Sometimes I wish my dear departed friend and meat maven Josh Ozersky was still with us. Partly so I could take him to dodgy Chinese restaurants, but mostly so I could ask him questions about burger lore, like the one in the headline.
I came to the patty melt late in life. I didn’t try one until my late forties. And I suppose that the one I tried, which I believe was at Tower Diner, formed my impression of what a proper patty melt should be. It was composed of a medium rare patty swaddled between two crisp pieces of rye bread along with melted Swiss and caramelized onions.
It was more of of a grilled cheese than a hamburger, and I have it on good authority that that’s how it should be. Most of all it was a messy sandwich oozing an amalgam of beef drippings and fat from the Swiss, what Ozersky would have lovely called “greeze.”
Since then I have eaten dozens of patty melts, mostly at diners, but only Tower gets it just right. Oftentimes the sandwich resembles little more than a hamburger between two slices of white bread with a bit of American on top.
The other day I had my first fancy pants patty melt at Bellwether, a newish Long Island City spot that I’ve been meaning to try. A juicy grass fed beef patty topped with caramelized red onions, and housemade queso sat between two chunky slices of well buttered and browned brioche.
“The word that comes to mind is proper,” I said between bites when the barman asked what I thought of my sandwich. It came with mountain of exquisite French fries and was quite tasty, but it was really more of a cheeseburger than proper patty melt. It is no doubt a burger that Josh would have appreciated.
All of which brings me back to the question that started this piece: “What is the proper form of a patty melt?” I hear tell of a diner in College Point that uses bleu cheese, which sounds good. Let me know your favorite and proper patty melt in the comments!
Bellwether, 47-25 Vernon Blvd, Long Island City, (718) 392-3257