by Julie Besonen, 11/19/2013
Bill's Bar & Burger. Photo: Daniel Krieger
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- holidays in nyc/
Bill's Bar & Burger
16 W. 51st St., 212-705-8510, Midtown, Manhattan
20 E. 49th St., 212-755-2166, Midtown, Manhattan; 9 E. 53rd St., 212-752-0340, Midtown, Manhattan; 804 Lexington Ave., 212-838-3580, Upper East Side, Manhattan
While you might have to wait to get close to the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center and glide across its fabled skating rink, you won't have to wait long for a checkered table at Bill's. Quick service and 400 seats on two levels keep things moving. The space has a rowdy tavern vibe with servers ferrying beer-laden trays and, as its name implies, lots of burgers. Hand pressed and griddled to medium doneness (the automatic temperature), they're all under $11, including the Fat Cat cheeseburger on toasted English muffin, named by CNN as one of the top 10 burgers in the country. The thick steak fries are crisp, not limp, and there are also a number of good salads and kid-friendly hot dogs and chicken tenders. The chainlet is owned by B.R. Guest, the same company behind Ruby Foo's and Dos Caminos, among other popular ventures.
With a trio of locations covering ground near Rockefeller Center, Saks Fifth Avenue, American Girl and Bloomingdale's, Burger Heaven offers convenient bargain eats (whether you're trying to save for presents or not). The same family has owned it for four generations, but the diner décor looks spiffy and new. A burger is the natural way to go—the version here being a picture-perfect example of thick, old-fashioned goodness. To change things up a little, how about a patty melt on rye? The toasted triangles taste buttery, the loosely packed beef coated in cheese and served with skin-on skinny fries, cole slaw and a big vinegary pickle. The setup is roughly the same at each spot: shaped much like a train car, the space has narrow booths, a Formica counter near the front and additional tables in the rear. Since it's open from morning straight through the day, it's also good for hefty omelets, a coffee break or a time-out with parfait glasses piled high with ice cream.