalk board covered with drawings, including a flask and Bunsen burner.

The holiday decorations inside the restaurant are nice. It felt festive. My wife pointed this out to me later, but it looks like the restaurant has a biology lab decor underneath the Christmas decorations. I don’t really get it. Is the implication supposed to be that they’ve used science to perfect their burger recipes? It feels like a bit of a mental stretch and personally I don’t want to think about biology labs or what might be festering in Petri dishes while eating.

5 Napkin's signature 5 Napkin Burger
5 Napkin’s signature 5 Napkin Burger
5 Napkin Steak and Eggs (Eggs hidden behind fries)
5 Napkin Steak and Eggs (Eggs hidden behind fries)

My mom and I opted for the signature 5 Napkin Burger. I figured I might as well get what should be their best dish. My wife opted for the steak and eggs. I was tempted to join her. We’ve been watching King of the Hill on Netflix and the night before we’d seen an episode about Hank, his propane and propane accessories and grilling steaks.

The 5N burger costs about 15 bucks. That’s steep, but they do give you a very, very large portion of food. I cleared the plate but my mom took half of her burger home for dinner. I should have done the same because later I wound up with a stomach ache that left me incapacitated on the couch for about two hours. The burger sat in my stomach like a lead weight for most of the day and then just sort of knocked me down for a while late in the evening. Luckily, everything cleared up the next day. If you know what I mean.

Anyway, the food quality is decent.  According to the missus, the steak and eggs were good, but she’s had better.  She said the portion was a good size, but it wasn’t extraordinary and the quality wasn’t comparable to the price. The 5N burger itself was tasty, but the portion was so big it was hard to hold it all together, especially when the juices from the meat started to run out onto my hand. Not that I’m advocating dry burgers, but I think the whole thing would come together better if the portion was just a more… normal size. The heavy garlic butter stuff (I forget the fancy name) along with the extra juiciness (grease?) and the lack of vegetables in the burger caused it to have a very unbalanced taste, and it might also be what led to my discomfort later in the day.

Some bizarre "cocktail" that tasted like flat champagne and cost 10 dollars.
Some bizarre “cocktail” that tasted like flat champagne and cost 10 dollars.

The worst part of the meal was this holiday cocktail that was supposed to be a mix of champagne, some essence of elder flower, mulled ginger and some other essence of something that came in a tiny glass (that I got charged 10 bucks for…) and tasted like flat champagne. The only bubbles in the glass were coming from the interaction between the ‘champagne’ and the translucent slice of ginger in the bottom of the glass, which didn’t seem to help the taste of the drink at all. I can’t figure out why it cost so much, either. Do essences of stuff that add no flavor to a drink cost a lot? It certainly wasn’t costly because of the size of the drink. We mentioned the lack of taste to what I assume was a manager, since I think I remember him wearing a suit, and he said he appreciated the suggestion.

The best part of the meal was the onion rings. I’d go back for the onion rings. The chunks of onion are big and they’re not buried in batter. When I bit into them I could taste the onion and the batter instead of heavy oil. The other good thing about the meal was the service, up until the end when we were getting ready to leave. Some server had added an extra table to the booth across from where we were sitting that took up more than half of the walking space, so when we were trying to get out and leave, waiters and waitresses kept asking us to move out of their way. It was slightly annoying.

Thinking about the meal as a whole, we didn’t dislike it at the time. We didn’t have a ‘bad’ experience. I mean, no one left the restaurant upset, angry or disappointed. But, I don’t know that I’d want to go back and get what might be another mediocre steak and eggs or heavy (flavor-wise) burger, or flat champagne cocktail, all of which are highly (over) priced, just to get good onion rings. With three entrees, three sodas, one cocktail and two extra sides of onion rings, plus a tip, our bill wound up being 98 dollars. We could probably have been just as happy for half of the cost at any number of other burger places. So, while I think 5 Napkin is a decent meal, it’s not a decent meal that’s worth the price and I don’t think we’ll going back.

Fight Spills Into 14th Street, Causes Traffic Jam

Yesterday, I was coming back into the city from New Jersey on the PATH train and got off at 14th street.  My plan was to hop on the bus and then go back into the subway at Union Square to head uptown to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  I wound up having to get back off the bus and walk, though, because punks don’t know how to behave in public.  One kid jumped another kid and the result was a big traffic disaster on 14th street between 6th and 5th avenues.

Cops on the street after a fight broke out on 14th street between 5th and 6th Ave.

As soon as I got seated on the bus I started seeing flashing lights and the bus just sat there, so I took a look out the window and saw that the street was jammed with police cars.  There was a tour bus going the opposite way, but stopped in the road with all the tourists on the open upper deck leaning over the rail and gawking.  I saw a black guy being led away in cuffs.  I waited a while and then got off the bus to take a few pictures and then walk to Union Square.

Cops on the street after a fight broke out on 14th street between 5th and 6th Ave.

