I trudged through the torrential blowing rain to a dark, enigmatic burger den on the Lower East Side. Located above speakeasy style bar Cabin Down Below, this dim-lit former pizza shop was quietly opened a couple of weeks ago by muffled owner Johnny T. Also owner of eclectic night haunts, The Bowery Electric and Niagara, Johnny was quite clear about keeping his restaurant free from the riff -raff of the press world. Fortunately the benefits of being a lowly burger blogger and not a superstar food journalist, is that I got carte blanche of this mysterious hideaway, for a brief moment. Black Market’s sexy decor consists of jet black leather banquettes, antique chandeliers and marble counter tops. A friendly group of hipsters are at the helm serving a minimal menu featuring oysters, burgers, tuna rolls and crudités.
I sat alone in the front of the restaurant and pondered, confused and asked myself two questions. The first was where were the gorgeous hip models and chic-punkster types that were supposedly frequenting? And secondly, why the bejeezes were the front steel shutters closed?? I decided against asking for the answers to those questions, fearing that my short right of passage as guest burger scribe would be revoked…. somewhat like the Soup Nazi …..NO BURGER FOR YOU!!! I quietly sat there and waited patiently for my burger, a blend which was yet again, flawlessly provided by Pat La Frieda’s. I watched the capable workings of my burger builder Mike, as he thrashed around the tiny counter kitchen to expertly assemble my tasting. He was joined by “Spanky” and “Reynolds” making up the trio of front men at Black Market that evening. My burger arrived with a perfectly toasted soft bun, crisp dill pickles, lettuce, tomatoes, and a generous portion of crispy French fries. My first bite was another heavenly mouthful of well blended, strong flavored beef that brought a smile to my face. I immediately thought Shake Shack …not because I was comparing it as better or worse, but because it reminded me of a simplistic, beautifully constructed burger that I could eat over and over.
The French Fries were doused in black pepper and salt, rendering the flavor spicy and addictive. Not wanting to outstay my welcome, I snapped up my fries, took the last bite of my tasty burger, slurped my diet coke, and asked for the check. The price was affordable at $11.00, which was great for a burger of its quality and taste. I hope and wish Johnny T and all the guys well in their new venture, I am sure that if his other projects are any indication, he won’t have a problem.