My Former Favorite Burger: Social Eatz

New Review - August 2, 2012:

Foodie Asshole rating: FF
Price: $$$

I feel some chagrin about all the people to whom I've strongly recommended Social Eatz (Midtown East). I went to NYC the other day to meet up with a couple of friends, one of whom who'd never been to New York before and both of whom were on their way to move to Albania for a year (yes, Albania), and I wanted to show them some great restaurants. After a bunch of last minute back-and-forth plan changing, which always happens to me in NYC especially regarding restaurants, we went to somewhere for lunch I hadn't ever been (Porchetta), and so I wanted a sure thing for dinner. Social Eatz, as you can read below, instantly became one of my favorite places when I ate there last year.

Unfortunately, just about everything I say about it in the first paragraph is no longer true. It's now just another "Chef So-and-So pumps out a menu of the usual overpriced fare, with a few little gastro twists" type of restaurant.

We walked in to somewhat too dim lighting, and the hostesses eyed the three of us warily, perhaps because I was wearing shorts and carried a backpack.

"Are you sure you want to be in this restaurant?" - her eyes.

"Three," - me.

"Three? Do you have a reservation?" - her mouth.

There were two other people eating in the restaurant at the time, and it was never more than a third full over the course of our 6PM-7PM dine.

"Nope," - me.

"Okay, no problem," she said as she led us to a table.

Reading the menu was disheartening. Their awesome dishes were once $8-$11 with $4.50 sides you might get and share (plus reasonably priced appetizers, salads, tacos, and soups). Now it was all $15-$29 entrees with $7-$14 small plates. Harumph. I felt embarassed to have so strongly endorsed this place to my friends.

Bibimbap Burger - $17: with a 60 minute egg and Korean pickles

This burger was actually ridiculously delicious. The 60 minute egg was the most luscious egg I've ever had, the yolk simultaneously running everywhere (around the whole burger, onto the plate to be scooped up later with fries, and all over my chin) and still somehow thicker and creamier than any other runny egg I've ever had. I was devastated, however, that they were using this boring, bready burger bun instead of the soft, dense pillow of a bun that cradled my burger on my first visit.

And at least it was nice and rare!

The kimchi fries were a little disappointing. They were just sprinkled with a little spicy seasoning ansd some asian green onions. I'm not sure if the pickles are part of the kimchi fries equation or what. The following dish also came with a side of the pickles.

Miso Glazed Salmon (my friend's boyfriend is the kind of guys who orders the most boring thing on the menu when left to his own devices): broiled salmon with "summer asian succotash" - $17

I tasted a bit of it. Corn relish and some salmon. Yup. His fault, I suppose, for ordering something boring and healthful.

Tomato Soup and Smoked Grilled Cheese - $11: with curried whip cream and cilantro

The soup was pretty good, but I'm not a big tomato soup fan, which leaves me mostly to enjoy the curried flavor, for which I think there are many much better vehicles. Still, this is one of the more reasonable options if you find yourself there at Social Eatz for dinner. It's plenty for a meal, so don't feel like you necessarily need to order anything else.

The grilled cheese tasted like your mom made it, so you decide if that's what you want from a chef in an $11 meal.

BBQ Pork Buns - $12: Braised pork belly, pickled shallots and shaved cabbage

My friend thought she would need more food, so she ordered these, which, happily, meant that the three of us each got a pork bun. They were good but not anything special in the world of pork buns.

I asked our server for any good dipping sauces they might have, remembering the "Longevity Sauce" from my first visit (see below), but not remembering the name of it. She couldn't think of any dipping sauce to bring me, eventually giving me just this generic spicy mayo.

Upon further review I'll say is that their brunch menu looks awesome. Instead of the usual boring brunch options everyone has, they Koreanize their's.  The lunch menu is also much more reasonable and pretty interesting, though I imagine they're still using the stupid kind of bun I got instead of the wonderful one from yesteryear (see below). So just don't go for dinner, and I think I still recommend this place highly. At least you get complimentary bottled still or sparkling water.

