Peter Luger – Brooklyn, NY

Peter Luger
178 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 387-7400‎

I recently went on a quest to find the best burger in New York City. For the rest of this week, you’ll have my breakdown of what I discovered. This is post #3 of 5 related to trying out some of the best that New York has to offer. The last review, the Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien is available here . Hope you enjoy the series.

New Yorkers are famous for many things. Pastrami. Pizza. The Yankees. And a very brusque attitude. While visiting New York City over the years, other than some crazy drivers, I haven’t found the “New York” attitude to be all that prevalent. Impatient towards tourists? Often, yes. But unfriendly? Not at all.

One of the bastions of the New York attitude exists at Peter Luger. Famous Brooklyn steakhouse known for surly service, 5 week+ dry aged steak, and an astronomical bill. One Michelin Star. Voted best steak in New York for 24 years by Zagat, what isn’t as well known is they have a burger on their lunch menu. One that many consider to be the best burger in New York + Outer Boroughs.

The first thing you encounter upon walking into Peter Lugers is either crowds of people waiting, or the enormous bar. Everyone ends up at the bar eventually – since even with a reservation, you’re typically made to wait 15-20 minutes. Minimum. It’s not the worst place to be stuck though – reasonable  New York prices for drinks, an ok house label beer and some decent cocktails. If you’re of the male gender – expect some surly comments and banter – not always lighthearted, though it seems quite faux surly for the most part. Ladies are treated very nicely.

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DiFara’s Pizzeria – Brooklyn, NY


DiFara’s Pizzeria
1424 Avenue J (between 14th and 15th Street)
Brooklyn, NY  11230
12:00pm – 11:00pm, Tue-Sat
Cash only

I love pizza. Cheese, meat, dough. How can you go wrong?

Made with love
DiFara’s: round pie, The “Special”

A cool spring day in NYC found us wandering around Manhattan. From the Upper West Side, we decided to walk the Brooklyn Bridge, hitting street vendors along the way, until we made it to Grimaldi’s, the veritable Brooklyn institution just on the other side of the bridge. Grimaldi’s is well known for via their #1 Zagat rating, and their “coal-brick oven”. Apparently too well known, as the lineup was estimated at 45-60 minutes to get in the door. After a recent 3 hour waiting extravaganza to eat at Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix (best pizza in NA, hands down), we decided to abandon the Grimaldi’s plan and head deep into the bowels of Brooklyn and try DiFara’s Pizzeria. Next to the Avenue J station on the Q line, it is actually a fairly convenient place to get to.  No lineup as well. It was a good start.

We get inside and are instantly hit with one overwhelming sense – chaos. People are standing around, jockeying for position. Some people have ordered. Some people havent. Who’s pie is this? Stop! Wait! He’s stealing my pie! Hmm, perhaps not as easy as first anticipated.

Find the line where people are ordering – stand firm and get your order in asap. Dom DiMarco, the genius who rolls out your pie, can only do 3 at a time. He’s been doing it for over 20 years. Trust him. No more than 3.

The ordering system, notes scribbled in a yellow pad and ripped into 10 as tickets – very dangerously inconsistent. Place your order quickly, lest someone else take your place in the book. Give them a unique name so it stands out – don’t use Joe, or Mario. Once ordered, do NOT leave the counter area, seasoned vets knowingly tell me – your pie can easily be given to someone else. Track your order like a hawk. And be patient when someone who showed up 20 minutes after you gets their pie first. It is a ripped yellow pad after all.

brilliance in action

Enjoy the show. Dom does a phenomenal job pulling your pie. Topping your pie. Baking your pie. Many people call it theatre. Some even applaud. They need something to occupy their time in the subsequent hour(s).

They come in a variety of simple types – round, square. Go with the square. Toppings are fairly basic, or customized to your liking.  Most swear by the Sicilian, some by the Pepperoni. Many get “The Special”. My suggestion? Don’t get cute. Simple is better.

Bam! Olive oil. Boom! Sauce. On goes the cheese. Toppings, judiciously spread for optimal coverage. Into the oven. Out it comes in all its anticipated glory. A litlle more EVOO, some basil (“Thai Basil”, Dom confides to me… “you know why? ’cause asians basil got the best flavour you know!”), the box, and boom, onto the next one.

The crust? Crispy, chewy, slightly charred. Really quite good. Crust is what pie is all about. The slices are quite large, with a few too many toppings – this slice needs the New York fold, or you’ll be wearing it in under 3 seconds. Toppings? Fresh. Excellent. Not as good as my charcuterie-inspired dreams, but they are not out of place on the sublime crust. Eat fast. Enjoy. And then get out of the chaos, as there are many other people waiting to grab your table.

Look, this is not the place for everyone. The wait is often 1-2 hours. Yes, it is greasy. Yes, the pie teeters on folding over. Slick from EVOO, your toppings threaten to slide onto your lap at any given moment. Yes, hygiene is in question. No, i don’t really care anyway. It has fresh toppings, really good crust.

This place has character. This place has charm. This place makes a great slice. This place is slow. And it’s worth every bit of time spent darkening their doorways.

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