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$20 Dinner

$20 Dinner: NYC’s Best New Burger Is in Chinatown

Everything at Burger By Day is made-to-order, and it's all very good.

8:15 AM EST on November 9, 2022

A person holds a fresh cheeseburger up to the camera.

BBD smash burger, $8.50 (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

It took me and my dining partner a few minutes to realize we were on the wrong line the other night, during our attempt to check out Burger By Day. Technically, in fact, we were at the wrong restaurant. 

I mean, we weren't being total idiots. The awning on this Grand Street storefront in Chinatown clearly says "Burger By Day." And right there at the entrance is an ordering counter. So we joined the line and goofed around with the kids who were trick-or-treating, not really paying attention until it was our turn to order. 

Turns out we were waiting on line for I'Milky, a bubble tea mini-chain that operates in the front half of the space and may or may not serve good beverages, I have no idea. We were here to eat burgers. Which, as you'll probably figure out faster than we did, are sold in the back, at a whole different ordering area.  

(Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

There's nothing tricky or TikTok-y about Burger By Day. You can order smash burgers here, and sliders, as well as chicken sandwiches and four different fried sides. Toppings include the usual suspects, and nothing more: onions, tomato, lettuce, pickles, ketchup, mayo, and mustard. Soft drinks and milkshakes round out the offerings. You've seen this menu a million times before. 

Except everything at Burger By Day is made to order, and everything is excellent. In fact—and in a very crowded field—this is one of the best burger newcomers of the year.

Hot chick burger, $10. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

The fries and tots are terrific, all salty, fluffy, and crisp. The chicken is remarkably juicy and, if you get it "hot" like we did, nice and zingy. The milkshake (we split a strawberry and chocolate combo) was nothing special, but it did the trick, throwing something cold and sweet into the mix. 

The star of the show here though is the burger, a greasy, sleazy double-patty beast griddled up smash style and oozing sauces and melted cheese. When your cheery counter person asks about toppings, just say "all in." Our city can be a hard place, but sitting back here with a bestie and scarfing a full tray of sloppy, meaty, carby delights—this is pure pleasure. 

This whole tray cost $32. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

If it seems unusual that someone would open a straight-up burger joint in the heart of Chinatown, without any sort of tourist-bait on the menu—the only Asian-influenced item is a green tea milkshake—well, that's exactly why Mary Chung and her fellow Burger By Day co-owners did it. All of them grew up here in the neighborhood, and many of them are family.

"We decided that we wanted to give something back to the community, some diversity, and we didn't want to compete with any of the excellent Asian cuisines and fusion restaurants that are already here," Chung told Hell Gate. "We wanted to have something a little bit hip for the youngsters and"—she gestured at your $20 Dinner correspondent—"something different for the older people, right?" 

Hell Gate total for two, including tax and milkshake, not including tip: $32.67  

(Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Burger By Day is located at 242 Grand Street, between Bowery and Chrystie, and is currently open Sunday through Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. (646-964-5871)

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