When I was growing up in Manhattan in the 70s and early 80s, the area code 212 encompassed all five boroughs. I dialed it to reach my grandparents in the Bronx and continued to do so even after 1984 when 718 was announced for Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island and all hell broke loose. 212 was then, and remained for many years, a much coveted area code—cooler than the déclassé 646 or 718 assigned to the outer boroughs. Eventually the Bronx lost 212, 917 was introduced for cell phones, and you needed to dial 1 first to reach anyone.
Why then would a new burger joint open in Brooklyn, the newly ascendant and self-proclaimed transcendent borough (we don’t call ourselves “Kings” County for nothing), call itself 212 Burgers? Is it because this keyhole-sized slit of a restaurant without tables looks and feels like a drive-through and is exclusively take-out? That’s logical, but no.
It’s because they’re located at 212 Prospect Park West on 16th Street, an easy to miss hole-in-the-wall for those passing through by automobile but a great new addition to Windsor Terrace residents and pedestrians exploring Prospect Park’s nearby environs.
Speaking of which, if you’re waiting 10 minutes or more for your order, stroll down two blocks to nearby Regina Bakery, a hold-out from an earlier Brooklyn of mom and pop stores, and buy some fresh bread, cookies, or pastries.
212 Burgers defines burger broadly. Of course, there is the bare bone (but fortunately boneless) Classic (beef patty and some basic fixins) and three variations of same: Mediterranean (Greek), El Gordo (Mexican), and Swiss and Mushroom (Swiss). There are also “burgers” for those who don’t do cow.
So while my daughter opted for the straight up Classic and I flirted with S & M, my pescatarian son opted for Fish (fried tilapia fillet, mixed greens, tomato, onion, and garlic mayo) and my wife and daughter’s friend chose Falafel (lettuce, tomato, onion, tahini).
If none of these prefab confabulations float your boat, you can BYOB (Build Your Own Burger) in five easy steps. Step One: Choose Your Protein from one of the aforementioned patties. Step Two: Add a Cheese — American, Swiss, Cheddar, or Feta-tziki. Step Three: Pick Your Toppings — for no charge you are entitled to lettuce, tomato, onion, or pickle (or conversely, like at Burger King, have it your way and hold the pickles and lettuce).
If you’re feeling rich, toss in some special toppings for $1.00 extra (caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, avocado, spicy beans); a very special topping for $1.50 (fried egg); or an extra special topping for $2.00 (turkey bacon).
Onto Step Four: Sauce it Up, where for nothing you can spice up your meal with ketchup, standard mayo, mustard, sriracha, or lemon juice, or for a modest surcharge of $.75 go with a fancier garlic or chipotle mayonnaise, BBQ, blue cheese, or Buffalo sauce, or tahini. Finally, more variation can be had in Step Five: Pick Your Bun, by choosing between brioche, multi-grain, or lettuce. Excuse me, I demur, but by no means can one stretch the definition of “bun” to include a lettuce leaf.
Lest the restaurant’s name misleads you, there are things other than burgers to be had (but not too many). On page two of the double-sided menu you will find a mixed green or house salad (proteins from page one can be added for an additional charge), Mighty Wings (five pieces that come in three varieties: plain, Buffalo, or BBQ), and an assortment of fries (we tried the Fresh Cut and Sweet Potato but there are also Cajun and Waffle), not to mention Fried Ravioli and Mac ’n Cheese Bites. You can round everything off with a flavored milk shake (the standard, basic flavors of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry but also a more unusual peanut butter and jelly), all made with organic milk.
I probably did not do my due diligence as a food critic and reviewer by failing to ask the provenance of the meat, but I can say (without knowing whether it was local, organic, grass fed, factory farmed, or cultivated in a petri dish) that it was flavorful and lip-smackingly juicy.
It could be that the food tasted particularly good because I paired it with an excellent bottle of AOC Alsace 2015 from the vineyards of Domaine Marcel Deiss, picked up from Brooklyn Wine Exchange. A wine that goes particularly well with soups, salads, fish, or white meat. I swear this medium-rare red meat burger was also the perfect complement. Don’t let convention hem you in.
No need to sprinkle these patties or fries with additional salt, everything came pre-seasoned. My taste buds could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure I detected ground pepper on my burger. And if McDonald’s thought it was generous by offering up the Quarter Pounder, then these moist half pound babies are ginormous.
As far as fries are concerned, the hotter and crispier the better. I’m not sure if it’s the oil they use, some piece of high tech frying equipment, or some secret ingredient, but 212 Burgers is doing something right to achieve a crunchiness that survived a ten minute car ride home.
Look, it would have made more sense had this place opened at 718 Prospect Park West, but it didn’t. Don’t let that stop you from enjoying a fast, flavorful, and easy meal on a hot summer night when the last thing you should do is turn on your oven. Indulge.
212 Prospect Park West
(at the corner of 16th Street)