Grub/Spirits Restaurant Reviews — 15 December 2010
A Restaurant Review: Rare Bar & Grill

Rare Bar & Grill
303 Lexington Avenue, at 38th Street, Murray Hill, (212) 481-1999
152 West 26th Street, at 7th Avenue, Flatiron (212) 807-7273
Getting There: 4,5,6,7,S to 42nd Street-Grand Central Station & 1,R,W to W. 28th St.

On the ground floor of the modern Shelburne Murray Hill hotel sits the second of two locations of Rare Bar & Grill- an upscale burger restaurant that wows with its unique selection of toppings, and diverse burger options.  Although traditional steakhouse offerings also take up an entire page of the menu, you’d be hard pressed to pass by the delicious sounding number of burgers to even glance at them.

The east side location opens to a long bar with high tops, followed by a standard hotel-sized dining area.  The dark brown dining tables only accentuate the dark brown exposed brick inside the seating section.  What impressed us most about Rare, was the tremendous service we received once seated.  Our waiter was constantly checking up on us, refilling beverages, and making sure our experience was fantastic.  Sounds like the standard job of a food service employee, but you’d be surprised to see how infrequently this occurs in Manhattan- and someone doing their job capably, deserves some kudos.

Now down to the nitty-gritty: the food.  In the mood for some smaller tastes, since everything looks delicious?  Rare offers the “burger trio” ($15), three mini burgers cooked up by the chef and determined by their choice of the week, and the “French fry tasting basket” ($10), a mix of the cottage, shoestring, and sweet potato varieties, served with three different dipping sauces.  We decided on the “Frickle” ($7), typically a tasty precursor to any hamburger, and these proved no different.  The fried pickles were cooked in a fluffy tempura-like batter and even resembled fresh broccoli.  But alas, inside the airy shell, lay the pop of a sour pickle, served with a mouthwatering creamy dipping sauce.

The burgers are known to be 100% grade A, chuck beef, hand prepared every day in the Rare kitchen.  The standard “Rare classic” ($9) is a perfectly sized 8 ounces, served on a sweet and toasty bun.  But we couldn’t just let the burger rest on bun alone, and besides, we were feeling a bit more adventurous.  With cheese delivered from the iconic Artisanal restaurant, we selected the “Artisanal cheeseburger,” ($20) which offers a handpicked burger chosen by the restaurant’s team- and on this day, ours was topped with bacon, a crispy onion ring, a sweet tomato relish, and some of the tastiest smoked cheddar cheese we’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying.  The $20 price tag may be rather high for a hamburger, but when delivered with the included side of “parmesan truffle fries” ($5), the value was well worth it.  Plus the portion of fries was so generous, we were able to share just the one order.  We also tried the standard “classic” with cheese ($10.50), which was a non-greasy, but tastefully juicy, tender hamburger patty, that oozed with flavor in each bite.  Yes- that good.

The restaurant offers no less than 8 different cheeses (including Roquefort, goat, and brie), toppings like prosciutto, fried eggs, and fried jalapenos, all of which are $1.50 each and truffle butter ($5).  Truffle butter!

There are a ton of burger spots in Manhattan, some obviously better than others.  But this is no seedy, greasy place.  At Rare Bar & Grill, they manage to serve a comfort food in a classy way.  And sometimes, that makes all the difference.

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