While I was standing there taking photos, I heard what happened from a woman that had been handing out sales fliers.  Apparently, a bunch of kids from a nearby school had just left class and one kid jumped on another kid and busted the side of his face up.  The kid that got attacked took off into the subway station I had just left. The guy I saw being handcuffed was the one that did the attacking.  While she was telling me this, the police were yelling at the crowd of kids, which I assume were classmates of the kids that were fighting, telling them to go home or at least leave the area.

Girl crying because her boyfriend was arrested for fighting on his birthday.

When I was walking away, a girl (brown coat in the above picture, surrounded by friends) started crying, saying it was “[her] man’s birthday.”  I can only assume that the guy that got arrested is, or was, her “man”, and they weren’t going to be doing much partying that night.  He must not have wanted to celebrate his birthday anyway or he wouldn’t have done something illegal in the middle of a crowded street.  People just don’t think anymore, do they?

Cops on the street after a fight broke out on 14th street between 5th and 6th Ave.

On the left, you can see the M14A Crosstown I got on, then got off, stuck on the side of the road because of all the police vehicles.

Foremost taxi is an undercover New York City police car.  Cool, right?

The only redeeming factor in this whole fiasco, besides giving me something to blog about, is that I got to see an undercover NYC police car that looks like a taxi cab.  In the photo above, the foremost taxi (facing right, just behind the cop car) is an undercover vehicle.  You can see the red strobe light in the center of the dashboard.

That Damn L-Train

Friday morning I had an adventure with the L-Train.  Sort of an adventure.  Well, mostly it was just a pain in the ass that made me late for class.  There was something wrong with the 7 train, so all of the people that normally take the 7 to get into Manhattan were taking the L.  I didn’t know this, of course, until after I was already in the station and on the platform.  I don’t have to take the L.  I could just take the bus from Avenue B to Union Square.  The L is usually a bit faster though.  Sometimes I’ve stood around for 20 minutes waiting on a bus, only to see three of them show up at the same time.  The L is usually more reliable.  Usually.  But when it fucks up, it really fucks up.

So, like I said, I swiped my card, walked through the turn-style and then down to the platform.  I stopped for a moment to take in the huge crowd of people.  They were packed in tight from the edge of the platform back, with barely enough space for people to squeeze through behind them.  That should have been my first indication that something was wrong, but I rarely ever take the train that early in the morning.  This was at 8:30 AM.  I have one class per week that starts in the morning and it only meets once per week.  Anyway, I took my position at the back of the crowd and waited.

About 10 minutes later, a train arrived.  The doors opened and people came flooding out, trying to push through the crowd.  Before they’d finished getting out, people were fighting to get in.  You know how it is.  The person running the train is playing the “Please stand clear of the closing doors” message before people even finish walking off the train.  Before I’d even managed to take one step forward, the people boarding were fighting to hold the doors open while they got onboard.  I got to the front and realized I couldn’t squeeze in, no matter how I tried, so the doors closed and the train left.

Ok.  That was disappointing, but I could just get the next train right?  Wrong.  About 10 minutes later another train approached the station.  Then it left the station, without even stopping.  Damn.  By this point, I was thinking I should have just taken the bus.  I’d have been at Union Square by then.  But I thought that by the time I got out of the subway and got to the bus stop, and rode the bus, another train would come and I’d waste even more time.  Besides, I wasn’t sure I could manage to get some sort of pass and I didn’t want to pay again.  I didn’t have an unlimited card.  So, I just waited.

15 minutes later another train finally showed up.  People streamed out of it, and then the crowd surged in.  I grabbed the pole in the middle of the train, between the doors and listened to a girl next to me screaming about some asshole who threatened her.  She had stepped off the train to let people out, and when she tried to get back on, someone stupid got confused and thought she didn’t have a right to get back on ahead of him.  Morons.

So, I was finally underway.  Maybe I wouldn’t be too late.  Or so I thought.

The train pulled into the next station, 3rd Avenue, and the conductor got on the intercom and told us that the train would be bypassing Union Square and not stopping until 8th Avenue. What the fuck?  So, I managed to get ONE station before having to get off the train and walk anyway.

When I got to Union Square I got in line at the ticket booth just in time to watch an old man scream at the guy for not letting him back into the train station for free after he had a problem with the L Train.  He screamed “Fuck you!” and then stomped over to the turn-style and paid again to get into the station.  That wasn’t very reassuring.  When I got up the counter, I presented my case, and for being courteous I was let into the station without having to pay again.  A small blessing.

So… to get from 1st Avenue to Union Square took me almost an hour Friday morning.  Thanks to the L train.  And the fun and games didn’t stop there.  By the time I got to the school I was thirsty, but all I had was a 20 dollar bill and the café and cafeteria wouldn’t give me change, so I had to leave the campus again, back the way I came, to go to a convenience store to get a drink.  What fun.

Luckily, when I got into the classroom, no great fuss was made about my being late.  Word of the 7 and L trains’ problems had preceded me.  I think from now on I’ll just take the bus, or walk, to Union Square.  The L train is too much of a pain in the ass to even bother with.