The 17 Most Influential Burgers of All Time: Time
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15 Grand American Bistro: Montvale, NJ: the burger [CLOSED]

15 grand burger

UPDATE: 2014/06: 15 Grand American Bistro has closed.

Other than having heard that they have a good burger, I knew nothing about 15 Grand, the newish restaurant in Montvale, NJ. That didn't stop me from thinking I knew, though.

I was pretty sure this was an upscale place, with heavy, dark furniture, where, if it were allowed, you might find businessmen in suits smoking cigars, talking too loudly about some deal, and drinking Johnny Walker some-color at the bar. Really not my kind of place, but I figured I'd give it a shot, for the sake of research.

With temps this week struggling to get out of the aughts, I had visions of a big ol' goblet of red wine next to the burger. I could assume that a place like this would have very nice, large, masculine stemware. Maybe, even a bold, tannic cabernet. A steakhouse type wine. It sure seemed like that kind of afternoon. That would surely be a lovely lunch if, if that burger was any good.

I was a bit surprised to see a somewhat crowded parking lot as I rolled in. "That's a lot of businessmen," I thought. The last thing I wanted to do was get squeezed into a bar, surrounded by tossers. I generally just like being left alone. But I soldiered on, setting apprehension and my general dislike of people aside, parked the car, and walked in.

I eagerly told the host that I'd like to sit at the bar. He gently explained that they don't have a bar. He must have seen the shock on my face, my jaw slack, the life force melting out of me. "We're a BYO," he continued.

"What?!?! Since when? Forever and always?" I asked, intent on getting to the bottom of this, and trying to get my head around what was happening in my life at that moment. Surely this is a mistake. Surely. Clearly the nice man is yanking my chain. Clearly.

"Yes, forever and always," the nice man responded.

I won't lie--I was about to turn heel and go find the place I was thinking of this whole time. The place with the bar, with the big comfy stools. The place with the over-sized wine glasses. The place with the big cabernet. That place, you know? But, I quickly realized that 1) the traffic was hellacious and I didn't want to go back into it, and 2) this was the blasted joint I was thinking of in the first place. I nimbly switched gears, and proclaimed with a bit of defeat "I'll take a table, then."

The restaurant, rather than the dark, stodgy place I had envisioned, is quite bright, energetic, and casual. Really casual. But upscale casual. Soda (or, "sodar," if you're from a very strange place) in jelly jars upscale casual. There were a few businesspeople, but mostly just regular folk, ordering salads, and lots of burgers from what I saw.

That one lady customer looked a lot like Kristen Wiig, and I'm sure I stared just a wee bit too long. I'm ashamed of that, but she really looked like Kristen. I'm also pretty sure that I had no idea that Wiig is spelled with two "i"s until right this moment. True story.


Oh, right, getting on to that burger. 

I ordered the 15 Grand Burger--the only part of my grand plan to see the light of day--which comes with apple smoked bacon (presumably apple wood can't smoke with no apples, yo), cheddar, pickles, and tomato jam.

While the rest of the country seems infatuated with bacon, throwing around silly phrases like "bacon makes everything better," and applying bacon to everything (guacamole?), I am squarely against such nonsense. First and foremost, not all bacon is good. Most is a thoroughly mediocre affair. Now if yer making your own damned bacon, you're on to something, and by all means, put that bacon everywhere. At any rate, I asked for the bacon on the side (BOS?), because I really don't think a burger benefits from bacon.

Oh, right, getting on to that burger.

The burger arrived with the bacon on the side, and some perfectly good fries, likely of the frozen variety.

The bun, upon initial inspection, seemed grossly too large for the burger. Turns out that the bun was just a wee bit big, but it wasn't egregious. The burger compressed the airy bun, whipping it into shape, and the bun, responding in kind, was catching those juices. The sesame seeds popped in my mouth like fish roe. I liked that. True story.

This tomato relish, which is something I'm generally leery of, certainly served a purpose. It took the place of what would have been an unripe, unexceptional tomato (those are served at every restaurant in NJ, "The Garden State"), and also supplanted ketchup. A bit sweet, a bit acidic, and quite nice overall.

The pickles were also spot on: crunchy and acidic, and on the burger. This reminds me of how too many places serve a pickle spear with a burger, on the plate, all lonely (Tierney's, I'm looking at you). You know how annoying it is to try to cut a spear of pickle, on a crowded plate, with that slippery little f*cker bobbing and weaving to get away from your butter knife, and eventually get it into a shape that fits your burger? It's really annoying, in case you don't know.

Oh, right, getting on to that burger.

15 grand buger cut

That burger was coarsely ground, and cooked to a lovely m/r as requested. The obviously freshly-ground meat had a good sear on it, and was very, very juicy. Certainly one of the better burgers in North Jersey, and probably taking a position in some sort of list, like a top 15 or so. Maybe even top 10. Yip, it was a fine burger indeed.

15 Grand American Bistro : 15 W. Grand Ave : Montvale, NJ : 201.746.9777 : BYOB