All of my California friends have been singing the praises of Umami Burger for quite some time. When we were in San Francisco at the end of our honeymoon in June, we stopped by and really enjoyed our meal. It was just weeks from opening in NYC, and this summer, we got our first Umami Burger in Greenwich Village.
We stopped by just a few weeks after opening (and after the 3 hour waits were supposed to be less and they had reportedly fixed their reservation system). We checked in and they took our name and number down on an iPad, saying it would be about 45 minutes. They said they would text me when the table was coming ready, so we went out to find a happy hour drink. I was immediately texted with a link to see my place online (digitally) and saw we were about #15 in the list. About 35 minutes later, I got a text that our table was coming up. We wrapped up our drinks and walked back over, sliding into our high stools on the top floor almost exactly 45 minutes after first arriving.
A lot of reviews are panning the decoration, but I saw nothing wrong with it. (Though I can’t say it was very memorable)
The Umami Burger menu is similar in all locations, however, there are (“secret”) specials for each location. The specials in New York are a 5 spice duck burger (which they were sadly out of when we were there), a French dip burger (which I didn’t hear anything about and forgot to ask about when we were there), and cheese tots.
We were greeted by a (very enthusiastic) waitress who proceeded to tell us what “umami” means in a speech she must have rehearsed in the mirror a few times. I was sitting at a table with fellow food fiends, one of which went to culinary school. So it felt a little like being a tourist in my own food city, but we went with it.
They immediately came out with 3 umami sauces. I don’t remember anything notable about them.
We decided to split a whole lot of sides so we could try as many as possible. First up were the fried pickles. (They came with a jalapeno dipping sauce that I couldn’t eat). I enjoyed them but nothing too special.
Truffle cheese fries. I wanted these to be crispier. The taste was good but the texture couldn’t stand up to the cheese sauce.
Tempura onion rings. Yummy and not too greasy.
And then the secret tots. I was somehow expecting tater tots with a cheese sauce, but instead these actually had the potatoes mixed with the aged parm and cheddar in the tot itself. Quite delicious.
And then onto the burgers (stamped with the trademark “U” on the bun). I went with the Original (parmesan crisp, shiitake mushrooms, roasted tomato, caramelized onions, and house ketchup).
This burger was awesome. Everything I want a burger to be. A good, substantially fluffy bun that is toasted and has good flavor with a burger that tastes meaty. Then the toppings all blended together for a great texture and flavor that was, yes, umami. It just fills your mouth with greatness.
Mike and the other man at the table went with the Manly burger. Beer cheddar-cheese, bacon lardons, smoked-salt onion strings, ketchup and mustard spread.
He says it was delicious and that it’s better than shake shack.
A manly burger that lived up to its name.
And if you think we would leave after all that indulgence without trying the special desserts, you have another thing coming.
The ice cream sandwiches are made with Brooklyn’s The Good Batch cookies and artisan ice cream from Blue Marble (also from Brooklyn).
We split 2 flavors.
The first was a double chocolate peanut butter cookie. Chocolate waffle cookie with chocolate peanut butter ice cream (very good in flavor but could have used some chocolate sauce or added texture).
And a peach vanilla brown butter. Yes! I loved this. The brown butter sugar cookie was fluffy with a crispy edge and a nicely balanced sweetness. The ice cream inside reminded me of being a kid and going to the local homemade ice cream store. The chunks of peaches were delicious.
I can’t imagine not liking this place. What could possibly be bad about a well cooked burger with delicious ingredients, merged together with the express purpose of bringing out the savory flavors? Sure, there is the novelty of “umami” that people like to hate on. But hell, if it tastes that good, be as cheesy as you want to be. I’ll eat it up. (And those ice cream cookie sandwiches are a great finale to the meal).
I’m a big fan. I’ll be back and looking forward to trying that duck burger.
Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10