And now, a moment of silence for their former menu, almost all of which is gone:

Original Review:

Foodie Asshole Rating: FFF
Price: $$

For dinner one night, Jenn and I went to Social Eatz (update: their website is still "under construction" more than a year later - here's their Facebook page), a buzzy new restaurant in the food world whose thing is "Asian-inspired comfort foods," which is a description I feel I dreamed into existence. After reading the menu, I realized that Social Eatz was indeed my favorite type of restaurant: a down-to-earth, casual place with interesting and delicious food at reasonable prices (and friendly service to boot!).

We were going to be getting free drinks at a friend's bar later, so we skipped the alcohol here, opting instead for the the Fresh Ginger Pomegranate with Hibiscus Ginger Ale, which I would be slightly chagrined to realize was not house made but just the Bruce Cost one for which I was now paying a marked up price, but honestly, those sodas are really good and I almost never get around to trying sodas with sugar, so I don't really regret it.

I'm only kicking myself that I didn't notice the "Shik Hae (Korean rice punch)" on the menu, as that would've been even more interesting! Next time, next time.

Then our very friendly waitress brought us a complimentary pickle plate, on the menu as a $4.5 side: Southeast Asian Pickles (cucumber, cauliflower and radish marinated with turmeric and dill, then pickled in-house in a brine of Japanese vinegar and Asian spices):

Complimentary Pickled Plate

In our discussion of what to order, I was a little sad to hear that Jenn wanted to order a salad, as they're not the most interesting things on the menu, but she explained that she wasn't all that hungry for the meaty options from the rest of the menu. I poked a little bit but didn't want to be a controlling foodie jerk, and so she ordered the salad.

Chop-Chop Salad with Tangerine Vinaigrette (bite-size cut romaine, mixed with avocado and tomato, sugar snap peas and a six-minute eggdrizzled with extra virgin olive oil and the tangy juice of a tangerine) - $7

The salad was pretty good, really. The six-minute egg is a pretty fun egg, and the dressing, which is of course the most important part, was yummy.

I, on the other hand, knew I wanted to order the Bulgogi ("Literally 'fire meat' in Korean, the beef charred, hence the name. Sauced with soy, sugar, scallion, garlic and sesame oil then garnished with cooled cucumber kimchee, kewpee and Japanese mayo).  I also really wanted to get some fries so that I'd have the opportunity to try the "longevity sauce," but I also really wanted to try the Broccoli and Cheddar soup ("East meets cheese with green broccoli, scallion, Thai chili and a touch of cilantro"), not to mention a half dozen or so other things!  I asked the waitress for her opinion on my predicament, and she said, "Oh, well that's perfect because the burger comes with fries!"

I expressed that this was awesome!  I had wondered if fries came with the burgers, something that isn't clearly expressed on the menu, which is something about which I feel menu writers should stop being so often remiss.  Of course, the waitress had assumed I was a reasonable person who was happy the decision had basically been made for me, whereas I meant to express how awesome it was that I could now get both the soup and the fries for my longevity sauce without paying $4.50 extra for the fries on top of the $6 for the soup.  It's probably a good thing that she made the reasonable decision for me, as it saved me from that much over eating (not to mention another $6 plus tax and tip).

Oh well, this just means I'll have to make my way back to this joint a minimum of three more times instead of two, though honestly I want to try every single thing on their menu and get some repeats as well, sigh.. How will I ever eat it all?

My bulgogi burger was amazing!  The dense, heaviness of the meat in the soft potato bun created the perfect weight and feel in my hands. I turned to Jenn, "Oh yeah, just feel this."

And the taste?  So damn good. My hands, mouth, throat, and stomach all thanked me for this.
There's that longevity stuff up there, so good... As you can see, it's orange, the perfect sauce color.

I was also right on to order the longevity sauce listed with the "Social Burger" as it was an excellent companion for my fries.

Bulgogi Burger - $11

After taking a bite of my burger, Jenn had this to say, "Oh. Wow. If I'd known it would be like this, I wouldn't have ordered a salad!"

"This is why you always let the foodie order for you, no matter what you think you know about what you want."

Fry rating: 7/10
Burger rating: 10/10  Yup. And this restaurant is going on my favorites list.
This burger also currently ties as my #1 Favorite Burger.

Social Eatz on Urbanspoon

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