Good Deals: Paul's Da Burger Joint

New York City is so jam-packed with spots, it's easy to overlook some of its hidden gems. I was wandering with a friend around the East Village looking for a Sunday brunch spot when we overheard someone point across 2nd Avenue and say, "Now, that place has the best hamburgers in town." Curiosity piqued, we crossed the street.

Turns out the place was Paul's Da Burger Joint, on 2nd Avenue just south of St. Mark's. Of course, I'd passed Paul's numerous times over my many years in NYC, but kind of disregarded the dingy giant hamburger outside and moved along. We checked out the menu outside and decide to dive in. It was the right choice.

Dating to 1989, the place is like walking into an East Village time warp, and I'm glad it's still there. The website calls the decor 50s, but I call it traditional New York with an 80s feel: lots of signs (a la Big Nick's Burger Joint and the various Papaya places) and a diner-style counter mixed with black, gray, and neon. It's obviously a well-worn, much-loved place.

The burger menu's a couple of notches above a typical New York diner menu, and as a bunch of the choices intrigued us, we decided to split two burgers. We ordered the Saint Mark's (a cheeseburger with mushrooms and fried onions) and a Soul Burger (a bacon cheeseburger with ham and fried onions). We made one of them deluxe, which added just the right amount of fry action for two people.

When the burgers arrived, we were happy campers. They were fresh, super-juicy, perfectly done, and smothered with nicely-prepared toppings. We both agreed that the mushroominess of the Saint Mark's made it somehow super spectacular, but the Soul Burger was great, too. And the ultimate vote for "fabulous burger" came when my friend realized he found no need to add ketchup--which was a first for him. Yup, they were perfect as they were.

Paul's is definitely on my East Village go-to list. It's about time!

Paul's Da Burger Joint, 131 Second Avenue between 7th and St. Mark's Place.

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