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Best Cheeseburger

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Brooklyn Diner USA
212 West 57th Street
212-977-2280

Most discussions of burger greatness begin and end with the beef: It's chuck vs. round vs. sirloin. Not to mention tenderloin. There's also the fat-to-lean ratio and the grind to consider; the thickness of the patty; when to salt; how long to cook it; and, oh, yes, what to cook it in, on, or over. But a burger at its best is a package deal, also known among coffee-shop habitues as a "deluxe," and the apotheosis of that lavish treatment is the bacon cheeseburger deluxe at Brooklyn Diner USA ($11.95). There, attention is doled out equally among the burger's usually undersung bit players. The juicy beef is freshly ground, the patty loosely packed and nicely caramelized, but the bacon -- three fat slices that haven't been decomposing all day on the grill -- lifts it into a higher dimension of smoky flavor. The melted cheddar is the real thing from Vermont; the pickles are Guss's full sour, from a barrel, not pre-sliced from a can. The whole glorious thing comes together between a properly soft, grill-toasted brioche bun that melds gradually into compliance with the meat. The fries, -- which elsewhere so often seem like an afterthought -- are first-rate, are hand-cut thin and crispy, and, along with frizzy spirals of onion rings, are naturally included in the deal. That's what makes it deluxe.

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