BLT Empire Storms Burgerland

They call it the classic burger.Photo: Melissa Hom


When Laurent Tourondel opened BLT Steak the flagship of his burgeoning BLT empire food snobs took one look at the glorified meat-and-potatoes menu and winced. What's a fine French chef doing serving stacks of onion rings and hunks of unadulterated USDA Prime? Giving the people what they want, bien sur. And Tourondel, who made his name at the French seafood specialist Cello, has built a booming industry doing just that, with variations on a crowd-pleasing theme at BLT Fish, BLT Prime, and as of yesterday's surreptitious opening, BLT Burger.

The same fiendish junk-food frame of mind that gave rise to BLT Fish's jalapeo poppers have here yielded such unabashed Americana as saucy chicken wings, chili-cheese fries, kiddie cupcakes, and a modest array of burgers served with all the fixin's on soft, squishy buns. The "classic" combines sirloin, brisket, chuck, and short rib, but high-rollers and contrarians can opt for the $16 six-ounce "American Kobe" or the flavorful lamb merguez, dressed in the Greek-gyro fashion with yogurt sauce, onions, cucumbers, and tomatoes. BLT beverage czar Fred Dexheimer was roaming the booth-lined, wood-wainscoted premises opening night, and his boozy touch is evident in the list of spiked milkshakes and fruity house cocktails. The beer selection is especially fine, with distinct categories for not only draft and bottled, but canned as well gimmicky, yes, but tasteful too, in the case of Dale's Pale Ale, an award-winning Colorado brew.

BLT Burger, 470 Sixth Ave., nr. 11th St.; 212-243-8226.

Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld